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Alison Prince

As a child

I grew up in South London during the war. We were bombed rather a lot, but I enjoyed collecting shrapnel. I went to a girls-only grammar school where they taught me grammar and Latin, but failed to overcome my mathematical panic, caused by a nasty encounter with long division. My parents were from Scotland and Yorkshire, and regarded the south of England with deep suspicion. We read all the time, even during meals. My father was a good pianist and played every night, so I grew up with Bach and Schubert and Beethoven. My great delight was to visit the Scottish relatives in Glasgow. I wanted to be an artist because it was revolutionary and messy, but writing always seemed very natural. If you can talk, you can write, can't you? We did an awful lot of talking in our house.

As an adult

To the disgust of my school, which had me marked down for Oxford, I won a scholarship to the Slade, and did art, followed by a teaching diploma (distinction) at Goldsmiths, though not at once. I did a lot of badly paid jobs first, and learned a lot about the skills of being broke. I ran the Art department at the then new Elliott Comprehensive School, then married and had three children, who now live in France, Australia and mostly China. Writing started accidentally when I slid into TV with a Watch with Mother series called Joe, followed by Trumpton and stories for Jackanory. Marriage collapsing, I left London and ran a small farm in Suffolk for eight years. I've written over forty books and do a lot of work with children, recently for 'Opera House', which enables schools and communities to make their own operas. Music is a passion with me, and I love working in mixed media.

As an artist

I work in the big upstairs room of my house, looking over the sea. I'm a perpetual re-writer, fussing over the sound and cadence of words. I've published two books of poetry and would like to have more time for it. If pushed, I'll write anywhere, and have recently been composing lyrics on trains while travelling to Haworth for a project – with 120 children at the Bronte Museum. How's Business was a turning-point book, written with a class of Primary children over two terms in a small school in Lincolnshire. 16 years later, The Summerhouse was started in the same school, though a new generation of children. Leicester University awarded me an Hon D. Lit in 2005 for services to children's literature, largely because of this work. I don't illustrate much now. Too realistic, too classical. But I think visually, and all books come primarily from things seen either in reality or imagination.

Things you didn't know about Alison Prince

  1. I like milking cows.
  2. In slow traffic, I mutter and swear at other drivers.
  3. I play the clarinet in a jazz band.
  4. I hate being in a telephone queue.
  5. My idea of enjoyment is getting lost in some foreign place...
  6. ... or else curling up on the sofa with the cats.
  7. I only remember the names of people I like.
  8. I have the dress-sense of a bag lady.
  9. I love the sea. Being inland worries me.
  10. I fuss about apostrophes.

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