AWC courses completed:
Creative Writing Stage 1
When Ali (on the right above) gave up her job in advertising at the age of 24 to travel the world, little did she realise it would culminate in an innovative career built around books and a two-book deal with Simon and Schuster Australia and The Book Ninja (Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus, 2018) in bookstores around the world. Ali and Michelle’s second novel, While You Were Reading (2019), has now been released and is poised to be just as successful.
Co-authored with her bestie Michelle Kalus, The Book Ninja is the result of a fascinating community initiative called Books on the Rail which they co-fund and run together.
“Books on the Rail is made up of a team of Book Ninjas, all of whom leave books on public transport for people to take, read and then return to the rails for someone else to enjoy. Michelle and I founded Books on the Rails back in April 2016, shortly after I returned from London – where I met Hollie Fraser, the founder of Books on the Underground. I was so inspired by the concept, that I decided to take it to Melbourne. I approached Michelle to start Books on the Rail with me, and together we started planting our own books on trains, trams and buses all around Melbourne.
“Books on the Rail is now Australia-wide, made up of over 1000 Book Ninjas, and we’re lucky enough to have many Australian publishers on board, giving us books to distribute onto the rails.
“On the back of this, I had an off-the-cuff coffee with the amazing Anna O’Grady from Simon and Schuster, and it was during this coffee that the concept of the book, The Book Ninja was born, and now we’ve also secured international deals with publishers in the UK, Spain, Germany, Italy, Slovakia and The Czech Republic. We’re just a little bit over the moon!
A dream comes true
“I always dreamed I would be a published author, but I’m still pinching myself that my dream has actually come true! I never thought it would actually happen. When I was three years old I remember everyone announcing in class that they wanted to be superheroes, firemen or rockstars when they grew up – and I stated quite seriously that I was going to be an author!”
Ali attributes her success to the Creative Writing Stage 1 course she took with the Australian Writers’ Centre.
“When I decided to go to England I knew I was about to visit The Elephant House in Edinburgh, which is where J.K. Rowling wrote her early novels. I’d always dreamed of writing in that cafe, or similar ones around the UK, and was so excited to do so. I had an idea of what I wanted to write but I needed help getting pen to paper. I knew how to write ads, but books were another story – enter AWC!”
“The most useful thing I took from the course was to get to know your characters back to front before you start writing them. Don’t just make them realistic. Make them real.”
And her advice to anyone who has a burning yearning to write?
“Do not pass go, Do not collect $200 and go straight to doing an AWC course! It’s such a great way to not only learn how to be a better writer, but also to surround yourself with other writers, and to give yourself the courage to JUST DO IT!”