The archive contains draft manuscripts, photographs, notebooks and correspondence all the way back from his first publication ‘It Never Rained’ to his 2015 ‘An Eagle in the Snow’ as well as material relating to his his widely known and admired works such as ‘War Horse’ and ‘Private Peaceful’.
To mark this brilliant news I was able to put a few questions to Michael about his archive.
Playing by the book: What’s the oldest item in your archive which you’ve donated to Seven Stories? Perhaps something you wrote as a child? School reports?
Michael Morpurgo: I suppose I would be going back to about 1970, and I’ve been writing since then. They are scribbles, but they are there.
Playing by the book: What do you think people might be surprised by when they look at your archive?
Michael Morpurgo: The mess! I was just looking at notebooks then and thinking what a jostle of impressions and efforts… the little psychological boosts I give myself. For instance at the end of half an hour or a page I count up a word tally and it gives me an absurd sense of satisfaction; to know at the end of the day I’ve done 1,000 or 2,000 words and how encouraging this is for me.
Aside from the mess, how fluent I can be when I’m working well and how tentative and trembly I can be when it’s not moving necessarily the way I want it to move. And there’s the awful moment when you’ve done too much writing the day before and you can tell the writing gets faster and faster and faster towards 4 o’clock and then you stop and look back the next day and think – of course I should have stopped at lunchtime, because the last three hours were rubbish! Then there’s the great lines through it. There are also the moments you re-trace your life and I rather like that.
Playing by the book: What will you do with all the space created by gifting your archive to Seven Stories?
Michael Morpurgo: Fill it up! It’s already filling up with new manuscripts and other things. Don’t you find that at home when you want to clear a room, you just clear it up for it to fill with other stuff? But the great thing about this is that now it will serve a useful purpose. It really will be useful. There will be some people down the line who will want to know how this particular writer worked out why he would write that story and how he set about it. And I love that – I love that people might have an insight into how that happened, especially when you aren’t around to tell them.
My thanks go to Michael for his generosity in answering my questions and also to Damien Wootten for the photographs from Seven Stories today.