It was a real pleasure to catch up with Dimity Powell, who I meet with online every Monday for the Monday Writing Sprint Group. This was the first time we’ve had a phone conversation. Her passion and commitment to writing came through like a shining light in the conversation. She even, without me asking, generously gave some writing mentoring, which I was delighted to receive. It is wonderful to receive feedback from a person and writer you respect.
Dimity was born in Townsville to views of Magnetic Island. She spent her schooling years in Adelaide, South Australia, learning to hate locust plagues and to love home grown apricots. She quickly developed a preference for books to people (and locusts) which led to a devotion to writing.
She aspired to be a Vet because she found animals as compelling and quiet as books but chose a career in Hospitality instead.
Her paying occupations have included being Director of Sales and Marketing in the Leisure, Boating and Hospitality Industries. She now writes for considerably less but enjoys it more. She loves eating cake with ice-cream, sailing on the beam and writing in her diary although combining all three makes her nauseous.
Her work has appeared in school magazines, on line and in various anthologies. Her short stories and picture books have gained numerous writing for children awards. And her debut junior novel for children PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail?, filled the Christmas stockings of hundreds of young readers last year.
1) What is easiest about writing for you?
There is nothing easy about writing. It’s easy to have the desire to do it but this doesn’t stop it being challenging. I adore writing for kids and this makes it easy to want to do. Even though the stories still must be believable, writing for kids allows a greater sense of freedom of ideas, random word play, and magic. I love that I can feel like a kid again and act and believe as they do – so much more fun than being a grown up at times. My debut junior novel Who Stole Santa’s Mail? is an example of that where I keep that sense of magic alive.
2) What is the most difficult?
One of the biggest challenges writing for kids is the word count. You need to be succinct, and can’t always tell the full story, but need to keep the readers hooked and keep them going. Being succinct is not my natural forte. You only get one chance to grab the reading attention of kids of any age group. It’s a real challenge to write something pithy, exciting, gutsy and meaningful that will hook them and keep them with you. Telling the full story in the required word count is tricky at times too. Finding time to get all this right is the hardest thing of all for me most weeks!
The picture book realm is fascinating. I find picture books an elixir. They are great for adult writing workshops too and have been included in Queensland Curriculum for youth readers. In 32 words you can be taken on the most interesting journey. There is something magic about a well written picture book. I don’t think we should ever stop reading them however old we are.
A challenge that many writing have, and it’s mine too, is finding the time to get it right. If I could shut myself away in a room and do it I’d achieve it a lot quicker, but I have a young child and have to juggle my time with family and writing.
3) What career wish would you like most to come true?
My goal is not for fame, or money, not even for publications (although they are great to have). I have a marketing background and have no problem with promoting my work, but once I am happy with it. For now I am going with traditional publishing. I did self-publish one book when I was fifteen.
I would love one day for my work to be recognised as a worthy contribution to the genre, and for people to see clearly the passion, belief and desire that has gone into creating those books. I’d like my books to sit alongside other amazing ones on children’s book shelves.
4) Why do you write?
As a young child I had an epiphany that you could learn anything from books. This has always stuck by me and is one of the reasons I write – to give that same feeling to young readers. I’d like kids to enjoy the magic of reading, and would be touched if even just one child remembered one of my stories from his or her childhood.
I write because I love to read. The desire and comfort of curling up with a good book is perhaps more intense than the need to create one of my own however much I enjoy the challenge, discipline and art behind the craft. I write for children because it’s fun and they are often so much smarter than adults. Words and stories shaped my world as a child.
(We discover we share a love of Morris Gleitzman’s work)
5) Have you met any inspiring writers and who were they?
I adore Morris Gleitzman’s work. He often tackles contemporary issues so well. Sometimes I have an idea, and there it is already in a newly released Morris Gleitzman book. I don’t know how he does it so fast. I have never met him face-to-face.
I the last 7 or so years I’ve been very fortunate to come across numerous writers and illustrators from different genres and stages of their writing careers. Nearly every single one has been a fountain of hope, support, encouragement and enlightenment.
I have gained something from each encounter, some of which I have incorporated into my own work. Mostly I have been able to exult in the wonderful warmth of their friendship. This is something I am conscious of when meeting other (first time) writers too.
In grade four I sat at the feet of Colin Thiele, the writer of Storm Boy, and felt like I was listening to a rock star. Many years later I met his daughter at a writing festival and had to let her know how much her father inspired me as a child – that was a very special and emotional moment for me.
I adore Narelle Oliver’s work and I meet with her quite often in Brisbane. She’s a contemporary. She inspires my love of picture books.
Another writer I enjoy is Peter Carnavas, a retired teacher from the Sunshine Coast. He has a quirky comical writing style and his books often have an interesting story going on in the illustrations as well which contrasts with that of the written narrative of the story. He, like Narelle Oliver, uses a technique called decalage. Decalage is where the text expresses or tells a different point of view from the illustrations. eg; Narelle Oliver’s use in Home where the towering pink cliffs are actually the skyscrapers in the drawings.
Oliver and Carnavas also use unreliable narrative; for instance Carnavas’s The Great Expedition, where the text and pictures don’t match up – the story line leads us to believe one thing but the pictures are hinting at another.
Steven Michael King, has a quirky, comical, illustrative style which I enjoy.
The work of all these mentioned writers is very inspiring and resonates with me.
6) What makes you keep writing?
The kids. I certainly don’t do it to move in children’s author circles although they are lovely people. I hope I can astound, entertain and even shape them in some way as was done for me as a child.
7) What do you like the best about writing?
The hours, and that I can do this mostly from home and fit it around being a full time mother; my main job! I also like where it takes me from time to time; schools, libraries (to present and share) plus my childhood memories. It has allowed me to recall, relive, recount and enjoy all over again being a kid in many ways. I owe my child and my occupation much because of that.
Discover more of Dimity’s story and work at: