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An Evening with Eloise McGraw
Royal Historian of Oz

The following presentation was given by Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren Lynn McGraw at the Winkie Convention of the International Wizard of Oz Club, July 1983, at the Wawona Hotel in Yosemite. California.

This following italicized section of the speech is not preserved on the sound file.

ELOISE JARVIS McGRAW: I asked far and wide for ideas on what to talk about this evening. And from the suggestions that came in, I got a pretty clear notion that you're interested in the subject of fan mail--or to put it another way, the relationship of a writer with his readers. I'm glad you thought of it--because it is an interesting subject. It is a very special relationship--in certain ways a very peculiar one, but also an important one to both writer and reader. Without readers--specifically readers who write to tell him their reactions . . .

Sound Begins Here (First minute of Audio Source is in poor sound.)
Sound Clip One: . . . a writer is talking in an empty room. Of course, there are reviews. But only a few reviews are of any importance as a genuine reaction to what the author has done, and even then the reaction is that of a professional critic, not of an ordinary reader. And what ordinary readers think of what he has done is terribly important to a writer--especially when he writes mainly for children, as I do, not reviewers.

For the reader, the relationship is important in quite a different way. Readers often feel closer to a writer than they do to their own families--feel a congeniality, almost an identification with him that the writer knows nothing about and that perhaps doesn't really exist except in the reader's mind. Then again maybe it does really exist. Why not? As a reader I've felt this closeness for certain writers--felt absolutely certain that if I knew this writer as a person we would understand each other absolutely.

The reason, I think, is that in his work a writer speaks from deep inside himself. In a way, he's talking to himself; nothing is more intimate than the relationship between an author and his typewriter. So the reader reading his book is getting to know the author more completely, more truly, than he ever would if the two of them were physically in a room together, trying to get acquainted.

For a child reader, this sensation of having a private, special friend who miraculously understands him and even seems able to read his mind, can be a very great joy indeed. And for a grown up reader too! A year or so ago, when my book, THE MONEY ROOM, first came out, my own son reacted with a sort of happy astonishment. He said, "You really should have dedicated this one to me, because whether you know it or not it was written for me. It's ABOUT me! I had no idea you understood me so well, back there in the fifth grade! Did you really know exactly what I was going through?"

That was a fan letter I had very mixed reactions to--because I didn't understand him that well back in the fifth grade, and only dimly suspected that behind that stoic, deadpan exterior he might be having problems with his new school in Oregon and missing the old school and California and everything we had just moved away from.

What he--and other readers--forget is that the author was once a child and felt these same emotions himself, perhaps in different circumstances but with the same intensity. It's himself the author is remembering. This only demonstrates how close we all are, under the skin, if only we could behave skinlessly more often. Of course we can't, or won't. But the relationship between reader and writer is, first and foremost, skinless--and that's why it is often so strong.

Sound Clip Two:
Now, for the most part, my letters from Oz fans have been of a slightly different sort from the kind I've been talking about. The feeling of instant congeniality is there, of course--any two Oz enthusiasts have a lot in common, whether they are writer and reader or not. But my Oz letters tend to sound more like, say, Rubinstein congratulating Heifitz after a creditable performance. As Oz-book readers, you people are experts, and your letters reflect that. As you read, you can't help asking yourselves if the new characters are worthy to inhabit Oz, if the old ones sound and behave the way they should. And when you write, these are the things you comment on--enthusiastically, for the most part, I'm happy to say.

If you haven't talked about anything profound the last two Oz stories were saying, underneath the surface, this is because there isn't anything profound underneath the surface. In the two Oz books I have fed into my typewriter (after many conferences with my co-historian) I was NOT talking from deep inside me. I was having a good time, playing with somebody else's invention, introducing Lynn's and my characters into a world in which they and we too were only guests, not creators. We have been vividly aware of this always, and while adding a touch or two of our own to the decor and geography of the Oz world, have tried to behave like good guests and give no offense.

We have found you experts wonderfully courteous and forgiving of our occasional lapses. Any objections to our new-fangled notions have been advanced tactfully and with friendliness . . . with one notable exception.

I'll get to that exception presently. First let me give you some samples of Ozzy letters I have received. Here's a charming one, in its entirety. (It's all one sentence.)

    "Dear Mrs. McGraw, I have had the pleasure of reading your books about Oz, I found many otherers and read them all, I liked yours the best of all and wondered if you were writing any more Oz books, if so I and many other children are glad if not I wish you would write some."

Excerpts from longer letters: Here's Doug Greene, in 1980, commenting on the Ozzish landscape: (this is one of the Rubinstein-to-Heifitz type.)

    "It was while reading FORBIDDEN FOUNTAIN that I suddenly realized what makes MERRY GO ROUND (and its successor) different from the Baum/Thompson et al Oz books--a greater sense of setting. Baum used setting often to be whimsical; RPT to make puns. For both of them, place was not very important for itself--with a few exceptions . . . but in MERRY you carefully set up the history and language and attitudes of Halidom and the Fox Hunters' country. In FOUNTAIN, you describe the insects, the plants (and their names), the pebbles, the sounds of all sorts of invented spots. The result is a greater feeling that what is described actually exists--not merely to provide an excuse for a joke or an adventure."

I hadn't realized I was making the setting more specific and real than is usual for an Oz book--but a clear visualization of the scenery through which my characters move is a necessary part of writing for me, in any of my books. As I told Doug in my answer to that letter, for me, the process of writing fiction is a lot like watching a movie (a talking movie) inside my head. If I find the landscape going foggy, it's usually a sign that it's a lousy movie, and I get busy doing something about it.

I think this clear sense of setting is especially important in a wholly invented country--fantasy must be twice as real as reality or it doesn't seem real at all. Probably Baum and Thompson did visualize their bits of Oz as clearly as I have visualized mine, but kept it in their heads rather than setting it down on the page. I'm sure Baum visualized the Gnome King's domain vividly in OZMA OF OZ--and that terrifying giant pounding the path--because the place with its chilly, lifeless corridors and rooms filled with hard gems is vivid to me to this day. That doesn't happen unless the writer's vision is very clear to begin with.

Of course, there's another reason behind all that detail about Halidom and Fox-Hunter Country. When Lynn and I are inventing these places, we build them like houses--with detail instead of bricks. By the time I get to the typewriter, I know so much fascinating stuff I've just got to get a lot of it in.

Sound Clip Three:
Among my first Ozzy correspondents were--first of all, of course, Fred Meyer, though I had already received a couple of messages from Dick Martin via our Reilly and Lee editor, Maxine Rieckhoff, one of which gently but firmly informed me that there were, too, other unicorns in Oz, in fact a whole country full of them, and I could not have my unicorn claiming to be Unique.

So in my first letter to Fred I was apologizing for that goof (as I already had to Dick) and promising to be more careful, and telling him how astonished Lynn and I were to find we had so much company in our nostalgic devotion to the Oz books. I then began to hear from all sorts of other people: the Greene twins, John Fricke, Justin Schiller (at that time a junior at Ithaca College majoring in English) who told me that six years before (that is, 1957) when he issued the first Baum Bugle there were only 16 members in the Club--and he himself was 14 years old. I remember a letter from Irene Fisher, one from Jim Haff, one from Henry S. Blossom of Cristiansted, Virgin Islands--who said; "I do not plan to be an author. I AM a machinist and likely always will be . . ."

In fact I got so many letters, when the sale of the book really got rolling, that I felt a bit as if I had unwittingly stepped under a waterfall of mail--a Niagara. Ordinarily I answer every single letter I receive from a reader--even if it's a whole sixth-grade's worth, stuffed in a single manilla envelope. But this I couldn't cope with.

If a writer spends all his time answering letters, he will very soon cease to be a writer. I was working hard on another book by then (it was GREENSLEEVES, and the very devil to write) and I simply couldn't handle all this extra correspondence--I have quite a lot of it just normally. So I took a step I've felt guilty about ever since--I appealed to Maxine Rieckhoff at Reilly and Lee to bail me out somehow. I'm not quite sure to this day how she did it, but the deluge stopped, and though pretty soon a little trickle started up again, eventually increasing to a sizable and all-year round brook, that I can handle, and am happy to have.

So--if any of you once, about nineteen and a half years ago, received a chilly little printed postcard from Reilly and Lee informing you that Mrs. McGraw received your letter and thanks you very much for your interest--please forgive me. (Oh, I do hope that isn't the way she did it!)

Sound Clip Four:
Now, here is an excerpt from a letter bringing up a subject I've had a good many comments on, so let me bring the whole matter out in the open and answer it once and for all. Earlier this year I got a letter from Patrick Maund, saying, in part:

    "In 1909, Baum wrote in THE ROAD TO OZ that the inhabitants of the Land of Oz did not use money. This concept, though there are a few minor exceptions in the Thompson books . . . was generally adhered to throughout the series. In FORBIDDEN FOUNTAIN, the idea of a Fair is introduced, with the citizens having things for sale, and even Ozma herself walks around with coins in her pocket! I'm curious if this was written in simply because you felt it was a nice touch, or perhaps you don't share with certain possibly over-zealous Oz readers a finicky attention to detail."

Well, as I told Patrick Maund, I'm not very finicky about the details of the Oz canon; Baum himself contradicted bits of it here and there, or changed his mind, and apparently at one point even forgot where he'd said the Winkie Country was, west or east. But I know many of you are purists, so I do try hard to stay within the rules. In regard to the money, I didn't really think I was straying too far. I had noticed in one of Ruth Thompson's books a coin called, I think a "quint", which as I remember was used by the boy character to pay a toll somewhere. Basing my flight of fancy on what I thought were perfectly sound canonical grounds, I then invented a whole monetary system, giving the value of each coin and having a delightful time making up the Ozzy names (my husband invented some of them) and putting the whole explanation in a footnote.

Here is the original footnote:
"The money in Oz is rather complex. There are two copper coins, the tiny fardledink and the triangle-shaped squit; five silver coins, the quingle, the quant, the ozzo, the fang and the jeedle; and the gold piozter, which has Ozma's profile on one side and the Royal Crown on the other. To give you some idea of the relative values: three fardle-dinks make a squit, six squits equal a quingle, two quingles make a quant, and three quants an ozzo. There are two ozzos in a jang and five in a jeedle. The piozter is worth ten jeedles. However most people in Oz care little about getting rich, and enjoy using all these coins mainly because they're so pretty. If you are squitless and need to buy something, they will usually make you a present of it. Not, however, if your mother has said NO."

I thought that reduced the whole money question to a matter of playful barter, not really necessary but rather fun, and kept the atmosphere properly Ozzish. But when Fred Meyer first saw the manuscript he objected to the idea of money, and in any case I eventually took out all the footnotes (except the one about "nuffet") as interruptions to the flow of the narrative. So there remained only a couple of coins to provide Emeralda's motivation for making the limeade, and no explanations, and it ended up sounding rather different from what I intended.

Sound Clip Five:
All these letters, with my replies, are in the University of Oregon library at Eugene, along with a lot other correspondence, old manuscripts and so on. When I was digging up information for this talk I went through some files of non-Oz fan letters too, thinking to find some funny quotes to amuse you, or some of the astonishing ones I remember over the years. But I discovered that I was finding something else--you might call it evidence of the sort of unexpected influence writers can have on their readers.

One fact emerged very clearly: I have turned a lot of people on to the study of Ancient Egypt. For example, Gary Ralph, whom some of you may know, because he is also--at least he was in 1968--a member of this Club. He started his letter by saying that my book MARA, DAUGHTER OF THE NILE, carried him through a bout of flu--and that led him to my adult novel, PHARAOH, then to another juvenile, THE GOLDEN GOBLET. He added that I had made him an eager student of Egyptology--but that it was through the club that he heard about MERRY GO ROUND. Incidentally, in my reply I asked him how old he was, guessing that he must be around college age. In his second letter he told me. I'd like to quote just a bit of it:

    "I am thirteen, that awkward 'between' age when you are neither a child nor an adult; your guess that I was college age was flattering, though. Oz books are for all ages, and especially your Oz book. Learning the terminology of the Fox-Hunters of the world is harder than mastering a foreign language. Too often the political oracles of the day make sense after the election is over, after the bomb has been dropped, after the project has been shelved. And the three circlets of Halidom symbolize a three-part formula for Success: wit. strength. skill."

Does that sound like a thirteen-year-old to you?

Many other readers, both child and adult (and a lot of in-betweens like Gary) have written me to ask for more information about Egypt, or suggestions on where to look for more. Several, of course, practically wanted me to write their term papers for them--which I firmly declined to do.

Almost without exception, letters about MARA, DAUGHTER OF THE NILE, begin: "I have read this book five times"--or--"seven times"--or--"eighteen."

One letter I came across said: "I read it every two weeks." One girl, who first encountered MARA the year it came out, when she was thirteen, easily wins the title of Most Faithful Fan, because she still writes me once or twice a year, has several times phoned me on my birthday (she lives in Austin, Texas) or just any old time when she feels like talking to me. She says she must have read MARA several hundred times by now. She is now thirty-three years old.

I've thought a lot about this fanatic loyalty MARA seems to engender in the thirteen-year-old female breast, marveled at it, and tried to figure out what causes it. It's true that the book has an exotic setting and a lot of danger and excitement. It's true that it has a bit of love-interest (very mild and proper in this day and age) and a "leading man" who is apparently every thirteen-year-old's idea of utter glamor. But I've decided that the real grabber in that book is the character of Mara herself. She's a nobody--a slave girl without influence, power or possessions, and through sheer what-have-I-got-to-lose daring, she manages to play both sides against the middle in an intrigue involving the throne of Egypt. She pays for it rather painfully, and even develops a conscience late in the book, but while she's wheeling and dealing I think she's the absolute ideal of what those thirteen-year-olds, who have no influence or power either--and don't have Mara's nerve--wish they could be. Early Women's Lib--I think that's the book's strongest appeal. Just what influence it has on the characters and behavior of those little readers I have never dared to inquire.

One astonishing result I would like to share with you. One day some years ago I received this beautiful little book in the mail from somebody whose name I didn't remember at all, who apparently was on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, in the Department of Near Eastern Studies. It's a scholarly monograph--lavishly illustrated with reproductions of ancient Egyptian art--entitled THE REMARKABLE WOMEN OF ANCIENT EGYPT. I was completely puzzled--though delighted--until I saw the inscription on the first page--"To Eloise McGraw, whose MARA, DAUGHTER OF THE NILE, first directed my eyes toward ancient Egypt."--signed by the author, Barbara S. Lesko

Sound Clip Six:
Another fairly strong thread of evidence running through my letters from youngsters is that I've turned a lot of them on to writing--or else it may be that the ones who want to write anyway decide I'm the one to tell about it, and ask advice of.

But the letters that mean the most to me hint at something else a writer can mean to a reader, without having the least idea of it--he can be a problem-solver, a comforter, and a friend.

I have received letters saying that a certain book must have been written "just for me", and telling me of the illumination it shed on that reader's personal problems. And I get lots asking me to recommend "other books like MARA"--or what-ever book they're writing about--and saying, "I am a steady reader. It is a sort of retreat because our family has had a lot of trouble in the last few months . . . "

I've had notes from mothers, thanking me for answering their children's letters and telling me what a certain book has meant to the child, or sometimes, that the book has inspired the child with the ambition to write.

I've had many letters from teachers, not all of them just to request a picture and information about me for their bulletin board during Library Week.

One said, "The children's interest and knowledge of Egyptian history as the result of my reading THE GOLDEN GOBLET to them couldn't be measured. At one time they were making ingots out of every conceivable medium available. Their interest in papyrus was such that we finally had a film showing how papyrus was made into paper by the Egyptians. We had a little confusion here though . . . They begged permission to bring a papaya to school for the purpose, I thought, of sampling the fruit, but it turned out to be for the purpose of making paper . . ."

And there was another, rather blood-curdling one from a teacher in Kansas who had read my book MASTER CORNHILL to her fifth-grade class. That book, which is set in London in 1666, the year of the Great Fire, centers around the idea of courage--especially courage in the face of drastic changes in your life--new beginnings. This teacher wanted to tell me that the book had done a lot for some of the children in her class, several of whom had been called on to face some terrible new beginnings. One, she told me, had watched his father murder his mother. Apparently the child had found a bit of much-needed courage from reading my story.

I've had letters from librarians, housewives, people in the armed forces, college students, other writers, would-be writers, one from a retired couple in England who liked GOLDEN GOBLET, one from a German bookseller who had read all my books in the German translations and wrote to assure me that he tried very hard to sell them because he liked them so well.

But only once in my life (and I think I'm very fortunate to be able to say this) have I got a letter like the following. This is the "notable exception" I mentioned a while ago. It came in 1967.

    "Dear Mrs. McGraw and Mrs. Wagner:
    I'm not writing you to say how great MERRY GO ROUND IN OZ was, in fact, quite the contrary. I thought it was rotten of you to use the same plot as both THE HUNGRY TIGER OF OZ and RINKITINK OF OZ had and then to call it your own!!!! Can't you think up a plot by yourself?!
    It was quite selfish of you to take up the whole back flyleaf describing how "good" you were in writing. Mr. Baum and Miss Thompson would never have thought to do such a thing. Instead they unselfishly used the flyleaf to list all the Oz books people could read.
    The letter that is customarily written to the Oz readers at the beginning of each Oz book was also left out. Apparently Mrs. Wagner's 'research' did not include the details she considered unimportant. I suggest that if you intend to try your amateur hands at writing more Oz stories, you try to improve the points I constructively criticized you about. Sincerely, Sarah. A true Oz book fan."

Well, such letters are probably best left unanswered. But I found I couldn't let such a lot of misinformation go uncorrected. So I wrote Sarah. (I have no idea what her other name is) Here's what I said:

"I'm sorry you were disappointed in MERRY GO ROUND IN OZ. It never occurred to me that its plot and that of THE HUNGRY TIGER were so similar, but of course there is nothing very surprising in the fact, since the idea of a search for three ritual objects is as old, tried, and true as the Cinderella plot or the boy-meets-girl one. All the world's fiction, including Shakespeare's, has been based on just a few basic plots, as you will find as you read more. It is characters, style, each writer's individual approach and personal touch that make one book different from another, not the plot each happens to use as framework.

"You are mistaken in thinking Mrs. Wagner and I--or for that matter, Mr. Baum and Miss Thompson--have anything to do with what is printed on the back flap of the book jacket. The publisher chooses the artist to do the illustration for it, and somebody in the editor's office writes the copy for the flaps. The author knows no more about what will be printed there than you do, until he sees the published book.

"Perhaps Mrs. Wagner and I should have written the usual "letter to the reader" for our Oz book, but on second thought don't you think that might have been a bit presumptuous of us? Miss Thompson and Mr. Baum both wrote many Oz books, and had reason to feel personally close to their many readers; I'm sure that writing these introductory letters must have seemed to them a very natural thing to do. But my own readers have been generally from a different age-group, so I felt I was addressing a new audience with this book, one to whom I was a stranger--and letters from strangers never mean much, you know.

"I'm not really an amateur, Sarah, I've eight other books in print, and I've received hundreds of letters about them from readers. Yours is unique in being the only scolding and ill-tempered one I ever got. Perhaps, as you reflect on the explanations of the points you raised, you will see one or two of them, at least, in a different light. If not, it doesn't matter, since I have no plans to write other Oz books. Yours sincerely . . ."

Of course, we did write another one later after all.

I like all the letters readers send me (even the foregoing was probably very good for my character.) But a few of them are so wonderful, so moving, that they make me realize why I write--to communicate somehow with other minds. And to learn that I've done that--have succeeded in reaching across space to touch another person's life--is reward enough for any amount of work. Let me read you a part of my favorite letter of all time:

    "Dear Mrs. McGraw: I should have written you eighteen years ago when I first read MARA, DAUGHTER OF THE NILE, to let you know of the great joy that filled me when I read that book. Since I was only ten years old at the time, it isn't surprising that I didn't write you. But again, I should have written you when I was twenty-two and discovered GREENSLEEVES.
    "Now I'm twenty-eight, I've read MARA many times, I'm reading GREENSLEEVES for the third time, and I'm writing books of my own . . . I was an unhappy adolescent and your books so encouraged me that life would get better, that perseverance would pay off, that I could make my own life better--all these things came true, are coming true. When I was an outcast, your books were my friend. That I read one of your books every year or so is an indication that my old friends are true friends.

    "My hopes, as a writer, are to combine in my work the complexities of James, the insight of Faulkner, the singularity of Emily Bronte, the tone of Jane Austen, and the personality of me; most of all, I hope to give the pleasure that I found in the books of Eloise Jarvis McGraw. It is an ideal to which I will always aspire, and I thank you for the years of constant joy your books have given me. Most sincerely yours . . ."

Just one such letter makes it all worth while.

Sound Clip Seven:
I can't follow that, and I'm not going to try. But I would like to say a few words for myself, for a change. I've been pretty much the silent partner, up till now. I've signed books, read fan letters when they were addressed to both of us, and enjoyed my mother's stories of Oz conventions, but I've had very little direct contact with Oz fans. I'm very pleased to have met you all at last, and to have this opportunity to prove that I am, indeed, a real live person, not just a name on a book jacket.

Since I've been here, I've been called the Mysterious Missing McGraw; I've been told I'm entirely different from what people were expecting; I've been asked why I'm so mean to my poor mother--editing her so strictly and being so tough on her. I know Mom has mentioned me in her speeches and letters, and now I'm beginning to wonder just exactly what she's been saying.

It's true that I do a lot of editing and critiquing when we work on a project together--that's one of my functions, along with plotting, brainstorming, and miscellaneous things like writing all the verses in MERRY GO ROUND and drawing maps. I think I do tend to act as a sort of watchdog on the Oz books---making sure they sound Ozzy, and letting Mom know when she's lapsed into her "other" style.

I'm a much better painter than I am a speaker, so instead of making a real speech I thought you might like to have both of us talk a little--informally--about how we work together. We do all the brainstorming and plotting, then meet periodically during the writing of the book, to thrash out the problems that arise. We work so closely together--adding to and capping each other's ideas--that we often can't remember afterwards whose idea was whose. Sometimes we get so carried away by our own wit that we end up in fits of the giggles and have to start over. Sometimes we plot ourselves into a corner and can't find a way out. When that happens, we usually break up the meeting and let our subconsciouses take over for a while--it's amazing how well that works. Or we simply abandon some idea we can't quite get to suit us. Remember the magic licenses, Mom?

ELOISE: Magic licenses?

LYNN: You know. In FORBIDDEN FOUNTAIN. Of course we never used it . . .

ELOISE: Oh! Yes, of course--when we were using Slyddwyn and all that. Slyddwyn was a sort of magician--

LYNN: --a troublemaker. He wasn't actually wicked, but--

ELOISE: But sneaky.

LYNN: Yes, sneaky. But if only he'd been able to use his magic talents legally he wouldn't have been a problem.

ELOISE: He was frustrated, that's what he was.

LYNN: Yes. because magic was his talent, the way art would be, or writing, or music. And we really got rather fond of him, and felt sorry for him because he couldn't use his talent at all--except in sneaky, illegal ways--and it really didn't seem fair. So we got to thinking, what if Ozma created a sort of Magician's Licensing Bureau, and a Royal College of Magic, with the Wizard and Glinda in charge, and good magicians like Dr. Pipt and Wumbo and a few people like that would be allowed to practice their skills for the benefit of all the Oz people, under proper supervision, and with a very stiff exam like the bar exam. Of course they'd take a very solemn oath like the Hippocratic Oath, and their licenses would have to be renewed every three years.

ELOISE: But then we never used Slyddwyn after all in that book, so we abandoned the whole idea.

Sound Clip Eight:
LYNN: In addition to good ideas we never use, we often know much more about our characters than we ever put into the books.

ELOISE: For instance, here's a thing I found among our old MERRY GO ROUND notes--a character sketch--that is a good example of what one might call the Iceberg Method of characterization: that is, an example of how much more a writer often knows about a character than he ever uses in the book. "Sir Gauntlet: tall, handsome, square-jawed, consciously stony-faced. Strides about dramatically, gravely and elaborately gallant to ladies, strikes superbly chivalrous poses, fond of turning profile (which is excellent) and gazing somberly and spiritually into distance when anybody is looking. In spite of these harmless self-dramatizations he is pathetically frustrated, since bound by tradition to expend energies and chivalry on fighting Sir Greves only, and Sir Greves won't fight. Therefore, Sir Gauntlet's poses grow emptier and emptier as years pass, and he is in danger of becoming absolutely ridiculous as well as frustrated. If he could fight somebody, he wouldn't have to pose so much; he could relax and enjoy life. As it is, he must pose more and more fiercely all the time, to prevent people from even thinking of laughing at him. He broods about all this." Now--reading the finished book, you'd never dream I knew so much about Sir Gauntlet, would you?

LYNN: Mom said something a while ago in her speech about the way we build up landscapes and characters with details, the way you'd build a house with bricks. Here's a note on Roundelay, when we were first trying to get him clear in our minds--"Medicine man--or some other term. Also peddler like other Roundheads. Calls often at Halidom to sell wheels, pi and balls. Has got acquainted with Sir Greves because he sells him pi regularly. Halidom is his territory, so he learned about rings, the wyver, etc. He is only Roundhead who is sly and scheming--the others are simple and nice, don't know Roundelay stole ring. He is skinny with pointed hat that has ball on point; has ball fringe around collar. Writes with ballpoint pen. He is sphericeror? Sphere-seer? Smoothsayer?"

ELOISE: In FORBIDDEN FOUNTAIN we had quite a bout with indecision when it came to naming one of the peculiar places--to judge from a little scrap of paper I came across somewhere just the other day. Evidently we considered Cleanutopia, Cleansanatorium, and Bathasphere as possible names for our precinct, region, peninsula, or salient, before it became a Province called Pristinia. Also noted on this paper--which is about 3" by 4"--is the cryptic message: "To The Dirty Outside World" followed by a list of words: fumigated, sterilized, deodorized, purified, disinfected, hygienic, starched--and guaranteed spick-and-span. As an afterthought comes "I'll be spick if you'll be span," which I might have considered a possible remark for Kabumpo. It rather sounds like him in one of his more sardonic moments. Only Lynn probably wouldn't have let me use it.

LYNN: (simultaneously): Only I wouldn't have let you use it. Sometimes, of course, naming places or characters is simply a matter of logic. Halidom, Troth, Fess, Gules, wyver, even teazle and things like the Sandbar Sinister, came straight out of heraldry. We got a book or two on heraldry and just made lists of interesting terms, then used them as we chose.

ELOISE: Incidentally, I'll bet you'll be as surprised as I was to discover that Flitter was originally to be a little brown mouse creature with wings. Later we made him blue--was it because he lived in the Munchkin Country?

LYNN: Maybe--or maybe just to make him more like a fantasy creature instead of a real one. We got the word "flittermouse" out of the book on heraldry, I remember that. It was in that list we made of heraldic animals.

ELOISE: We weren't sure what it was at first.

LYNN: Yes, I said, Is that like "Der Fledermaus"? But that's a bat. We don't want a bat. We want some nice little creature that looks the way "flittermouse" sounds.

ELOISE: So he ended up a little blue mouse with wings. . . . Some other planning-stage material I came across in my old notes was a whole list of fox-hunting terms, also a list of names of hounds--real ones, so I could get an idea of what sort of names foxhounds have--and a list of incidents for the story (just one page of those), a synopsis (forty pages), and a chapter-by-chapter synopsis with the time of day specified for each chapter, and the chronology cleared up and made to flow naturally.

LYNN: You know, that's something you don't think about as being a hard part of writing a book until you've tried it. But it was a real job to get those three parties all traveling from different places and getting into different troubles, winding up at the same time in the same place, and for logical, believable reasons.

ELOISE: And the food!

LYNN: Yes! Every now and then we'd come to and realize these people hadn't had a bite to eat in twenty-four hours. Then we'd have to work it out so they had time to stop and eat, and just happen to find a sandwich tree or a berry bush or something right at that point . . .
Well, we could keep on like this indefinitely, but it's probably time to stop. Unless anybody wants to ask us any questions, we'll just say "Thank you!" and "Goodnight."

Audio Recording Copyright © 1983 David Maxine. All rights reserved.
Text Copyright © 1983 Eloise McGraw & Lynn McGraw

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