“Mr. Wicked” Gregory Maguire

So I just opened up the Sunday New York Times Magazine, started leafing through it, and suddenly stopped dead. There’s a full-page photograph of someone I know — none other than Gregory Maguire, or “Mr. Wicked” as the article is titled. How very, very cool!

I first got to know Gregory through his adult fairy tale books; I’m partial to Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Mirror Mirror, filled as they are with rich period atmosphere and detail, lovely sentences, and completely original reworkings of two familiar tales. And then I stumbled across his children’s book Seven Spiders Spinning, and read it aloud to my class. The first of The Hamlet Chronicles, it is a witty and fun middle-grade book — the following six in the series are too.

In 1999 I began attending the summer institutes of Children’s Literature New England and got to know Gregory firsthand. He, Barbara Harrison, and a host of luminaries of the children’s book world produced some of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had, but it was Gregory’s impish intelligence, wit, charm, and eye for detail that made those weeks so truly unforgettable. And when Gregory invited me to speak at one two years ago I got a taste of his prodigious knowledge of children’s literature close-up as we emailed back and forth about my speech.

Do seek out his children’s books, his writing on children’s literature, and if you get a chance to hear him speak —- go, go, go! Here are a few of his speeches online, but they don’t do justice to his delivery — the man is also a wonderful performer.

When Wolves Sing Mozart

The World Turned Upside Down*

* I spoke at this same conference and you can read my more pedantic speech here.

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7 Comments

Filed under Reading, Writing

7 responses to ““Mr. Wicked” Gregory Maguire

  1. Melissa Henderson

    I heartily endorse the suggestion that folks read Gregory Maguire’s children’s books; I would like to recommend The Good Liar in particular. I have had lots of success recommending this book to children in 4th-5th grades and have also used it in book discussions. A terrific historical fiction novel that engenders good conversation and thoughtful discussion.

  2. Gregory Maguire

    What an honor it is to see my name herein, and to read Monica’s kindly words. She has seen much more of me than the capable and responsible NYTimes journalist Alex Witchel, and I appreciate her comments.

    The NYTimes piece, while accurate in every particular it chooses to emphasize, is a story with its own story arc, of course. It didn’t suit the space restrictions nor Ms. Witchel’s intentions to clarify my many years of (can one say service if it is so much fun?) indentured devotion to the causes of children’s literature and literacy. The one or two quotes on the matter in the Times piece make me sound disumissive of the field in favor of writing for adults. The hours of taped testimony I gave on how much harder and more demanding it is to write for children–how much more important it is to write well–ended up on the cutting room floor. Oh well. I’m delighted Monica’s blog allows me an arena in which I can reiterate this point.

    Cheers, Gregory Maguire

  3. How cool – I loved your post about Mr. Maguire and so I go to the comments and WOW – a comment from the man himself! I confess that I have not read any of his children’s book, so I am off to seek some out, I know I have some students who would love reading some of these titles!

    this is why I love blogs!

  4. I read the Times article sympathetically, and thus might have overlooked some nuance, but I don’t recall picking up any implication that Gregory was dismissive about writing for young people.

    Indeed, the major “through line” that I recall was a deep care for children as both readers and people. That started with the opening scene of Gregory trying to warn parents about his adult novels’ adult subject matters (I’ve seen him do this several times before, with equal lack of success), and ran through the warm portrait of his family life, with more mentions of his children’s books than other articles of the kind.

    So as someone still happily working in the children’s-book field, I felt no ways dissed by the article or anything Gregory said or was rendered as not saying.

  5. Rebecca Stead

    I know the line Gregory refers to (yes, I noticed). But as a children’s writer who has both heard Gregory speak (at the wonderful Kindling Words conference) and read his work, I never for a moment doubted his allegiance.

    I was truly delighted to come across the article and want to reinforce all of Monica’s urging about reading his books.

    Rebecca Stead

  6. Elizabeth Bluemle

    I echo Rebecca’s sentiments and want to add a thanks to Monica for pointing us not only to the NYT article but also, in a Child_Lit post, to Gregory’s incredible essay, “When Wolves Sing Mozart.” Inspiring and funny and true.

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.gregorymaguire.com/events/gm_wolves.html

    About the NYT article: GREAT feature! Wow — they spent quite a load of print on you, Gregory Maguire, and it was all fascinating, charming, and worthwhile. Thanks for letting the world get a little glimpse into the life and mind –and hilarious family — of an extraordinary writer.

    Cheers,
    Elizabeth Bluemle

  7. I’ve only read Wicked, but I liked reading the Times piece about Maguire – he sounds like an interesting guy with a great family – and I’m looking forward to checking out his kids books when my kidlet is a little older.

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