Ann Mallinson shares a letter she received 20 years ago.
Margaret Mahy was, among many other things, an ideas person. She loved discussing ideas, and those of us who were lucky enough to have her accept an invitation to stay when she was speaking in their vicinity will remember conversations going late into the night.
The New Zealand Festival of the Arts Writers and Readers Week committees were of course well aware of this, and I wrote to Margaret to ask her to participate in the week’s programme in 1986, 1988, 1990 and 1992. She always accepted the invitation, and we were always well rewarded. Not only was she a sparkling panel member and contributor, but she unfailingly added to the interest of other sessions by asking thoughtful and extremely interesting questions.
In 1992 we asked if she would be willing to join the committee that would be planning the 1994 festival. We received the following reply:
Good on the Writers and Readers Week Committee. I am already looking forward to 1994.
I would happily join the committee, and be as useful as I can, though it is amazing how 1993 has filled up already, with overseas Conferences, a few school visits, a little work for the Christchurch neonatal trust, and so on … you can imagine. I found I had to pull out of a children’s writers hui which I really wanted to go to. However I am sure I could afford a day or two to be a committee member. However, it all depends which days. March and April are out, and I want to try and do a lot of work in January and February . . . still I could probably offer a day in February. I feel mingy as we used to say during my childhood. However I do need to keep both these months relatively free in order to concentrate on other things over the next two months. I have a trip to Perth in May, 17 – 24th approximately, and I suppose some of the preceding weeks will be spent on writing a talk for a plenary session, but the first part of June is free. Then there is the ALA in New Orleans and then the rest of the year has no big blocks taken out of it, just visits to schools and talking to the Altrusa Club in Queenstown and so on, so, as things stand, I could fit in a visit to Wellington relatively easily from then on. However, I imagine that you would like something earlier in the year, so that we could talk about possible guests and so on.
Anyhow this will give you some idea, and do bear in mind that in spite of pointing out how busy parts of the year are, I am only doing this in a general way. If there is some day that suits you particularly well, suggest it and I will do my best to fit in with it.
In the meantime, Merry Christmas Ann, and I look forward to hearing from you. I will do my best to be helpful, I promise.
Needless to say, we willingly let her off taking on yet another task. We just said we very much hoped she would come to the festival, because she was such a valuable member of the audience. And of course she came.
Margaret was much loved, both in New Zealand and overseas. It is easy to see why. In addition to being a wonderful writer, she was a warm, generous person – generous with her time, and possessing a great generosity of spirit.