Sunday, July 29, 2012

The queen of story Mahy's characters live on

Margaret Mahy

Joy Cowley remembers...  Sunday Star Times  -  The Press 29/07/2012

Right -BEDTIME STORY: Late author Margaret Mahy reads at Wellington’s Museum of City and Sea in 2010.Fairfax NZ

Joy Cowley remembers her friend and fellow writer Margaret Mahy, who died last week, aged 76.

Horrakapotchkin! We are discombobulated! We have lost Margaret Mahy but the well of grief is filled with dancing characters who have no intention of leaving us. The lion is still in his meadow, the witch in her cherry tree, and the man still pushes his pirate mother in a wheelbarrow towards a never- ending sea. No sooner do we think Margaret Mahy has gone, than a great chorus of voices turns it into a lie. All of those voices are Margaret's.

I can't remember where I first met Margaret. It was some time in the early 1970s when she pointed out to me that we'd been born in the same year, 1936, and had our first children's books published in 1969 - her The Lion in the Meadow and my The Duck in the Gun. She observed that the titles were similar and that both books had been published overseas. Over the years, our friendship has been punctuated with other coincidences that amused us. We discovered that we'd had tattoos of a rose done at the same time, both on the upper arm, although for different reasons, and we'd both driven off in our cars with a saucepan of stew on the roof. The difference between us was that Margaret could take these small domestic incidents, breathe her magic into them and turn them into a shining story. Her tattoo was woven into a young adult novel. Her pot of stew became a rollicking picture book, Stop That Stew!
In the late 1970s, TV One filmed a Kaleidoscope programme about Margaret and me, at Margaret's house in Governors Bay. The filming took place over three days of story, laughter and occasional mayhem as Margaret's pet rabbits tried to chew through lighting wiring. At the end of the session, the director asked if one of us could think of a brief statement to round off the interviews. I'm sure if I'd had a pen and paper and an hour, I could have thought of something. But Margaret gave an immediate response: "When one embarks on a weekend convivial, it can be serious, it can be trivial."
Margaret's mind worked like a fairy godmother's wand, turning pumpkins into coaches and mice into elegant footmen, with instant touch. A large audience was delighted with her description of a hotel swimming pool. Margaret was on tour. Hot and tired, she got in the pool that had only two other persons in it, a young couple in a passionate embrace. Margaret said, as she watched these lovers, she felt "all bitter and twisted" and imagined that she was a great white shark attacking them. She went back to her room and the episode turned into the popular picture book about the boy and the shark.

The rest of Joy's lovely tribute to her late friend at

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