Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed children’s book author Alice Chambers about her writing career, what inspires her, and the creative process behind her new book, Bob The Bear’s Adventures.
Tell me a bit about who you are
My name is Alice Chambers, my maiden name was Alice Dubens. My father was a film producer. I have 3 younger brothers. I am 67. Very sadly my mum died of cancer when I was 17 just before my A levels. As you can imagine I didn’t do brilliantly. I was bullied as I was growing up being short and overweight! I was at an all-girls school from the age of 5 and although I have brothers, I was terrified of talking to the opposite sex! I remember that when my mum died, people I knew would cross the road to avoid talking to me! I am the first to comfort someone I know when something happens, as I have been there.
I wanted to bring up my 2 youngest brothers aged 5 and 7 when Mum died but Dad wouldn’t let me and I went to Teacher’s Training College and studied drama. After a term I realised I could talk to everyone and my confidence improved a little. When I left college my first job was being the only teacher at a private kindergarten for 3 1/2 years mornings only, then I travelled an hour each way to a state primary school in the afternoons to fully qualify as a teacher, as private education didn’t count. After that I had a class of 6-year-olds at a private primary school. At the same time, I had joined an amateur dramatic society performing musicals, pantomime and old-time music hall. I met my husband Bob on stage!
With Bob’s job we lived abroad for 6 years and then returned to the UK moving down from London to Sussex. Tragically my husband suddenly died 2 1/2 years ago. We were just trying to come to terms with what had happened when Covid hit and I couldn’t see the family. I have ME and Fibromyalgia and they were so worried about me catching it. I have 2 grandchildren and they call me Nonna! I then started writing every day to keep me busy and help with my grief.
I have always loved little ones. I started writing stories over 43 years ago whilst I was teaching. They were about a magic meadow full of animals. Each animal had a job and a song with drama and movement ideas.
My class loved them and their drawings were all over the walls and they enjoyed singing the songs. I then got married and brought up my daughter and son. I only started writing again about 3 years ago inspired by a local author friend. Writing was always in the back of my mind but I was busy doing other things. That has all changed now and I love writing. Being on my own now writing keeps me company.
When did you first want to write a book?
I think I have always enjoyed writing. When I wrote My Meadow Friends 43 years ago, I think I would have loved them to be a book or a series. However, life took over! My stories have always remained at the back of my mind as something I would carry on with one day when I had time.
When did you take a step to start writing?
When my grandson was born 6 years ago, I started knitting again. I think he was a couple of years old when I knitted a huge bear. The pattern was for Robert the Bear and he had a waistcoat and glasses. My husband was Bob and he wore glasses and loved his waistcoats, green being his favourite colour! I took Bob the Bear round the garden for fun, photographing him hiding in the bushes and sitting in the sun etc.
The story takes the form of a conversation between the reader and Bob the Bear. Elliot loved the bear and loved looking at the pictures. I made a Photobox album with the photos and story and it was just here for my grandson and granddaughter to enjoy.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I knitted Bob the Bear and wrote the story about 3 years ago and made a Photobox album with it. I then left it and started writing other stories. A few months ago, my 6 year old grandson Elliot came round, saw the book on the table and asked me if he could read it. He read it fluently giggling on every page. Through a local author friend, I had been to The Author School in London run by Helen Lewis and Abiola Bello and a few months ago they created The Author School on Zoom.
After Elliot had read my book, I mentioned it to them and they asked to see it and loved it. Although I have funded it, they have done an amazing job of getting it print ready for Amazon and it came out 3 weeks ago. It has taken about 3 months from mentioning it to print, which is so exciting.
What made you want to write Bob The Bear’s Adventures?
I love seeing children laughing and enjoying books. It gives me such pleasure. Hearing my grandson giggling as he was reading the story was everything! Reading is everything, pure escapism. Your mind can dream, create, be anywhere you want it to be. It’s magic!
What were your biggest challenges with writing Bob The Bear’s Adventures?
Confidence and self-belief.
What is the main conflict of Bob The Bear’s Adventures?
Whether Bob the Bear prefers climbing or hiding!
Did you plot Bob The Bear’s Adventures in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I knitted Bob the Bear and then just photographed him round my garden. It sounds strange but the story wrote itself. I find that when I write, a story is just there in my head and I have to write it straight away before I forget. I think that if I struggled to write I wouldn’t do it. I guess I just write freely, inspired by nature, things happening around me and my imagination.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Bob The Bear’s Adventures need?
No, I didn’t get any help on this one it was just there.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Just write! If you have an idea and you enjoy writing just do it. I’ve waisted so much time in my life worrying about what other people think, whether my ideas were silly or too simple and these thoughts just hold you back and stop you doing what you want to do. If you’re inspired by an idea just do it and don’t worry about what other people think, or that niggle in your head that tells you that you can’t do it, you’re no good and other people are better than you! You CAN do it. Writing is foremost just for you. If you then decide to show someone else what you’ve written that’s the next step. But the first step is for your own enjoyment.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I have actually written quite a few including the next Bob the Bear Adventure although no-one has seen it yet. When my husband died 2 1/2 years ago, I made some memory bears from his shirts. I have written a rhyming story about 8 of them having an adventure in my garden. These are also photographic. I really enjoy writing stories about the bears I have made as I can photograph them and the whole book is my creation. I have another character which has ended up being in a series of 5 rhyming stories so far. They need an illustrator as I can’t draw the characters. A whole different project. No hints on that yet as I am looking for an agent and publisher to help me.
I also write poetry. When the ideas pop into my head I have to write them down and then see what happens with them afterwards. Since my husband died I have been writing poetry, musings and feelings about what happened and how I’m coping. I am contemplating whether these would help others suffering from grief or whether they are too personal?
And finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
It was always a dream to have a published book. I didn’t know it would take over 43 years! I am really proud as I never thought I would actually have a book in my hand, not only from a bear that I had knitted but the fact that I just photographed it and wrote a little story for my grandchildren and now people are really enjoying it. My next-door neighbour who is in her 90’s was thrilled she could read it without her glasses and giggled all the way through. I was delighted. I feel emotional on 2 levels, that people are enjoying the story, giggling and chatting as they read it, together with huge sadness that my husband isn’t here to enjoy it with me.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you.
Storiesbyalicechambers.com – website
Soriesbyalice1 – Instagram
@storiesbyalicechambers.com – email
Https://amzn.to/3CVVj1c – link to the book on Amazon
We strive to keep The Table Read free for both our readers and our contributors. If you have enjoyed our work, please consider donating to help keep The Table Read going!