alison hughes headshot


Alison has published 20 books for young people, from picture books to YA novels. She won the national Writers’ Union Writing for Children Award and the R. Ross Annett Award (Alberta Literary Awards), was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards, and has been nominated 12 times for Canada’s children’s choice awards including Ontario’s Silver Birch. Her books have been translated into Korean, Dutch, French and Turkish.

A Writing Advisor at the University of Alberta’s Academic Success Centre, Alison has volunteered with organizations involved in child literacy, child protection, Indigenous arts, and refugee support. For many years, she’s given presentations and writing workshops across Canada at events such as the TD Canadian Children’s Book Week and the Forest of Reading Awards. She loves talking and laughing with kids about writing, and especially enjoys igniting enthusiasm in reluctant readers and writers. See more at

Alison is available for both virtual and in-person visits beginning in mid-October. She prefers to stay within 1 hour radius of Edmonton, but will consider overnight travel for multiple days of bookings.


30-minute presentation for K-2 (or Q&A for any grades): $150

45-minute presentation: $200

100-minutes (4-5 sessions): $550

VIRTUAL or IN PERSON FEES (half and full day)

Half day (two 50-minute presentations) $425
Full day (four 50-minute presentations) $600

*Recommended times are 30 minutes for Grades K-2, 45-50 minutes for Grades 3-12

*Audience limit is flexible

Valuing Yourself and Your World!  (Kindergarten-Grade 1)

My book What Matters explores how small actions can have big impacts. You’re never too little to make a difference and we’ll brainstorm (and sing about) tiny things we can all do to make this world a better place. I use my picture book Gerbil, Uncurled (about a gerbil who sleeps differently than the other gerbils in her busy cage) to show types of illustration, and to discuss valuing our unique gifts and celebrating our differences (there will be gerbil-scampering, whisker-cleaning, and digging). Finally, we’ll read The Silence Slips In to appreciate quiet times and to brainstorm strategies we can use to calm ourselves when we’re overwhelmed.

Curriculum links: Home and community; environment; citizenship; your unique place; inclusion, diversity, and difference; problem-solving in a group; sharing and showing respect for others; social and emotional learning; self-regulation; resilience.

Writing: Practice and Teamwork!  (Grades 2-3)

Do you play sports or piano or speak another language? Practice makes you better, right? Same with writing! We might play my famous YES OR NO? game to dispel some common misconceptions about writing or a fun card game to show that story ideas can be found anywhere, that description, dialogue, and detail make stories come to life, and that editing is super-important. I’ll do a reading from my early chapter book Beatrice More and the Perfect Party, and we’ll also talk about how books are made (with some amazing original illustrations), and the teamwork involved in putting all those books on library shelves.

Curriculum links:  Using techniques such as outlines, humour, dialogue, vocabulary, detail and editing to communicate ideas more effectively through storytelling; group brainstorming and problem-solving; sharing and showing respect for others.

Writing Survival Stories (Grades 4-6, and Grades 7-9)

Could there be a topic more exciting and suspenseful than survival? This popular session, which can be an interactive presentation or a writing workshop, is based on my novel Lost in the Backyard. It explores getting seriously lost, which involves action, setting, description, drama, and often wet socks. We also use my other books (Fly and Over the Top) that explore the less overtly intense quest to survive middle school and follow some of the different steps of story-writing: inspiration, research, characters, setting, plot, and editing. We finally peek at the world of publishing and explore the 20+ team of people (from author to graphic designer) that help to get a book ready for publication.

Curriculum links:  Using techniques such as humour, dialogue, vocabulary, detail and editing to communicate ideas more effectively through storytelling; group brainstorming, and respect for the opinions of others; family relationships, communication, and discovering connections with others.

Write Like There’s No Tomorrow (Grades 7-9, and Grades 10-12)

What are you waiting for?  There’s no magical right time to write. My latest YA, Life Expectancy, taps into the urgency of a character’s realization of their shortened life to explore what’s really important to living. So, don’t wait for the diploma, the degree, or the time: jump in now. In this presentation, I encourage students to journal, blurt and write honest, really ugly first drafts. My first draft of my YA novel Hit the Ground Running (nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Awards) followed months of wrangling with the story. I share how the kernels of stories can be shaped, tugged, and polished through useful elements like dialogue, humour, atmosphere, and description. We’ll also look at the oh-so-glamorous path to publication, including tons of editing, lots and lots of rejection (I’ll share some of my many rejection letters!), the necessity of hard work, a pig-headed belief in your stories, and never, ever giving up.

Curriculum links: Using effective language/symbols; setting and character to build coherent storylines; thinking critically about advertising as communication and manipulation; healthy relationships; self-reliance, resilience, and leadership; building space for creativity into your life

Romp Around:  Writing in Multiple Genres (YA-adult)

“Write the story you want to write, then worry about where it fits.” This was wonderful, the-sky’s-the-limit advice from my first editor. I took it to heart: I’ve written a wide range of stories I wanted to write, fitting them all along the spectrum from picture books to early readers to middle grade to young adult. I’ve written short stories, poetry, and a novel in verse, just because it felt like the right fit for the project. In this presentation on writing omnivorously, we look at both the joys (interest, stimulation, and freedom) and challenges (audience, language, organization, building a profile, publishers, marketing, etc.) of writing in a variety of genres.

Curriculum links:  Using effective language and symbols; story as an ancient medium relevant to the technological age; thinking critically about issues; healthy relationships and life skills (such as self-reliance, resilience, and leadership); building space for creativity


Picture Books

  • Oliver Bounces Back! (Illustrated by Charlene Chua, Scholastic Canada, 2021)
  • Ne lâche pas, Olivier (French edition of above)
  • The Silence Slips In (Illustrated by Ninon Pelletier, Orca Book Publishers 2019) Winner: R. Ross Annett Award, Alberta Literary Awards; Nominated: Willow Awards; Selected: CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens
  • Le silence se glisse près de toi (French edition of above)
  • The Cold Little Voice (Illustrated by Jan Dolby, Clockwise Press 2019) Selected: CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens
  • Spare Dog Parts (Illustrated by Ashley Spires, Orca Book Publishers 2016) Nominated: Chocolate Lily Award; Listed: Bank Street College of Education (NY) Best Children’s Books of the Year; CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens
  • What Matters (Illustrated by Holly Hatam, Orca Book Publishers 2016) Nominated for: R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature (Alberta Literary Awards), Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award (USA)
  • Gerbil, Uncurled (Illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo, Fitzhenry & Whiteside 2015) Nominated: Rainforest of Reading Award; Selected: CCBC Best Books, Forword Review’s 16 Best Picture Books Winter 2016 

Early Reader

  • Beatrice More and the Perfect Party (Illus. by Helen Flook, Orca Book Publishers 2019)
  • Beatrice More Moves In (Illus. by Helen Flook, Orca Book Publishers 2015)

Middle Grade

  • FLY (Kids Can Press, 2023) Nominated: Northern Lights Award (Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards); Snow Willow Award (Saskatchewan Young Readers Choice Awards); Listed: Bank Street College of Education Best Books
  • Over the Top (Running Press Kids, 2021) Listed: CCBC Best Books for Kids and Teens
  • Kasey and Ivey (Orca Book Publishers 2018) Nominated: Red Cedar Award; Listed: OLA Best Bets Honourable Mention;CCBC Best Books; Bank Street College of Education Best Books
  • Kings of the Court (Orca Book Publishers 2017) Nominated: Diamond Willow Award; Selected: CCBC Best Books for Children and Teens
  • Lost in the Backyard (Orca Book Publishers 2015) Nominated: Silver Birch Award, Red Cedar Award, Diamond Willow Award, Hackmatack Award, Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award (USA). Selected: Ontario Library Association “Best Bet” List, Surrey Schools’ Book of the Year, Ottawa Public Library selection for One School, One Book Project 2016-2019
  • On a Scale from Idiot to Complete Jerk (Orca Book Publishers 2014) Listed: CCBC Best Books
  • Poser (Orca Book Publishers 2013) Nominated for: Red Cedar Award, Hackmatack Award

Young Adult

  • Life Expectancy (Cormorant/DCB, fall 2023)
  • Hit the Ground Running (Orca Book Publishers 2017) Nominated: Governor General’s Literary Awards, Snow Willow Award. Selected: Junior Library Guild Selection (USA), Resource Links: The Year’s Best, CCBC Best Books

Young Adult (Reluctant Reader)

  • Watch Out (Orca Book Publishers, 2019) Selected: CCBC Best Books
  • Hide and Shriek (Orca Book Publishers 2018)

Short Fiction

‘The Catch’ (Edify Magazine, 2022) Nominated for a Magazine Publishers of Alberta Award (Fiction)

‘Roadside Special’ (40 Below Anthology (Jason Lee Norman, ed.) 2015)

‘The Late Show’ (Winner of the Writers Union of Canada Writing for Children Award 2009)


“Alison Hughes is excited about her writing and eager to share that enthusiasm with others. A warm and friendly speaker, she engages her audience with fun interactive activities and a relaxed reading style. She also welcomes all questions, which she answers openly, honestly, and with great advice for aspiring writers.”

Jeff Mercer, MLIS, South Shore Public Libraries, Nova Scotia

“I found Alison to be caring and loving with the students. She answered all the questions the kids asked with honest answers. She showed enthusiasm towards writing and how she got her ideas to write stories. When reading to the students, she had them captivated in the story. She had the students engaged in her writing process and in her story she was currently working on. They were motivated to get writing their own adventure stories.”

Donna Hayden, grade 4 teacher, École Père Kenneth Kearns School, Sherwood Park

“Alison was not only informative, but warm, funny and attentive to the students. My students loved Alison and greatly enjoyed their time with her.  She was very engaging and really showed that she knows how to interact with students; she talked to them at their level and kept their interest for the entire time that she was in the classroom.  Alison was energetic, enthusiastic and warm; when she read to the class, they were fascinated, not only with her story but also with her presentation.”

Donna Ainslie-O’Connor, grade 3 teacher, Brookwood School, Spruce Grove

“The presentation was fun and interactive. She read us some of her books and they were funny and really interesting and well-written. She talked to us about dialogue and made it fun. At the end, she let us have complete freedom in our questions. It was a totally awesome presentation.”

Sarah Rabby, grade 4 student, École Père Kenneth Kearns School, Sherwood Park

“Thanks so much for your fantastic presentation!  Your dynamic enthusiasm for writing is infectious and I’m sure you’ve inspired many budding authors today (including me!).  Thank you for sharing your books, your insights and your passion!”

Sian Vadnais, Librarian, Mundare School

“Alison was upbeat, vibrant, fun, very approachable and brought a great personal level of interaction and relatability to her presentation…She kept all the kids, even the Jr. Highs and teachers, engaged, smiling, laughing and learning without even knowing it in her wonderful easygoing manner.”

Taleblazers Host Librarian

“The teachers commented that she was great with all of the kids, and that her presentations were lively and engaging… Alison is very easy going, approachable and has a great sense of humor; making it a great environment for the kids to relax and ask their questions…A lot of the kids, when asked, thought she was amazing. Everyone was extremely impressed with the presentations and we are so very thankful to Alison for coming out to share her life and stories with us.”T

Taleblazers Host Librarian