Author Feature: Alison Hughes

Kasey & Ivy: Through twenty-six letters to her friend Nina, twelve-year-old Kasey chronicles the often humorous observations and impressions of her unexpected, month-long stay in a geriatric ward for the treatment of a rare but treatable bone disease (“osteo-something-something-itis”). Kasey tries to make her life less dull by wearing her own nightgowns, surrounding herself with her favorite stuffies and developing an unusual exercise routine. Hospital food, insomnia and the germy communal bath are enduring sources of dread, but some new (and unexpected) friends make her life bearable.

 

How do you usually begin writing your stories?

I blurt. I’ll just open a computer file and blurt out everything I can think of about the story I have in mind, each character, the plot, etc. I find if I let myself off-leash there’s lots to sift through, and that blank, staring page is not quite so daunting.

What planning or research did you do for your book?

I actually did spend a month in the hospital (in the geriatric ward) when I was nine, so I definitely mined memories for this one. I did a rough outline, but I’d been thinking of this book for a long time and it took on a life of it’s own during the writing.

Kasey & Ivy Do you have any advice you would give to an aspiring writer?

Never give up. Really, never. Like anything, you get better with practice, so keep at it, and don’t be discouraged by a rejection letter or two (or dozens).

What’s the most prized book on your bookshelf?

It would be my husband Mitchell’s two-thousand page legal textbook that took him fifteen years to complete. He had to rewrite it when it was nearly done because of a Supreme Court case that changed the law in the area. That text is a lesson in tenacity, and a real achievement.

What are your favorite ways to procrastinate?

I seem to find lots of other things to do when the writing isn’t going so well. There are legitimate things like groceries and laundry and family time. Less legitimate is whiling away an afternoon at a thrift store (but I still do it). It’s relaxing and who knows what treasures lurk there?

Do you keep books after you’ve read them, or give them away? Do you borrow books from your local library?

I keep books because I’m a re-reader (bookshelves dominate our home), but I do press them on family and friends when I love them and need to share them. I also borrow books from the library a lot.

What types of conversations do you hope will come out of your book?

I’d love this book to start conversations about sickness and health. Many children will have to deal with sickness or a hospital stay, and it shouldn’t be an overwhelmingly fearful thing. I also hope the book might initiate discussion about how we make assumptions about old people. I hope readers find Kasey’s observations both funny and thought-provoking.

Hughes, Alison

Alison Hughes writes for children of all ages, and her books have been nominated for the Governor General’s, Silver Birch, Red Cedar, Diamond Willow, Hackmatack, Chocolate Lily and Alberta Literary Awards. Alison volunteers for children and literacy and gives frequent presentations at schools, libraries and young-writer conferences. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with her family. For more information, visit alisonhughesbooks.com.

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