Interview with David Almond: The Freedom of Knowing your Limitations

David Almond, the multi-award winning author of Skellig, A Song for Ella Gray, and many other beautiful adult & children’s stories, became a creative writing Professor at Bath Spa University the year I began their MA in Writing for Young People. His talks quickly became highlights of this fantastic course. Here’s an excerpt is from an interview he gave me for Words & Pictures, the online magazine for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, published in May 2013. 

Q1. What I’d like to talk about mostly is the ‘how’ of writing, but I am very aware that it’s arbitrary to disassociate the ‘how’ from the ‘what’. So can we start with a very interesting comment you made at a recent seminar at Bath Spa University. You said, ‘You only discover how to free your imagination by knowing its limitations. Discover your boundaries and then you are free to explore this world.’ Could you expand on that idea a little?

David Almond: For me it was a matter of accepting certain things about myself that were going to be the things that gave me my true voice and my true subject. It was to do with discovering the way I write, the way I speak which is kind of dictated by the language I grew up with. There were certain things about me that I couldn’t change like the fact that I had been brought up as a Catholic; that I had been brought up living in the North East. I spent a long time trying to struggle against those things and cast them out from my work. It was only when I got to the point of realising that that wasn’t working, and just sighing and saying, ‘Oh yes, that’s what I am’ and accepting those things, that they actually brought a great deal of richness and imagery to my work, and a language and rhythm which I had been kind of denying myself. But I don’t think I could have used them properly without first denying them. It’s a paradoxical thing. (US author) Flannery O’Connor was a big mentor for me. She said that thing about the imagination not being free.

Read the full interview here:

Author: Rowena House

ROWENA HOUSE spent years as a foreign correspondent in France, Africa and then again in Europe before turning to fiction. Her debut novel, a First World War coming-of-age quest called THE GOOSE ROAD, is published by Walker Books (2018). Her fascination with the Great War, the trenches, and the appalling artillery battles of the Somme and Verdun began at school when studying the war poets, Wilfred Owen in particular. As an adult, she experienced war first-hand as a Reuter’s reporter in Ethiopia, and saw its terrible impact on civilians. Now settled in the English countryside with her husband and son, she holds a Master’s degree in rural economics and another in creative writing, and mentors fiction writers alongside her journalism and storytelling.

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