Ask an author: Alison Schafer

Alison Schafer, a student teacher for English teacher Anthony Davis’ 9th grade class and Jason Sitterud’s 12th grade class shares about her personal writing journey.


Lee Randolph

Alison Schafer

When did you start writing?

“I started writing when I was 12 years old and completed my first manuscript when I was 13. But before that, I always had an active imagination and was conjuring up words with stories in my head.”

How did you know you wanted to be an author?

“I can’t exactly recall a time or a specific moment where it hit me. Once I started getting into reading, I wanted to create the same amazing stories I was reading. So I guess, I could say at around age 12 I knew I wanted to be an author and it happened right after I read The Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan.”

What was your first story about?

“My first story was a completed manuscript of 250 pages and was a YA Fantasy (which is the genre I write). At age 12 I will admit the concept wasn’t great and I can say with full confidence it wasn’t my best work either. Honestly, I can’t recall the main plot details. I’m sure if I went through the stuff (on my) computer, I would find it hidden somewhere.”

What’s your favorite story that you’ve written?

“I don’t actually have one favorite. As a writer, I love each story I write in a different way. For some, it’s the characters, for others it’s the plot, and then for a few of them the pacing was perfect (and pacing is probably the hardest thing to get right as a writer).”

Have any of your books been published yet? Why or why not?

“They have not. I have been trying for a few years now to get traditionally published. What this means, is that I send out a synopsis of my novel along with sample pages to literary agents. And they can either reject it or ask for more pages. If they like the pages, they will offer representation, which means signing a contract. I’ve reached the stage a few times where agents have asked for extra work or a full manuscript from me, but ultimately rejected because my work was too similar to another client or they weren’t connecting with my character’s voice, which is usually the case. When it comes to publishing it’s important to know that it’s all about luck and timing. I’m hoping I will be able to get some of that luck and timing soon.”

Do you teach your students creative writing?

“I do a writer’s workshop, which is a concept I adopted from Mr. Davis. This is a place for students to write creatively. Sometimes there are prompts and other times, I allow them to choose what they write. I have a few students who get really creative with it and write the type of stories that they wish to see published someday.”

What do you think is important for students to know about writing? 

“The first draft is always terrible. And it’s okay to take breaks. I have been told this by countless other authors who are successful and have literary agents. As writers, we tend to want our first draft to be perfect and get frustrated when it isn’t. I’ve learned over the years that as long as the words are on the page, they can always be reworked and improved upon. I’m a workaholic when it comes to writing manuscripts and I have a hard time when it comes to taking breaks, so I’ve managed to work in breaks into my schedule and know when my creative flow is just not happening. So, I’d like students and other writers to know that it’s okay if the first draft is terrible. It’s supposed to be. That way you can rework it into what you want it to be. As for taking breaks, it’s something I am still working on, but that is equally important. Burnout happens with a lot of writers and taking a break doesn’t mean you’re doing yourself a disservice.”