School appoints patron of reading

Children’s author Ali Sparkes’s visit to a Dorset prep school proved inspiring to young readers and writers alike

Clayesmore Prep School has recently acquired its own patron of reading in the form of author Ali Sparkes. She presented her first workshop to year 5 and 6 pupils in the senior school’s United Nations Room. She kicked off with a potted history of her own life, focusing on how she developed into a writer and, after several knockbacks, the author of successful children’s books. Her writing career began at school with a series of self-penned and illustrated books, the first of which was an adventurous yarn featuring Ali and her two schoolmates and which her art teacher suggested she send to a publisher. Unfortunately, it was rejected, but this setback didn’t put Ali off writing more stories, and this would eventually lead to her first published book ‘Finding the Fox’ – the first in her ‘Shapeshifter’ series. Her journey to getting published was long, littered with rejection letters and false starts, but Ali’s persistence provided a useful lesson for the pupils.

Ali offered inspiration to budding writers, who were encouraged to continue to pursue their love of writing – even if rewards are not immediate and it may be a while before you can call yourself a professional writer.

Later in the afternoon Ali held an ‘X Factor’ workshop, investigating how books can grab a reader’s attention with tactics such as a striking cover, blurb and first page. She then took a back seat, letting the children loose on their own creations, with a little expert guidance along the way. They were asked to write the opening of a story that should urge the reader to keep on reading. The children read out their stories with occasional help from Ali herself and then the audience voted for their top tale. Ali also held a workshop called ‘Rhyme Crime’ that focused on improving verse and addressed how to make a poem sound great, with or without rhyme. 

www.clayesmore.com

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