Hi Dimity, thank you so much for being a part of the Share Your Story blog.
Please introduce yourself.
To Read, Write and Inspire sum up, my main passions in life, along with sailing on the beam, eating ice cream and writing in my diary – although doing all three at once makes me nauseous. I’m a bit of a Kids’ Lit nut, living, breathing and reading it for huge chunks of my day. I weaves words into short story webs for anthologies, digital narratives, junior novels and most gratifyingly, into picture books. When I’m not wrangling words, I’m reviewing Kids’ Lit, managing a team of reviewers for Kids’ Book Review or sharing my love of story in front of crowds of very small people. It says so on my website, so it must be true. I live just around the corner from Bat Man on the Gold Coast, although we rarely hang out together. Such are the lives of authors and superheroes. Visit me at www.dimitypowell.com
What was the first story you ever wrote and has it been published?
There were three I wrote concurrently whilst completing a Writing for Children course: Circus School – the first picture book I ever attempted, now published as part of the Kindergo App; PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? – a junior novel which began life as an assignment and was my first traditionally published work; An Eggspensive Venture – a short story piece subbed to the NSW School Magazine. It was the first thing I ever submitted and was immediately published. I almost had a stroke when I found out.
What was your first book published?
PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? This began life as a chapter book assignment, which I entered into a competition with Morris Publishing Australia. I almost had another stroke when I found out I’d won a publishing contract with them.
What is your favourite part about being an author?
Wrangling words, I find that simultaneously challenging and edifying. I also relish learning new things, which authoring encourages because of the need to research and explore.
What is the hardest part about being an author?
For me, like many others, devoting real time to developing my craft and actually writing is the hardest thing to nail down. I also have to remind myself constantly to think small to write big. Simple ideas make the best, fullest stories.
What do you do for fun?
Read. It is still my ultimate indulgence, boring but true. When I was younger, travel was my penultimate past time. Charging, hiking, and sailing around the world kept me breathing. I live more vicariously these days.
How do you test out your stories?
I read them out aloud, several times, with each new edit. Sometimes I re-format them in a different font and layout to try to trick my brain. I will only test a story out on others if I am 100% convinced of its readability first, then I’ll choose someone who is unrelated to the story, for example, I might get a friend who never reads picture books or doesn’t have children to read aloud a picture book script, to me. If it reads smooth, sounds true and evokes the right emotions on a cold read, then I’m satisfied it’s halfway to working right. I also have a tiny fistful of trusted critique buddies whom I run stories by. Nothing refocuses you on the faults your own writing better than a fresh set of eyes.
What was your favourite children’s book when you were a kid?
Anything that had horses, animals, adventure-loving children or magic in it. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series completely swept me away, too. I think it was something about wearing pinafores with boots. And the incredible sense of place in her stories.
What is your favourite children’s book now?
I have new ones nearly every single day. My current favourite picture book is my own, which sounds silly but is because the advance copies of At The End of Holyrood Lane, have just arrived and I’m a bit in love with them after spending two years distanced from this story whilst it was in production. Clutching the finished product for first time is a special moment for any creator.
Have you ever travelled overseas as an author?
Yes, last year to Singapore, to present and moderate at the Asian Festival for Children’s Content. It was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences I’ve encountered as a writer, being amongst an enormous body of like-minded, eager-to-learn people as impassioned about children’s stories as I am. I highly recommend a visit, as either a presenter or delegate.
Have you met anyone even more famous than you that was exciting?
LOL! Nearly everyone I meet I consider ‘more famous’ than me, so life is always exciting. The first time I ever met Narelle Oliver was especially memorable though as we presented together, as contemporaries. Throughout the entire event, she treated me as her equal, which both bemused and flattered me. That was Narelle though, exceedingly generous in spirit and talent. Morris Gleitzman still gives me the wobbles a bit because his stories are just the best.
What writing genre do you like to do the most?
Picture books. I love the freedom of writing longer stories but I find the discipline of creating magic in picture book format impossibly addictive.
What do you consider your biggest achievement?
The publication of picture books like, At The End of Holyrood Lane, that contain ‘harder content’, subjects such as death and domestic violence traditionally considered too hot to handle and too niche for the mainstream picture book market. It’s tremendously gratifying to see this attitude slowly modifying as more and more picture books address what I view as everyday ‘normal’ subject matter. It is also immensely encouraging to witness the surge of support for books like this one from organisations that rely on picture books resources to educate and support children in crisis-situations. Stories really do make a difference.
Where do you see the future of children’s books?
I often espouse my position as a Luddite. You will not find a stauncher supporter of printed books. However, I recognize the need to provide content for tomorrow’s readers in ways they are both receptive to and familiar with. This is why I also enthusiastically embrace writing creative content for educational reading apps, encourage AR and VR technology to accompany printed stories and promote other media platforms as means of sharing stories with children. It is not always how we tell the story; it’s the story that is being told that matters. Making stories accessible is key, as is adaptability. I think that is something today’s authors need to be mindful of.
What is your favourite way/time to read?
With a book anywhere, anytime time permits. These days, I often combine meal breaks with reading time; fulfilling two passions at once! When I lived on Hamilton Island, I spent every spare bit of leisure time under a palm tree, by the beach, with a book. I still can’t think of a better way to enjoy a good read.
What book are you reading right now?
A stack of picture books Everest high. I’m loving a selection of stories I recently reviewed about embracing individuality, Along Came A Different by Tom McLaughlin being one of my current standouts. I’m also obsessing over Oliver Phommavahn’s latest MG novel, Natural Born Loser – hilarious and touching. On the YA pile is Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren – phenomenal. We have such an incredible array of Aussie talent on our Kids’ Lit stage. To balance the fun of Kids’ Lit, I am also currently consuming a middle-eastern adult fiction; The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller, equal parts amusing and shocking.
Thank you for having me!
Children’s Book Reviewer