“Seeing myself on the page made me realise I could write and tell stories too – children like me could even be the main character – and it empowered me to start writing and telling stories of my own!”
Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
I’m Oliver Sykes. I’m a Children’s Author, Writer/Performer and Theatre Producer. My debut children’s book, Alfie’s First Fight, came out in spring 2022. My second children’s book, Fishing For Rainbows, will come out on National Single Parents’ Day (21 March 2023), and I have a collection of children’s poetry called We Are Family coming out in autumn 2024.
I’m also about to embark on a 50-date national tour of my debut one-man show, Alfie’s First Fight, for children aged 5+ and their families – which I have booked and manage.
What does your job involve? What happens on a typical day?
When I’m writing, I’m WRITING. I usually carve out six hours from 6 am-12 pm each weekday (weekends are family time). I’m usually sat at my lovely desk on a comfy chair surrounded by lots of pens and felt-tips, coloured post-it notes, flip-chart paper and my trusty MacBook Pro! Throughout the day, I loosely schedule walks and tea-breaks, as that’s when I get my best ideas!
From 12 pm onwards, I’m usually ‘producing’, which can involve anything from answering emails, posting on social media, initiating projects, writing promotional material (like this!), doing afternoon school visits, running workshops and masterclasses, mentoring artists, tour booking, budgeting, booking hotels, the list goes on and on and on.
I really enjoy turning my children’s stories into theatre shows. Luckily for me, my audiences are really enjoying my theatre shows too. This year, I’ll be travelling up and down the country to 50 of my favourite venues to perform my one-man show, Alfie’s First Fight. Sometimes, I’ll perform the show to 50-60 people at an amateur boxing club or a library and sometimes I’ll perform the show to 250+ people in a theatre, so my days are really varied.
What’s great about what you do?
There are so many amazing things! But I particularly love the writing process! From scribbling down little notes to crystallising the message of a story, from creating characters to planning story arcs – I find the whole process of discovering a story absolutely fascinating.
Once I have a finished manuscript (which can take a LONG time!), I love the process of then turning a story into a published book, collaborating with editors, illustrators and designers, working with them to bring an artistic vision to life is very, very special.
I also love doing school visits and readings, talking on panels and performing live. But ultimately, THE DREAM COME TRUE for me is giving kids from similar backgrounds to mine opportunities to actually see themselves and their experiences represented on the page and on the stage, because it opens up whole new worlds of possibility. I love doing free shows and to date I have gifted 6,000 books to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Other questions include:
What are the toughest parts of your job?
What are the highlights of your career to date?
What’s been the biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
Have you noticed any changes in the industry in recent times? If so, what?
How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
Do you have any advice for young people interested in your field?
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