Alison was born in Vancouver, and grew up in the lower mainland area of BC. She's used to blueberry bushes the size of trees, and the calm of the west coast mainland Pacific, and would feel homesick without saltwater nearby. She lives close to the Fraser River which is tidal and salt, too.
Reading has always been a great source of pleasure, knowledge, and learning. Her early school years were both in public school and correspondence—sort of like homeschooling, but more structured--back when no one did such a thing. She always wanted to write and “be a writer,” but few people take a kid seriously when they speak such dreams. (Yeah! to all brave dreams.) She left school rather young and became a hairdresser and worked on film sets and did all sorts with that career before returning to college as a mature student, gaining a BA in history, and an MFA in creative writing. Reading was key to being able to move from “drop-out” to “professor” (albeit sessional), working full-time within the Creative Writing Program at UBC (2002-08), teaching writing for children and writing pedagogy.
Alison's teaching is process-focused, and she is pleased that her former students have won both the Governor General’s Award (Fishtailing) and the Ethel Wilson BC Book Prize (Having Faith in the Polar Girls’ Prison), projects in which she's had some role. She believes that much worthwhile work has no quick rewards, and it is important to have belief in self and in others. And always be ready for a surprise!
Her home is full of kids--three boys: the oldest is nineteen and the youngest is twelve. She has weekly writing workshops for all ages of home-learners. Her spouse teaches music—guitar—and has summer “rock camp.” And they have a big old black rescue dog from Washington state, named Rocky. Alison is currently working on another middle-grade novel about the number of dogs and cats given up or abandoned because of the recession.
It’s a busy, full life. She can write only with some background noise, and often thinks she should make a recording of it all--the laughter, the squabbling, the not-sure-what-they-all-are noises--so that when her boys grow up and move away, the quiet won’t drive her mad!
Alison's role as a writer talking to young people is one of illustrating the possibility that one can reach for a dream, work for it, grab it...and hang on for the ride! Whether the dream be writing or some other form of art, or something else altogether, this idea of reaching is significant in a rushed world. “Wonder is respect for life,” William Steig said in his 1970 Caldecott acceptance speech, and this is a guiding principle for Alison. Reading and sharing stories create a wide path to Wonder.
Presentation descriptions: (each is 45 minutes, and if given notice, can be adapted for different age groups)
Grades 1 to 3 (or 4): Where’s Your Funnybone?
Grades 4 or 5 to 7: One Eye to See & Another Eye to See Again… Re-visioning Our Stories
Junior years — Grades 8-9: Getting Grit
Senior Secondary — Grades 10-12: A Career in the Arts
Alison will share her writing path, negotiating college and university and what it means to build an entrepreneurial spirit in life. She reads from her very first published work, and traces a path through other works and her growth. She also shares her heap o’rejection letters, and talks about what it takes to work beyond such things! And concludes with the learners writing their Wildest Dreams and key words on a slip of paper—it might not be art, but she really does want them to think about how they’d most like to spend their time. And an inspiring reading and Q&A.
Workshops — all grades
Book List / Discography
Molly’s Cue (Coteau Books, 2010)
Grandpa’s Music: A Story About Alzheimer's
Praise for Alison Acheson
"[Alison's] enthusiasm and love of writing truly shone when she spoke with the children about the various aspects of the writing process. Her understanding of the educational needs of kids went beyond her being an "author" as evident in the way she connected to the students, engaged them, and adapted to their needs effortlessly throughout the presentation."
- Jacquie Chau, Teacher, St. Augustine's
"Alison interacts with the audience in a way that is special - she seems to sense what to spend time on and when to stop for questions. She honoured each and every idea in a genuine way."
- Lillah Martin, Teacher-Librarian
Touring In: Ontario
Ideal Audience Size
1 or 2 classes, 30-60
Maximum Audience Size
Preferred maximum is 3 classes. Class or library space is best.
K - 12
Alison requires an overhead projector (but not for all presentations--see descriptions) and a flip/black/white board for workshops
School Reading Fee$150.00 per presentation
Public Reading Fee$250.00 per presentation (four readings are covered by the Canada Council for the Arts)
Book Week Tour Contact
Shannon Howe Barnes