I never met Diana Wynne Jones, who died this past Saturday morning. I was simply one of her countless grateful and devoted readers, and like many others I read and re-read her books and held them close and deep in my heart. The first one I remember was Castle in the Air, one of the sequels to Howl's Moving Castle. I was about ten or twelve, and my recent discovery of the Arabian Nights had caused me to look for other stories with genies and lamps and such. After this, I read the Chrestomanci series and Dogsbody and Cart and Cwidder and everything else of hers I could find.
Her books completely transformed what I thought about fantasy, fairy tales, magic, and young adult stories. They changed the way I thought about parents, and siblings, and heroes, and villains. I was young and anxious and well aware of my own weirdness; at the time I thought that I was the only person who still liked fairy tales and myths and books that combined magic with a world that looked very much like our own. A Diana Wynne Jones book was like an oasis, a place where nothing was quite normal so you didn't worry about whether or not you stood out as odd. Certain scenes will be with me as long as I have memory: Cat sawing open his silver bonds with his left pinkie, or Sophie cursed into becoming an old woman.
Every so often, even as I grew up and studied Very Serious Literature in Very Dead Languages, I would make a foray into the library or used bookstore and see if there was anything new, or anything old I'd missed. Quite often, there was—and this constant dedication to her craft and her readers was as astonishing and magical as anything in the books themselves.
Her stories did that most impossible, and most valuable thing: create a living bridge from one mind and heart and life to another.
She will be deeply missed.