Speaker: Ali Sparkes Children’s Author: Why Did It Take 30 Years to Find out That I am an Author?

Ali Sparkes didn’t know she was meant to be an author for about 30 years. How she got to be one is a tale of sequins, plops, lovelorn bats, juggling unicyclists, many props and much silliness. In a stirring, tempestuous session, Ali will share her many ups and even more downs… and show you fear in a handful of Tellytubby.  Ali Sparkes’ website.

Review of Hampshire Writers’ Society Evening 10th April 2012 
Report by Carole Hastings:

It was a brilliant evening kicked off by Mark Courtice, the director of the Theatre Royal in Winchester. He told us that the theatre is soon to open its garden space so that theatre goers can have a bite whilst enjoying some new performance pieces. He will be commissioning some new works and is happy to hear from writers who would like to have their works aired at the theatre.

Next up was the Hampshire Poet Laureate, Brian Evan-Jones who read his first commissioned poem on Lymington entitled “By Sea & Forest Enchanted.” He will read his second work as part of the Jubilee celebrations at Winchester Cathedral in June. He has plans to create a poetic map of Hampshire and is interested in hearing from groups who might like to contribute poems to an anthology or work with him on creating some new poems.

Ali Sparkes held the floor with an exciting and engaging session on her progress from a six year old with poor reading skills – courtesy of experimental alphabet-free teaching – to a top children’s author. As a child she dreamt of being on stage and being a performer of some description but all the time she wrote adventures.

Her journey started with family word games around the kitchen table, failed attempts at being accepted by acting schools, backstage work at musicals, a Bluecoat at Pontins [hoping for an Equity card], cabaret singer, journo then comedy writer for the Daily Echo, staffer for BBC Radio Solent, then a freelancer with pieces aired on Woman’s Hour and Home Truths. All this, whilst writing and pitching works to publishers.

Ali was frank and funny about her rejections, her earliest as a teenager and others after monumental feats of writing – 60,000 words in a fortnight. She opted for getting an agent and signed up to the late Rosemary Canter at Peters Fraser & Dunlop. She landed Ali with a contract from Oxford University Press for a five part series of Shapeshifter a couple of weeks after the deal was signed.

Ali was entertaining and inspiring – she is a success without any formal creative writing training or mentoring. She draws elements of her books from her family and advised us to always write the first draft of any book so that it entertains you first and foremost. Her latest book, Frozen in Time was inspired by The Famous Five, a childhood favourite.

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