DAVID Almond’s archive of original manuscripts and notebooks has been entrusted to Seven Stories – The National Centre for Children’s Books, thanks to National Lottery players.
The collection includes the full creative process for Skellig, from first concepts through annotated manuscripts to final draft as well as notebooks featuring plot line ideas for The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean, A Song for Ella Grey and The Savage. Notes for unpublished works are also dotted throughout the extensive archive, alongside an almost complete unpublished novel. A Heritage Lottery Fund grant from its Collecting Cultures programme was instrumental in securing the collection.
David Almond said, “The National Centre for Children’s Books acquiring my collection just seems natural; Seven Stories is a wonderful North East institution and this is where it should be. I am a North Eastern writer who writes about the North East, where better could it be? For part of Seven Stories to exist in Felling, where I grew up and where so many of my stories are set, feels synchronous and very beautiful.
“Seven Stories is a groundbreaking institution, it emphasises the fact that children’s culture and creativity is at the heart of our mainstream culture. Without children as readers and as artists, our culture just couldn’t exist; it is at the heart of everything.”
Sarah Lawrance, Collections Director at Seven Stories said “David Almond is an extraordinary writer and his archive reflects that. When you turn the pages of one of his notebooks you feel as though you’re getting a glimpse inside the writer’s head – seeing the story take shape before your eyes. We’re really grateful for the support from the Heritage Lottery Fund that has enabled us to keep the archive in the North East. David’s work is known and loved all over the world these days and his archive would certainly have been of interest to American universities, so it’s heartening that he wanted it to come home to Seven Stories.”
David Almond was born in 1951 to a large Catholic family in Felling on Tyne, only a few streets away from where the Seven Stories collection is now housed. David studied English and American Literature at the University of East Anglia. After various jobs as a hotel porter, postman and labourer, he trained as a teacher and worked at a primary school in Gateshead for five years. While working as a teacher, he wrote and published several short stories for adults. Now, though, he is known as one of the UK’s leading writers for children.
David continued, “There are lots of pieces in the collection that hold special resonance with me. Skellig of course, and Counting Stars. Counting Stars was the first time that I really started to write about Felling and about the North East, to draw on my own experience of growing up here and re-experience how it felt to be a child again. It is also lovely to see all of the original material for The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean in the collection, that was a very powerful book for me to write and it is something, which seems to me, to be at the heart of my output.”
David starts his writing process with a large, thick-papered sketch book, in which he writes ideas for his work, jotting down key scenes, characters or motifs which engage him, and which he thinks are important to the book. David’s drafts in the collection show that this early stage involves a process a bit like mind-mapping. It can look quite messy as the ideas, and all the connections between them, flow from inside his mind and out through his pen.
After getting his first ideas down on paper, David begins drafting the story on his computer. He will write the first few chapters and then print them off to read through, making notes about changes or revisions as he reads. Sometimes, his partner also reads over what he’s written, and writes down her comments along with his. He then goes back to the computer and rewrites the story from the very beginning, writing a little more than the first time and repeating the same process of reading and revising. This iterative process leads to vastly different partial drafts which develop organically into a cohesive whole, which he will send off to his editor. His editor then reads through it and makes minor revisions, after which his work will be published.
David lives and works in Newcastle and many of his books are set in the North East. He is also a Patron of Seven Stories.
Pieces from the collection will be on display in a new exhibition entitled Where Your Wings Were, Journeys with David Almond which will open at the National Centre for Children’s Books in June 2018 as part of the Great Exhibition of the North.
The exhibition will allow visitors to the centre to embark on a journey through Tyneside like never before, discovering how its landscapes, language and people inspired the magical stories of David Almond. Delve into the writer’s dreamlike world where tales such as Skellig and My Dad’s a Birdman took root. Bringing to life Almond’s archive, the exhibition at Seven Stories explores themes of love, loss and hope though characters both real and imagined.
Children and their families can meet angels and devils, question what it means to be human and experience the North East through the eyes of one of its most creative sons.
David said “I am currently talking to the team curating and designing Where Your Wings Were and it is very exciting that my work is going to be exhibited in a place as fantastic as Seven Stories. It’s a little scary as part of the exhibition will be focused on me and my life, but it is a real privilege and a joy to be invited to do this.”
Seven Stories are the custodians of a unique and ever-growing national archive of modern and contemporary children’s literature. The acquisition of the collection by the National Centre for Children’s Books, based in Newcastle upon Tyne, means that this precious collection will be preserved and protected for future generations.
The David Almond collection will feature in the 2018 programme of events and exhibitions and will be available for research and consultation at the Seven Stories archive within the coming months.
This acquisition was made possible by the Friends of the National Libraries and a Heritage Lottery Fund grant from its Collecting Cultures programme.