How to pronounce David Almond: To quote the author, his name is pronounced "just like the nut"
David Almond, in his own words:
I was born in Newcastle and I grew up in a big Catholic family in Felling-on-Tyne. I had four sisters and a brother and lots of relatives in the streets nearby. My dad had been in Burma during the war. He and my mum married in the late 40s. Dad became an office manager in an engineering factory. Mum was a shorthand typist until she had the children. We moved several times when I was a child, but always within Felling.
Felling had been a coal mining town, but by the time I remember anything the pits were all closed. The river at the foot of the town was lined with warehouses and shipyards. At the summit was a wild area we called the Heather Hills. I loved playing football in the fields above the town, camping out with my friends, messing about with my grandfather in his allotment. I was an altar boy, and I still know snatches of the Latin mass by heart. I loved our local library, and dreamed of seeing my books on its shelves one day. Favourite books as a child/teenager included the tales of King Arthur and his knights, the books of T. Lobsang Rampa, and Hemingway's stories. I also used to read my sisters' Enid Blytons. I always knew that I wanted to be a writer. One of my uncles had a small printing works. My mum said that she used to take me there as a baby and I used to laugh and point at the printed pages coming off the rollers - so maybe I began to fall in love with print when I was just a few months old.
I went to primary schools in Felling and Sunderland - both of which I liked. I went to grammar school in Hebburn - which I disliked. To the surprise of some people (e.g. a few teachers and especially my headmaster) I went on to the University of East Anglia and did a degree in English and American Literature. After stints as a hotel porter, postman and labourer, I trained to be a teacher. It seemed the perfect job for a writer: short hours, long holidays, what more could I want? How wrong I was. I wasn't just exhausted by it, I also found it fascinating, and I learned a huge amount. I worked five years in a primary school on a large estate in Gateshead.
While I was there, my first short stories began to be published in little magazines. I needed more time to write, so I resigned and sold my house. I went to live in a commune based in a dilapidated mansion in a beautiful part of Norfolk. I lived for a year and a half on a few hundred pounds and wrote my first decent stories there. When my money ran out, I found a job writing booklets for an adult literacy scheme. This led to my final teaching job, in a school for children with learning difficulties.
My first book for young people, Skellig, was published in 1998. Before that, many short stories had appeared in magazines and anthologies, and were broadcast on Radio 4. Two collections of my stories for adults, Sleepless Nights (1985) and A Kind of Heaven (1997), were put out by IRON Press, a small North Eastern publisher. I was editor of the fiction magazine Panurge from 1987-93. I wrote a novel called Seances that took five years to write and was rejected by every publisher in the country. Then Skellig came along. It seemed to come out of the blue, as if it had been waiting a long time to be told. At times seemed to write itself. Since Skellig, I've written several more children's novels: Kit's Wilderness, Heaven Eyes, Secret Heart, The Fire-Eaters, and Clay; and a collection of stories based on my childhood, Counting Stars. My first picture book, Kate, the Cat and the Moon, illustrated by the wonderful Stephen Lambert, came out in 2004. I also write for the theatre. My first children's play, Wild Girl, Wild Boy toured the UK in 2001. My stage adaptation of Skellig was produced at The Young Vic in 2003, alongside my play for younger children, My Dad's a Birdman. Heaven Eyes was premiered at The Edinburgh Fringe in 2005.
I live with my family in Northumberland. We live just beyond the Roman Wall, which for centuries marked the place where civilisation ended and the waste lands began.
About the author:
David Almond is twice the winner of the Whitbread Children's Book Award. His first novel, Skellig, won the Whitbread Children's Award and the Carnegie Medal. His second, Kit's Wilderness, won the Smarties Award Silver Medal, was Highly Commended for the Carnegie Medal, and shortlisted for the Guardian Award. The Fire-Eaters won the Whitbread, the Smarties Gold Award and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. His novel, Clay, was shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book award and the Carnegie Medal.
In March 2010 he was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award - awarded every other year by IBBY (The International Board on Books for Young People) to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children's literature.
About This Biography
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A Letter to Readers by David Almond about The Tightrope Walkers
The Tightrope Walkers has lots of connections with my own life. I lived in a house rather like Dom's when I was a boy. My own father fought in Burma during World War II, just like Dom's. Miss Fagan, Dom's first teacher, is based on my own first teacher. I remember her kindness, and the beautiful way she shaped letters and words with chalk on the blackboard.
I knew many people who worked in the shipyards that lined the banks of the river Tyne in the '60s and '70s. I worked in a shipyard myself for a couple of summers when I was a student. I cleaned tanks, just like Dom, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. We had a tramp in our town, rather like Jack Law, and he was a romantic figure to me, living his life of nonmaterialistic freedom in the hills above town. The bookshop, Ultima Thule, was a real place, and Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti really did visit and read. And I partied on the beautiful Northumbrian beaches, and listened to Joni Mitchell, and grew my hair, and dreamed of California and love and peace.
The book is fiction, of course: a merging of memory and imagination, truth and lies. I never knew a boy quite ...
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