‘A book is a series of secrets exposed…’ A wonderful comment from the celebrated children’s author David Almond on Sunday’s Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4. If you missed it and you’re either a children’s writer or a lover of children’s books do listen. You can catch up here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01r50yy/Desert_Island_Discs_David_Almond/
David was talking about the experience of reading with his daughter Freya when she was small and the shared joy and suspense of turning the page.
For me the comment applies equally to the process of writing. It does sometimes feel as if the story has been sent from another realm and the secrets unfold by themselves. Here’s David on the process of writing Skellig, his first children’s novel:
“With Skellig it did seem to write itself, it was weird. And at times I almost had to write it from the side of my eye – you know, I couldn’t look at it too closely. So I almost had to, not ignore it, but just allow it to happen there. It was such a strange book to write… There is a sense when you are writing well – and it also came when I began writing for children – that there’s a kind of world of myth and story which is just beside us and at times you are allowed access to it.’
David Almond is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. We Inklings were in training there, before his time sadly, but his work made an impact. Fired by the magic of reading Skellig I wrote a song and sang it in class, much to the shock of fellow writers. The Seagull’s Song was later set to music by composer Sarah Watts and published in a children’s choir book. Magical moments do sometimes catch you when you’re not looking.