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Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

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Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Green Hedges » 29 Nov 2017, 19:01

This five-year diary (the fifth year is blank) has led to some thoughts as to how Enid wrote her books prior to the successful series such as FF and the Mysteries and the Adventures.

Also interesting to consider the overlap between Enid's diary entries and her letters in Sunny Stories.

See how you get on: http://www.enidblyton.me.uk/styled-28/index.html

Lots to discuss, hopefully.

Duncan
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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 29 Nov 2017, 19:47

Interesting, Duncan. I too was struck by Enid Blyton referring to the serialised chapters of The Secret Island as "stories". Not long ago I wrote elsewhere on the forums:

Anita Bensoussane wrote:I was interested in Enid Blyton's comment in Issue 44 [of Enid Blyton's Sunny Stories]: "I am so very glad that you like the Secret Island stories so much. Aren't they exciting?" It's as though she wasn't thinking of The Secret Island as a novel at that stage, but as a sequence of separate but related incidents. And, as we've said before, it's unlikely that she had any idea she would go on to write four sequels!


Whether or not that means Enid hadn't written the whole book before serialisation began is unclear, though her remark about Adventures of the Wishing-Chair - "I never know what adventure the Wishing-Chair is going to have when I sit down to write the tale" - provides food for thought as you say.
"Heyho for a starry night and a heathery bed!" - Jack, The Secret Island.

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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby timv » 30 Nov 2017, 09:24

Thanks, Duncan - very interesting. With regards to 'The Secret Island', we see here that Enid was writing the book in September 1937. The female aviator Amelia Earhart had disappeared en route across the Pacific on 2 July, and the search for her was underway through that month and was prominent in the press. This would seem to hint that this episode may well have been the 'trigger' for Enid choosing to have the Arnold parents as pioneering aviators who had disappeared on a flight, even if their disappearing was already in her mind as part of the plot.

Very 'cutting edge' for that era and especially so to have a woman flyer who was clearly her husband's equal partner; it was more usual for children's books to have missing parents disappear at sea on a voyage (as Enid herself did later with the sinking liner in 'The Family At Red Roofs).
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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby pete9012S » 30 Nov 2017, 09:50

Thank you Duncan - I'm looking forward to reading this later.
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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Green Hedges » 30 Nov 2017, 11:47

What keeps you from this important task, Pete? It's a bit early to be delivering presents around town in your Santa Claus outfit! Maybe you're riding around in a ginger wig, just for the Hell of it. Yes, that will be it.

When you do get round to reading my blog, think of it as a Xmas present from me to you (and all the other readers of the Forums). Just as The Society Journal 64 is a Xmas present from Tony to us all.

My latest blog is three days work washed down with a bottle of wine each night. Which is why I must take a rest for a few days! I don't think that's how Enid worked. Unless you count Enid and her editor as a writing team. At the time I'm writing about, Enid did the writing and Hugh knocked back the sauce!

Thanks for your comment, Anita. It is my working hypothesis (as Fatty might say) that the novels that appeared as serials were written as serials. Though years later when one of the Famous Five books was serialised in Sunny Stories, I've little doubt that was written in her by then customary 'no hanging around' style.

That's an interesting observation, timv. The Amelia Earhart situation may indeed have fed into Enid's undermind while beginning The Secret Island. Of course, the weekly dating of the episodes could open the floodgates to connections between what Enid was writing in her serial and what was going on in the world and in her personal life (which her diaries tells us about). Some of the links will be spurious, but it's still worth bearing the possibilities in mind.

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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Aussie Sue » 30 Nov 2017, 13:38

Thanks Duncan,
I am loving your work on the diaries. So much is written about what other people 'think' Enid thought or was doing and are so often way off mark. These are her actual thoughts and actions wonderful.

cheers
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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 30 Nov 2017, 14:45

Green Hedges wrote:It is my working hypothesis (as Fatty might say) that the novels that appeared as serials were written as serials. Though years later when one of the Famous Five books was serialised in Sunny Stories, I've little doubt that was written in her by then customary 'no hanging around' style.

I can see that Adventures of the Wishing-Chair may have been written over a long period as it's extremely episodic. It's also so long that when it appeared in book form the publishers pruned it straight after the first edition - and later pruned it further. The construction of the second book, The Wishing-Chair Again, is much tighter and the narrative flows more readily.

I'm not so certain about The Secret Island being written part by part over a long period. The storyline is coherent and is clearly leading somewhere, unlike Adventures of the Wishing-Chair.
"Heyho for a starry night and a heathery bed!" - Jack, The Secret Island.

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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Daisy » 30 Nov 2017, 15:31

Thanks Duncan... a very interesting account... and like Anita I think it possible that "The Adventures of the Wishing Chair" was written as you suggest, but I also wonder if the knowledge that an episode of the serial would be expected regularly, would make her think ahead at least to a degree. Just imagine having a deadline to meet and having no idea what to write next! I wonder if that ever happened to Enid?
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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Green Hedges » 30 Nov 2017, 16:51

Daisy, in one of Enid's Sunny Stories letters while writing The Secret Island she says that is a particularly exciting episode and that so is the next week's. So on that occasion she might have written two or more episodes at the same time.

But yes, as Anita says, we need to keep an open mind as to whether the serials were written episode at a time or all at once. Though I don't think The Secret Island has anything like the connectivity of, say, a Find-Outers book, which weren't written as serials but as perfectly coherent splurges of typing.

At the moment, in the Cave of Books the Sunny Stories letters stop at the end of 1937. I'm sure Tony will get to 1938's issues in due course. But, Aussie Sue, I believe you have an excellent collection of SS. If you're interested and have time, have a look to see what Enid writes in her Old Thatch letter about the serial for the remaining episodes (chapters 16-21, issues 52-57), she may let slip something else - some tiny and previously overlooked gem - about her writing practice.
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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby John Pickup » 30 Nov 2017, 20:27

Thanks Duncan. I have never considered whether Secret Island was written in serial form before but I can see your argument in favour of it. The book is so different to the rest of the series that I often wonder whether Enid wrote it as a stand alone novel.
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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Daisy » 30 Nov 2017, 20:52

I think most authors would write their first book as a stand alone novel, then if it appeared very popular and in Enid's case had requests for more, a series could be contemplated and even planned. I believe the Harry Potter books were all in J.K.Rowling's head in some form or other, before she started the first.
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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Rob Houghton » 01 Dec 2017, 02:48

Like Anita, I think I can easily imagine Adventures of the Wishing Chair to be written week by week - or at least episode by episode - but not many others of her books. I can see how maybe The Secret Island might have been, but also as Anita says, I think the plot is quite tight, and not episodic like The Adventures of the Wishing Chair.

Of course, with her later serials, we know they were written all in one go as a book, and then serialised chapter by chapter. Enid tells us a few times that she has just written a Secret Seven book, or a Famous Five book, which will shortly be serialised. :-D
'Oh voice of Spring of Youth
hearts mad delight,
Sing on, sing on, and when the sun is gone
I'll warm me with your echoes
through the night.'

(E. Blyton, Sunday Times, 1951)



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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Aussie Sue » 01 Dec 2017, 08:43

Green Hedges wrote: But, Aussie Sue, I believe you have an excellent collection of SS. If you're interested and have time, have a look to see what Enid writes in her Old Thatch letter about the serial for the remaining episodes (chapters 16-21, issues 52-57), she may let slip something else - some tiny and previously overlooked gem - about her writing practice.


Duncan I have had a look through those issues:
No.52-In the letter:-
Do you like the Secret Island story this week? What an exciting time those four children have, don't they? Wouldn't you love to go and stay with them for a few days? I know Gillian would!
No.53-In the letter:-
The Secret Island is not yet at an end, but I would like you to be thinking about something for me. When the Secret Island is finished, what sort of a long story would you like next? I know rather an exciting one about a boy who goes round the countryside with a circus-do you think would like that? Or would you rather have one about the pixies and fairies- or one about children? You might let me know. I want to begin another one for you about the end of March, so you have plenty of time to let me know.
No.54-In the letter:-
Isn't the Secret Island exciting this week? I am so glad you like it so much. So many of you are begging me to put the whole tale into a big book for you, so that you can read it all through again that I am thinking about this. I will let you know if I do make the Secret Island into a book.
No.55 Nothing of interest in this one.
No.56 Nothing of interest in this one.
No. 57-In the letter:-
I'm afraid that you will be sad to read the last story of "The Secret Island" But it had a lovely ending, hadn't it! I am sure you did not guess that the children's father and mother would turn up again - and isn't it lovely that Jack is going to live with Mike, Nora and Peggy? I know you want all "The Secret Island" in a big book to itself, just as you had "The Adventures of the Wishing-Chair" - and I will tell you when the book is ready, so that you may get it if you badly want it.

These are all the comments re The Secret Island, but I must admit on reading through these magazines I have some other thoughts, I will try and put those thoughts together on paper when I get a break and scan the related letters into to this topic, not that my scanning ever works out very well.

cheers
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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Green Hedges » 01 Dec 2017, 12:26

Just to recap. I can imagine Wishing Chair or Secret Island being written chapter at a time. And I can imagine them being written all at once over a few days. We're patiently trying to sift through the evidence to find out how these books WERE written!

Anita says something very interesting in her "Enid the Writer' piece elsewhere on the EBS site, so I'll paste that in here:

In Chapter 14 of The Story of My Life (1952) Enid Blyton takes us through the process of writing a book, giving The Enchanted Wood (1939) as an example. This is an odd choice, since several key elements of The Enchanted Wood (which, incidentally, was written thirteen years before The Story of My Life) had been used previously in earlier works. These elements may have suddenly sprung into her mind as she worked on The Enchanted Wood, but they were certainly not new creations. Enid ignores that, presenting some of these things as having popped into her head completely out of the blue as she wrote the book, and declaring that she was as surprised by them as anyone.

She tells us that she began with the characters of Jo, Bessie and Fanny. Then she followed a winding path through a wood in her imagination, and suddenly saw "the strange Faraway Tree, a tree that touches the sky, and is the home of little folk. I had never heard of it, or seen it till that moment—but there it is, complete in every detail." In reality, Enid Blyton had already been acquainted with the Faraway Tree for about three years before writing The Enchanted Wood, as she had first written about the tree in The Yellow Fairy Book (1936.)

Enid Blyton goes on to describe climbing the tree in her imagination and seeing a door at the top: "... before I can knock, it is opened, and there stands a round, red-faced, twinkling-eyed little fellow, beaming at me. I know who it is, though I have never in my life seen him before. It is Moonface, of course." Once again, further investigation reveals that Enid Blyton had created Moonface previously. He too had appeared in The Yellow Fairy Book, complete with little round room and slippery-slip.

Enid then writes: "I can hear a strange noise—a jingling-jangling, clinking-clanking noise. What is it? Ah, yes, you know, because you have read the book. But at that moment the story hasn't even been written yet, so I don't know. I have to look and see what makes the noise." It is the Saucepan Man, hung with clanking pots and pans, but then Enid Blyton ought to have known that since she had dreamt up the character of the Saucepan Man thirteen years earlier, when writing The Enid Blyton Book of Brownies (1926.)

She describes following Moonface and the Saucepan Man up the topmost branch of the Faraway Tree to discover that "A little yellow ladder stretches surprisingly from the last branch, up through a purple hole in the cloud that lies on the top of the tree." "Surprisingly" may not be quite the right word, as the ladder and cloud also featured in The Yellow Fairy Book.

So, it appears that in The Story of My Life Enid Blyton is giving us a somewhat fictionalised account of the writing of The Enchanted Wood, making things neater and simpler than they really were. Some valuable insights into her creativity may still be gleaned from her account, but it does not portray the whole truth of what was obviously a rather more complex process.


This stresses a difficulty of this exercise. We may not always be able to take at face value something Enid writes in an Old Thatch letter to children, for example.

Still, it's fascinating to see what Enid wrote in her Old Thatch letters towards the end of Secret Island (thanks very much for transcribing them, Aussie Sue). Though they don't tell us whether Enid had already written the book or was still writing the 'stories', they do imply that she didn't yet have a publishing deal. Even after Adventures of Wishing Chair had been published in time for Xmas 1937 and Enid had been madly plugging the availablity of the book in her Sunny Stories letter. (God, she had to do so much herself!)

It was Basil Blackwell who published The Secret Island in the end. The book came out in September 1938. And I've just seen in Enid's diary for Thursday 2 June, 1938:

Did page in a.m. Did all flowers. Hugh home with temp at 3. Put him to bed. Mr and Mrs Basil Blackwell came to tea. Stayed til quarter to six. Dr Henry came and Hugh is in for bronchitis again. G. in bed with temperature. Hugh's temp 101-2.


Reading that, I feel like giving Enid some advice. "Carry on, Superwoman."

Flicking forward through Seven Stories transcript of 'notable and sample diary entries' I see that her entry for 29 February, 1940 reads:

Worked till tea. Had children. Corrected proofs and read till bed. Pitapat began having kittens. Sunny Stories has jumped to 59,000!


Well, with Sunny Stories selling that amount of copies per week, and Enid allowed to plug her books in her Old Thatch letter, it would be a proper idiot of a publisher who didn't realise that Enid Blyton was the goose that was not just laying golden eggs but bringing them nicely to term!

Yesterday, I asked Seven Stories (as opposed to Sunny Stories!) whether there was a full transcription of the diary entries for 1937, 1938 and 1939. There isn't. And it's only when that's done, and all the Old Thatch letters for these years are available, that we'll have all the evidence for whether Secret Island, Galliano's Circus, Secret of Spiggy Holes, Enchanted Wood and Hurrah for the Circus were first written as little gems or as bumper bundles of brilliance.

Looking forward to reading your further thoughts, Sue. And of course yours, Rob and Anita. And everyone else's. This is authentic research by a team of Enid aficionados, eighty years on from the historical period that we're considering!
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Re: Enid's 1937-1940 diaries

Postby Rob Houghton » 01 Dec 2017, 13:16

I find it a bit odd that you suggest Enid was 'allowed' to plug her books in her Sunny Stories letters...as surely Enid had full rein to do whatever she liked, as she had full control over the Sunny Stories magazine by this time, and no one would have told her what she could and couldn't do. I agree she did a lot of plugging herself, but this wasn't just early on in her career - she was still plugging her latest book in 1957 copies of Enid Blyton's Magazine. She was obviously a phenomenon because she knew the power of advertising! ;-)

I tend to think its a bit iffy to believe what Enid wrote in her letters in Sunny Stories and in The Enid Blyton Magazine. As you say - we may not be able to take what she writes at face value - in fact, some of it was probably pure fantasy - or embroidered anyway. I often get this impression when going through the Enid Blyton Magazine letters for my reviews each fortnight. I'm quite sure that sometimes Enid was coming out with happenings that never really happened...or maybe they happened years before...or could have happened but didn't. She was above all a teacher and a story teller - so I think quite often her 'letter life' owed more to fiction than to fact. 8)
'Oh voice of Spring of Youth
hearts mad delight,
Sing on, sing on, and when the sun is gone
I'll warm me with your echoes
through the night.'

(E. Blyton, Sunday Times, 1951)



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