The ADC Theatre in Cambridge boasts illustrious Footlights Allumini. Inside it's stuffy and slightly dusty, the seats are a third full of grungy middle class white kids and their parents. My offspring and I have sat on the back row, hiding in the shadows, waiting to listen to David Almond talk about his writing, I've bribed my son's presence with an overpriced jar of jellybabies from a nearby sweetshop, I think he'd rather be home on the XBox, but I must keep trying.
It's fitting that the place smells a little like a library, that's where Almond does most of his writing, the library in Newcastle, 9-5, with a break for lunch. Writing in my local library would be difficult over the clatter of keyboards, but it's a noble idea. Almond champions libraries, as should we all. He champions books, his talk lauded the beauty of books, the magic of the printed word, the evocation of wonder in everyday things. He speaks in a soft Geordie accent, a modest looking man in dark colours with a large black rucsac, from which he pulls his notebooks, his ideas for writing, his notes that capture his imagination,
"Making marks on paper is really important to writing, I just love storie, storytelling is a fertile onward going thing."
Almond has written most of his life, his love affair with words emerging as a babe in arms, carried down the hill in his hometown to his uncles' small printshop up an alleyway, whre he oohed and baby gurgeld at the wonder of the printers turning and producing press, the black ink on white paper, "Truly gorgeous".
He was a teacher for a long time too, although he's made a living from writing for the last 13 years or so. David believes in creativity, "Learning is a creative art, creativity informs everything you do."
David Almond books range from the uncanny and fantastic to the real and emotional. His new book, 'The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas' was inspired by a family holiday in Italy and a trip to a local circus, where for those willing to part with an additional five Euros, a curtain was drawn back to reveal the fantastical act of a man swimming in a tank full of piranhas.
He loves writing for young people because of the different range of forms it offers. His his book 'The Savage' is part graphic novel, written in collaboration with the illustrator Dave MacKean,
"Words and pictures go naturally together - as soon as the word goes into your brain, it turns into a picture." He writes about his childhood a lot, but as a traveller, which enhances his ability to become the voice of a character, an adolescent girl in 'Mina', a boy or angel in 'Skellig'. He praised Walker Books for making 'proper books', soemthing I was pleased to hear as they are publishing a short story of mine later this year.
The talk finished, there was a smattering of applause, I bought a book for the youngest, he was even keen to get it signed, first in line, thank you David, a worthy afternoon away from