I’ve mentioned before that she was a great influence on me, both as a writer and as a gracious and generous person.
I wrote to her in 2006 asking for a blurb for my middle-grade fantasy. She loved the book and wrote back to me, praising the humor and plotting but she also asked that I NOT use the blurb. She mentioned that she was in her 80’s, in ill health, and needed all her time to write her own books. She didn’t wish to be inundated with requests for endorsements.
That was OK. I understood and respected her wishes, and actually I was just gob-smacked that she even wrote back to me.
After that we exchanged the odd postcard, and annual Christmas cards. And when I led a series of writing workshops for teens and discovered how much they adored her books, in particular, Journey to the River Sea, I had them make her a card and pose for a photograph with several of her books. She loved that!
Her last book, The Ogre of Oglefort, came out this summer.
I’ve been saving it for just the right delicious moment when the weather has turned to winter and nothing beats a good book, a comfortable chair, and a mug of hot chocolate close at hand.
Now I’m reluctant to turn the pages, knowing this is the last book.
On the one hand leaving a stack of books lends a certain sort of immortality to a writer. It is comforting to pick up something well-loved and thumb through it and know that it is familiar.
On the other hand it is no substitute for that thrill of anticipation when you are waiting for the next book by a favorite author.
On a selfish level I worried that Eva would die before my new book was published. She knew about it (because I had written and told her) and she was thrilled that I was with Scholastic. I wanted to send it to her. A heavy, glossy hardcover with a carefully considered dedication written on the fly leaf. I wanted to thank her for her notes and her kind words, and I wanted to show her that I had arrived. Sort of like a child showing off for her parents. That’s how she made me feel.
She wrote more than 20 books, while suffering from ill-health (though she never complained, merely announced it and her advancing age with a sort of wry realism) and she probably would have put it all in perspective for me.
I’ll miss her.