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Joan Aiken Papers

 Collection
Identifier: DG1132

Scope and Contents

The deGrummond Collection holds galleys, proofs, blues, and folded-and-gathered sheets for two of Aiken's books, both a collection of short stories. For Up The Chimney Down Aiken's papers contain a partial nineteen-page typescript that bears a few of the author's own corrections. By and large the researcher will find the galleys and proofs useful for understanding the time-consuming nature of preparing stories for publication and especially the demands placed on both editor and author when preparing a British author's work for an American audience. Most of the copyeditor's remarks in these galleys and proofs involve questions raised regarding word usage -- jargon. Making Aiken's wonderful short stories accessible to American readers required that she and her editor first "translate" everyday British jargon into American English . Written in the galleys' margins,the copyeditor's remarks and the author's replies suggest that the task could sometimes be quite frustrating.

Dates

  • 1985-1986

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

he collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U. S. Code). Reproductions can be made only if they are to be used for "private study, scholarship, or research." It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.

Biographical / Historical

Born in 1924 in Sussex, England, to the American poet Conrad Aiken and Canadian-born Jessie (McDonald) Aiken, young adult author and illustrator Joan Aiken has written over thirty-five titles for young adults and over twenty for adults. She has also contributed short stories and reviews to Argosy, Everywoman, John Bull, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Housewife, Vanity Fair, New Statesman, Woman's Own, Woman's Journal, and History Today. Aiken even wrote a how-to book intended to guide authors for young adults entitled The Way to Write for Children.

After her first husband, Ronald George Brown, succumbed to lung cancer in 1955, Aiken found herself responsible for herself and her two children. During those dark years after Brown's death, Aiken took jobs as a copy editor with Argosy magazine and later, the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency. During the 1960s Aiken came into her own as an author, winning popular and critical acclaim for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Whispering Mountain, Black Hearts in Battersea, and Nightbirds on Nantucket. Willoughby Chase won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and in 1969 Aiken won America's Edgar Allen Poe Award in juvenile mystery for Night Fall.

As a child, Aiken took solitary walks in the fields surrounding her parents' house and concocted stories to amuse herself; when her younger brother grew old enough to tag along, she invented more stories to tell him when he grew tired. Both children created imaginary countries and often swapped details about their own fantasy land. Contributing to Aiken's imagination were the books her mother read to her from the family library; the works of Scott, Dickens, Tolstoy, Austen, the Brontes, Dumas, even Thurber and Twain made up a regular part of her intellectual diet. By seven Aiken was reading Edgar Allen Poe and Rudyard Kipling, and all the children's books from "Alcott to Wiggins" as she told Something About the Author.

From childhood, Aiken felt a sense of romanticism and mystery she insisted derived from a strong sense of place. The dusty, ghost-ridden houses filled with twisting passages and cramped by close quarters intrigued her and often appear in her writing. Her childhood exposure to Dickens apparently rubbed off, providing by example the training she would later use to develop intricate plots and humorous characters that often hark back to Dickens. For example, Aiken's characters' names often strike the reader as quite Dickensian: Gripe, Moleskin, Fringe, or Fitzpickwick.

Aiken insisted that when writing, she never consciously chose a style for her audience; instead some "internal monitor" guided her, insuring that she never abandoned the strong sense of right and wrong that all children have and which appears in Aiken's stories. Her own children often provided her with the best criticism and she read to them as each new book was in progress. When writing for children, she demanded that the author never minimize that life is tough, that wickedness and hardship do not exist. Even so, virtue must triumph in the end, she insisted, since children's lives are filled with enough insecurity that they need the reassurance.

Sources:

Something About the Author, volume 30.

Something About the Author Autobiography, volume 1.

David Rees,"The Virtues of Improbability: Joan Aiken," Children's Literature in Education 19 (Spring 1988): 42-54.

Major Authors and Illustrators, volume 1: 46-50.

Extent

.60 Cubic Feet (2 boxes)

Overview

Joan Delano Aiken (1924-2004), daughter of American poet Conrad Aiken, was a young adult author and illustrator who wrote over thirty-five titles for young adults and over twenty for adults. She contributed short stories and reviews to Argosy, Everywoman, John Bull, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Housewife, Vanity Fair, New Statesman, Woman's Own, Woman's Journal, and History Today. Aiken even wrote a how-to book intended to guide authors for young adults entitled The Way to Write for Children.

Arrangement

This collection consists of two boxes divided into one series.

Series I: Books (1985-1986)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Joan Aiken in December 1990.

Related Materials

DG0780 The Jan Pienkowski Papers
Title
Joan Aiken Papers
Status
In Progress
Date
1995-03-23
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the de Grummond Childrens Literature Collection Repository

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