All Stories, a free mentorship programme for underrepresented children's book writers, was launched on 30th March 2021. Here, the final in a series of interviews with All Stories mentees, Words & Pictures Advisory Board member A. M. Dassu speaks to Alison Dunne to find out more about her writing and experience as a mentee.


1. Can you tell us a bit about the book(s) you’re writing? (Age range, genre and anything else you’d like to tell us.)


I’m writing The Mum Strike, a middle grade book which takes a comic look at Frankie’s life with his three talented sisters when he’s not really good at anything. Things take a turn for Frankie when his mum meets a new friend at pottery class and they decide to go on mum strike because the kids won’t do their chores. For Frankie everything hinges on winning the school talent show with Amazing Performing Sausage – Frankie’s dog who won’t do what she’s told and the mum strike really gets in his way.


2. Sounds hilarious! How long have you been writing for?


I’ve always written things. I remember realising when I was about 4 that books were written by people and thinking YES! That’s what I am going to do. I remember recording long science fiction stories on my little yellow cassette recorder, they were rambling space operas mostly. I’ve always told myself stories and had the urge to write them down. I was amazed when I first went to a creative writing evening class and discovered people liked them. Since then I’ve written all kinds of stuff – I’ve performed spoken word as part of a feminist comedy duo Gas & Air, written page poems and fiction. My poems and stories have been published in small presses and a couple of times have been on Radio 4.


3. You were born to write! What made you want to write for children?


Children are the best audience, the most open and the most honest. They come to stories with such honesty and willingness to enter into imaginary worlds and get behind characters. I love the emotions stories evoke in children and how you can see those emotions in their faces as they are read to and when they read themselves. I love to see a child away in the world of a book. It’s exciting to imagine them getting lost in the story of Frankie, rooting for him and Sausage and laughing at the funny bits.


4. What has your writing journey been like up to this point?


I love writing, I’ve had a few hiccups on the way, so I wouldn’t say wholly smooth but always interesting and challenging.


5. What are your goals for the mentorship?


My goals working with my mentor have been to structure Frankie’s story so that the pace takes the reader on through the story unstoppably. My mentor, Jenny, has been great with structure. I can write all day but sometimes need reining in. I want to finish the mentorship with The Mum Strike in great, publishable shape and to be in a position to send the manuscript to agents and have great confidence in the story.


6. What’s it like to have a mentor for your writing? Is it what you expected?


I’ve loved having a mentor. Chatting with Jenny about the story has been exhilarating and fascinating and challenging. Reading her notes on my manuscript make me aware of what a skill editing is. I am not sure what I expected but I feel I’ve had someone on my side and it’s been fab to talk about the characters with someone who knows them. Jenny has questioned me on a lot of things and I feel I’ve risen to her challenges. The kind of feedback offered through the mentorship is absolute gold dust for a writer.


7. I agree! What are your thoughts on representation in children’s literature?


I think that slowly representation is getting better. In my story I have an ordinary, working class, single parent family – like my own – and I’ve felt those kind of stories which show the positives and are joyous have maybe not been as available as I would have liked for my children. I think all children need to see themselves represented in books, theatre, in the media.


8. Yes to all of that! Who’s your favourite author and why?


My favourite author for grown-ups is Kate Atkinson. Behind the Scenes at the Museum was the first book to really show me my own life experience, brilliantly written, hilarious and moving. My favourite children’s writer has always been Philip Ridley, who is such an imaginative and talented storyteller in so many ways. His characters crackle and fizz on the page and he is not afraid to face difficult situations and themes for his characters. His stories connect on a real emotional level and are funny and bizarre and brilliant.


*Feature image courtesy of All Stories and profile image courtesy of Alison Dunne





Alison Dunne is based in Leicester and has wanted to be a writer since she realised that people wrote books – aged 4. She hasn’t stopped writing since her parents bought her a Petite typewriter for Christmas when she was 8, although other things have had to take priority, especially raising three children as a single parent.

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