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READ WRITE INSPIRE. Welcome to my Words, a place devoted to making Reading and Writing for children more Inspired.


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Rounding up the Reindeers

There were plenty of KABOOM moments in this little black duck's writing year.

Thanks to everyone for following, commenting, supporting and just turning up now and then for a cuppa and friendly chat; all necessary components to keep my writing wheels spinning. Here's the sparest list I could compile of my writerly milestones to date. I promise I will be bothering you a lot less in 2013 because I've ordered a giant vat of bum glue and plan to apply it to my writing chair early next year. Till then, Happiest of the Christmases to you all. May your holiday season be filled with interesting reads, words you'd like to write and keep, and inspiration to simply smile.

Writing Round Up:
If the world had ended, at least I could have said, I'd made the most of 2012, come what May-an.




AND THE WINNERS ARE...

Everyone is a winner when you're lucky enough to find a copy of PS WHO STOLE SANTA'S MAIL? in your Christmas stocking; but there can only be one winner from each of my Book Launch Competitions and here they are...

CONGRATULATIONS TO:
  • Ben  Winner of the Black Cat Book Launch Comp
  •  Edward Winner of the Marks and Gardner Book Launch Comp
  • Ashley Winner of the Jungle Cats Book Launch Comp
  • Nuaha Winner of the Coomera Rivers Author Meet and Greet Comp
  • Gabby of the Coomera Waters Tavern Author Meet and Greet Comp
As you can see, I love giving stuff to kids almost as much as Santa. Each of our winners receives a personally signed copy of my debut children's book plus a couple of extra prize vouchers courtesy of my sponsors:

Donut King, Westfield Helensvale, Gold Coast
Iceland Ice Skating rink at Burleigh, Gold Coast
Jungle Cats family restaurant and playcentre, Broadbeach, Gold Coast.

KIITOS to each and every one of you who came along to one of my little celebrations of Christmas. Thanks for entering the competitions and the spirit of Christmas. Thanks for helping make one of my Christmas wishes come. You are all part of my aspirations and inspiration. I hope you enjoy my story and many more to follow.

(Kiitos is Finnish for thanks - I'm sure Santa lovers need no further explanation)

Till next our words cross, in the best of ways, have a safe and happy festive season. Feast. Laugh. Remember.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Governor of Queensland launches Christmas spirit

You may have seen the pictures. You may have read the book. For those who missed the official launch of PS Who Stole Santa's Mail? in Brisbane on Sunday, here is the speech that Her Excellency, the Governor of Queensland, Ms Penelope Wensley AC, gave to launch my new book.


An enthusiastic crowd packed into the Black Cat Paddington book shop and cafe to witness the birth of my first children's chapter book. Smiling kids and candy canes, snow and eventual sunshine were the order of the day spectacularly fulfilling the Christmas dreams of this little kids' author.

Excerpt from Her Excellency's speech:

Managing Editor, Morris Publishing Australia, Ms Elaine Ousten,
President, Book Links (Queensland), Ms Jenny Stubbs,
Owner, Black Cat Books and Cafe, Mrs Stephanie Hogan,
Author, Mrs Dimity Powell,
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, Girls and Boys.

As 2012 is the National Year of Reading and as I am Patron of Book Links Queensland, of the Queensland Branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia, and of several other organisations supporting the developmental needs of children, I am very pleased to be here today to talk about a children's book. 

I know, in this bookshop setting, I am preaching to the converted in emphasising how important it is for young children to be read to and, at the appropriate age, to learn to read and acquire the habit - and love - of reading.  But that is something that can never be said too often.  Reading or listening to good books is in itself a wonderful, stimulating and engrossing experience for children - and grown-ups too.  And there are crucial longer-term benefits, because high levels of literacy are so strongly connected with greater chances of success in work and in life.  

Today I am here to launch a book that I think will encourage children to read because it is great fun...

...I am sure you will all enjoy Dimity's book and Scott's drawings.  I thank all those others who have supported Dimity through the challenges of her first book, in particular Morris Publishing Australia.  I wish the book every success and hope there will be many more.

And now, as Governor and a committed advocate of the joys and benefits of reading for everyone, it is my great pleasure to launch PS: Who Stole Santa's Mail?, leaving you with three final ‘P words: please purchase the book.  It will make a wonderful Christmas present!


An honour and a pleasure to share my book with you all.


Monday, 19 November 2012

Censorship in Children's Writing - A Matter of Debate


What follows is a recent post of mine some of you may have read in last week's Pass It On e-zine by Jackie Hosking. It attempted to lift the lid on the curly question of 'Do books need a rating?' As predicted this is an absorbing topic for debate, one that I'm probably not fully qualified to adjudicate but am fascinated by.

Ben Marshall raised some interesting and salient points in his response (thanks Ben) in this week's PIO issue 415. He argued 'that censoring books is a form of lying'; that young people can in fact enact their own form of censorship merely by closing the book; and that exposure to the warts and all darker bits of life through the written word is a good way to prepare them for if. I tend to agree with him.

From an author's point of view, rigorous and formal censorship would only create another loop through which writers, publishers and agents alike would all have to jump, further frustrating the actual production of a book for the reader. The freedom of speech should be extended to the freedom to choose whatever you wish to read.

However, in the case of younger children (the question was originally put to a panel of children's authors), discretion is still key. Just as one child's choice and direction in religion, culture, even the food which they eat, may be influenced by their environment and their guardians, then presumably, so too will be the reading matter they are initially introduced to. We can not regulate this as an industry and I'm not sure it would be right to do so. As one constantly hears as a parent: you know your child best. I think that this kind of parental regulation is almost inherent and may differ dramatically from family to family. It involves active parenting and that's a good thing. As good as subsequent exposure to 'life'. I'm not saying we should have censorship on books. Far from it. I'm saying, like all things, it should, ideally, start at home. Read on - you decide. It's your choice.

Presenting alongside fellow children's authors as part of the
SPSS's mini writing festival for the
Gold Writers' Festival 2012
I recently had the privilege to present and participate at the Gold Coast Writers’ Festival.
Attending festivals like this one, showcasing writers, illustrators and publishing styles of every ilk, within a mutually stimulating and inspiring environment, not only enhances ones understanding of the industry; but also opens up a Pandora’s Box of absorbing topics for debate.
First and foremost on my agenda was the panel presented by Gold Coast author, Angela Sunde on Writing for Children.
She quizzed a talented line up of well-known children’s authors including Pam Rushby, Alison Reynolds and Michelle Worthington.  Questions were varied and insightful. Answers were delightfully different from each panellist. Until the last question: Do books need a rating?
This seemingly benign question could easily have filled another 45 minutes discussion.
In the forever metamorphosing environment of book genres, where YA novels can cover every conceivable topic that adult novels do, it would at first make sense to want to try to categorise or rate them to suit reader age and emotional intellect. The model for this was, rating censorship used on movies.
But should written content be treated in the same way as visual content? One young (secondary school aged) audience member thought not. She believed that what we (kids) read is processed very differently to what we view at the movies, on line or via other forms of media. It is ‘more slowly absorbed’ and therefore makes less of a (disturbing) impact. Kids should be allowed to read ad hoc and without restriction. She then returned to her text message.
Michelle Worthington, picture book author, felt differently. She said that as a parent, she had a certain responsibility to monitor what her kids read in the same way she would like to know what they were watching or listening to. A chapter book that presents no problem for one child, could act as a catalyst of discomfort and unease for another.  It is not a matter of wanting to be controlling or banning the book forever, rather a decision based on the current emotional capacity of an individual to cope with what is being imparted at the time.
She said this proactive approach to shared-regulating what her kids were reading allowed for open and honest discussion of story topics, values and emotions; something which every parent should be endeavouring to foster by reading to or with their children at every chance.
She echoed a shared sentiment, that while all texts should be available to all kids to read, the time at which they read them was the important thing, not what those texts contained. Children grow up so fast. Not permitting them access to a meaty YA novel at age 12, even when they are more than capable of physically reading it, may allow them to cherish being 12 for just a bit longer.
I personally, remember every crystallising moment when I first read something new and shocking; my first taste of erotica, my first grisly tale of murder most foul, my first exposure to unrequited love. All these images remain with me to this very day. I don’t think they damaged or upset me unduly in any way. The point is, how can anyone, including parents, ever judge or know the critical moment when a child has inadvertently read something essentially life changing; that may remain with them forever? How do we know what is being remembered, forgotten or laughed off? What are the literary triggers that ignite a child’s memory? And can these triggers be determined by age, lumped into categories and cast off as ratings to be used as reliable guidelines to book choice?
Would trying to do so corrupt the sale of children’s books in an age where we are more and more desperate for kids to read? Would censorship stifle the enjoyment, and adventure of reading?
It is not an easy conundrum to resolve. I look forward tackling this on future discussion panels. Meantime, move gently into the night; preferably with a good book.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Dim's Sleigh Ride Begins!


Dashing through the space
of the cyber hemisphere,
you'll learn a bit about me,
that'll bring you close to tears (of laughter?)

Join me on this tour
of some awesome bloggers' sites.
It's going to be a blogging tour
that'll fill you with delight.

BLOG TOUR
for
PS WHO STOLE SANTA'S MAIL?

Check out the amazing sleigh-load of bloggers and reviewers participating on what promises to be a spectacular ride with me.
Tune in each day, leave a comment or two and don't forget to enter the
COMPETITION FOR SIGNED COPY OF
PS Who Stole Santa's Mail?
in time for Christmas.
It's easy. Just answer the question: What do you think Santa wants for Christmas?
Details of how to enter on each blog tour post. Competition closes midnight 30th November 2012.

17 November Kids Book Review

18 November My Little Bookcase

19 November Sheryl Gywther

20 November Morris Publishing Australia

21 November Kat Apel

22 November  Elaine Ousten

23 November Renee Taprell

24 November Alison Reynolds

25 November Buzz Words

26 November Chris Bell
27 November Dee White

28 November Pass It On

29 November Alphabet Soup
30 November Angela Sunde

Can't wait to see you as we fly on by...


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Book Trailer

It's not really a true fruit mince pie without a generous sprinkle of sugar on the top. Christmas pudding is nothing without lashings of brandy custard cascading down its sides. And it's never truly Christmas for me without Christmas music playing extremely loud and annoyingly often. Singing along is a given.

So here is a sweet, little, festive season something extra for you all to enjoy.

The trailer, behind the book, behind the elf, behind the possible destruction of Christmas. Play it loud, to drown out your incredulous laughter or questioning gasps. Parental guidance not really recommended, but if you have a child who doesn't handle curled blue elf shoes well, best slide hand over face of said child  for 3 seconds.



Available to purchase in all good bookstores now, via order
or online at

Don't forget:
BOOK LAUNCH
of
PS WHO STOLE SANTA'S MAIL?
this Sunday,  18th November
2.00pm 



Thursday, 8 November 2012

Santa Delivers

The first cut is always the sweetest...at least it is when you're slicing your way into your first consignment of books.

Santa, how could I have ever doubted your ability to deliver?

Now time to find those stockings to stuff. It really is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Next Big Thing

I'm excited. Christmas around the corner. Debut book, PS Who Stole Santa's Mail? about to launch. The prospect of Santa visiting soon is enough to produce a smile even on the most chaotic of days.

I'll be celebrating the imminent new arrival in November with several book launches and a ripper sleigh ride around some fantastic author blog sites (aka Blog Tour). Stay tuned for dates. But for now here is a preliminary glance into the world of Dimity Powell's first children's novel  - an interview conducted by the Next Big Thing Blog Hop. THANKS for the NOMINATION ELENA, of Answers From Blog.



                'THE NEXT BIG THING' BLOG HOP
Q: What is the working title of your book?
A: PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? This is the published title. The working title was PS What About Christmas?

Q: Where did the idea come from for the book?
A: Amazingly from the local newspaper. Years ago an article appeared announcing the decreasing numbers of post boxes throughout the Gold Coast. This led me to think, what if post boxes suddenly and mysteriously began to disappear, just before Christmas? I thought the answer would make an intriguing kids’ story.

Q: What genre does your book fall under?
A: Urban fantasy for primary aged kids would probably best describe it; real life characters with everyday emotions finding themselves in situations with just a touch of whimsy and magic thrown in.

Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
A: Hmm, that’s an interesting one! I don’t watch many kids’ films that feature real actors these days; mainly just ones with lions, zebras and talking penguins, so I’m not sure. The child actor, who plays Luke on Modern Family, really reminds me of Tobii in some ways, although Tobii came into my life years before this show did.

Q: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A: An action-packed Christmas mystery about disappearing mail, an evil elf and weird smells that guarantees to ignite the magic of believing within.

Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
A: Neither. It has been published by, Morris Publishing Australia. They are a young, independent, traditional publishing company with several strong Aussie authors already on their lists.

Q: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A: Around 12 weeks or so but not consecutively. I was a mum with a young baby and was completing a distance learning course at the time, so fitted in writing with sleep times. The first draft of around 10,000+ words was sent off as part of one of my writing assessments. It took a further four Christmases to perfect.

Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
A: I love the Little Rockets series (New Frontier Publishing) and Aussie Nibbles (Penguin) type books. Their length and reader audience fit best with the style of writing and age group that I love to write for. The stories are fun, fast paced, believable but quirky enough to leave kids wanting more and more. I can’t recall reading any about evil elves yet though!

Q: Who or What inspired you to write this book?
A: Simply believing in Christmas. A newspaper article prompted the idea and the need to submit an assessment piece for the writing course I was studying at the time provided the theoretical reasons to write the book, but the inspiration is derived from my strong conviction that Santa Claus really does exist. It is this magical quality of Christmas – believing – that I want kids to walk away with.

Q: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
A: Well apart from an annoying older brother, a vanishing sister, and some pretty curious smells, not all of them good, PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? will make the readers laugh, reach for something Christmassy to eat and hopefully send a letter or two off to Santa Claus; (he loves hearing from kids of any age.) Our heroes Sam and his slightly soft, always faithful side kick, Tobii, will appeal to boys who aren’t afraid of adventure or manic elves but there is enough humour in it to keep both boys and girls entertained.
Check it out for yourself and order your signed copy in time for Christmas now.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Little Things

It's the tiniest, subtle changes in routine that an out of-work-husband being-at-home-all the time brings, that are creating the greatest disturbances.

His presence has noticeably shifted the fragile balance I fight so hard to maintain between creative household management and things of a writerly nature.

For instance; my laundry situation. I know, I know; it was a personal pact of mine to never air my dirty laundry socially, but now that the frequency of my coloureds load is compromised, now that my weekly wash routine is in complete disarray (I'm at a loss not having to wash drum-loads of uniforms), I feel compelled to explore the reason why.

And it is simply because he is here.

OK, maybe my problems are not that significant in the grand scheme of clean clothes management, but life-balance is a precious, delicate thing and when something like a stay-at-home-husband comes along and leans too heavily on one side of the scale, well, there's no telling where one's smalls will end up...



Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Starting Fresh

I quit the gym this week. Not an earth shattering revelation but it was a harder thing to do than joining one.
After twelve loyal years of sweating it out and pounding the treadmill, I'm cutting the emergency stop chord free. And not without some reservations.

But at least it confirms that I do indeed belong to the human race; for I share the same two inherent dislikes that  most human beings have difficulty dealing with:
  • change
  • letting go
Perhaps though, it is time for a change. Reduced physical activity should tie in nicely with my renewed writing commitment; to apply bum glue, stay put and write more.

Okay, so not all life choices are wise ones. But not all in life is a matter of choice.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Like a Mountain in Springtime

It's Queensland Writers' Week in this neck of the woods. A time to embrace and celebrate the vibrant literacy culture of the Banana State. It's also a time of great activity as I embark on the launching of my debut novel, so my involvement this year is limited to a few humble blog posts. Here's the first of the week; a small knot of realisations spawned from some much needed time away over the school holidays to rest and recouperate.

  1. Running away from something is not always a bad idea, especially if there's a Rhino chasing you.
  2. Beauty is not always hidden and hard to find. It's just sometimes very discreetly placed so at first you don't notice it.
  3. Like a Mountain in Springtime
  4. It doesn't matter what you're running away from, or to, or even who you're running for; sometimes it's just good to run for the sake of it. To jog and loosen up all the cracked thoughts, to shake them free and make way for new ideas and inspirations.
  5. Running into discreetly placed beauty can sometimes end up with spiders on your face, but it could be an experience worth writing about.
  6. A Rhino can run ten times faster than I can, regardless of how many spider webs are in its way.
  7. I'd better keep practising.




Friday, 21 September 2012

Friday, 31 August 2012

Book Week Wrap Up

Another couple of weeks of brutalising the vocal chords, getting lost on school grounds, and forcing the breakfast routine at home to hurry along to ensure I make it on time to the next gig are drawing to a close. Ask any (children's) author or illustrator what compels them to make so many back to back engagements during various literacy promoting weeks like CBCA's Book Week and the National Literacy and Numeracy Week and you'll probably get a different answer every time.

  • Their agent asked them to.
  • Book Week is THE time to make school visits count.
  • It's a nice change to presenting at Festivals and Industry Seminars all the time.
  • It's a golden opportunity to reach out and connect with your actual target audience - The Kids.
  • It pays well - I actually made enough to cover the cost of a new magenta ink cartridge, once you subtract the chemist bills for all the medications needed to retain my voice.
  • They like the sound of their own voice (if they don't lose it) - reading their own words, because it sounds different reading in front of an audience as opposed to just reading out loud in front of a computer screen. Only computer screens don't break wind and fidget quite as much.
  • They like the daunting challenge of navigating their way around a never before visited school's car park, campus, reception area, IT set up.
  • They like the dimension school visits add to their author/illustrator profiles. I mean who wouldn't like being asked for their autograph. (must remember not to guffaw and look so surprised next time)
  • It helps accrue points on their frequent fliers program (if they're willing to visit schools outside their home turf)
  • It gives them a truly ultra special buzz to hear children react openly and honestly to their words, witticisms and wisdoms however ludicrously they may be portrayed.
  • It perpetuates the hope that they are making a difference to a child's life, their way of thinking, or their aspirations through the simple art of story telling.
I for one can vouch for these last two points. Because that is, after all, why I write for children. Here's a peek at what made my last two weeks so special.

Storyboarding ideas with pre Preppies always elicits a laugh or two...and not always because of my shoddy drawings. Thanks Bethlehem C & K.

Reading session on my home turf at Coomera Rivers State School for Literacy and Numeracy Week was made more fun thanks to some fantastic art work provided by creative genius James Picton.
  

Stay tuned for more great pics and stories to match...

Candice Lemon-Scott and yours truly celebrating the book.

Book Week at Queensland Independent College with fellow children's author Candice Lemon-Scott proved a huge hit with every student from 5 to 12 years.

We developed story streams and plots from our 5 Ideas Generation Exercise and came up with some outrageous stories.

I popped into Varsity College as well and was honoured to read in front of an enthusiastic gathering of Grade Three's. We were too enthralled with story telling and story swapping to get any happy snaps I'm afraid.

A couple of weeks well spent. If you have any special Book Week moments that you'd like to share or relay any that your child might have encountered, I love to hear them.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Champions Read ~ And look at the Pictures

Have you read a book today? For yourself, or even better with someone else. If that someone else is a child, then Bravo. You're a Champion and like the motto for this year's CBCA Book Week, Champions Read.

However in the sometime chaotic race to excel these days, the simple things in life are often given scant attention in favour of achieving the BIG GOAL. I'm speaking of the shelves of picture books that may have been jettisoned now that your child or grandchild has moved out of the first grades of their education and are busy piling the seas of literacy.

Throw out a life buoy and reel them back in I say. The importance of picture books can not be ever underestimated, in my estimation and that's not just because I love to write them and read them still.

Some months ago I attended a master class by respected children' author illustrator Angela Sunde. Apart from some very illuminating insights on the making of picture books, Angela highlighted an equally salient notion that FICTION teaches EMPATHY. Without diminishing the extreme importance of non fiction books, she pointed out that a 5 year old is better able to understand the world outside their own better through the reading of picture books than from what they could learn from a non-fiction book.

The facts in both may be the same but the way it resonates with them is completely different. Fiction and namely that found in picture books, should therefore not be regarded as frivolous or secondary or beneath us in value. It should be prized and cherished.
 
How do Picture Books make a Difference?

  1. They are a beautiful expression of Art and Literature in one neat little package.
  2. Kids love Art. What young person do you know who doesn't like to scribble, sketch, colour, design or make things?
  3. The illustrations in a book help guide the reader through the story, they give clues sometimes not always shared in the text. They entertain and charm. They add depth and texture to the words.
  4. Chapter Books are not always necessarily more complex than picture books. PBs are often written on a higher literary level to challenge understanding and introduce new vocabulary.
  5. Language is enhanced in PBs. They allow children to hear and feel new sentence structures. Rhythm and Rhyme are explored. Words can sound like music when read out loud. A good PB, even a non rhyming one, can be poetry in motion.
  6. Picture books can deliver an huge array of themes, emotions, ideas and relationships for children in an entertaining, non didactic way. Relationships such as cause and consequence may be better understood and discussed when viewed time and time again in a PB.
  7. PB allow children the luxury of Repetition: of story, comedy, and meta language.
  8. PBs are sensory. Children can hear, see, feel, smell the story. They can develop a strong sense of story structure, time and place from PBs
  9. PBs are FUN. They are a perfect vehicle for allowing children of all ages to enjoy the pleasure of reading without the feeling of being burdened by the 'must do' mentality which is often associated (pityingly) with reading.
  10. PBs allow for the most intimate and interactive relationships imaginable between an adult and a child. The sharing of these reading experiences builds comprehension, trust and a sense of achievement which are key to ensuring children enjoy smooth sailing through their sea of literacy.
Enrich your child's literature with Fiction and Picture Books, this week, this Saturday during The Reading Hour and at any other available minute of the day.

Of course encouraging reluctant readers to read the jokes on your cereal packets is no bad thing either. Whatever they read will ultimately help them to Champion Literacy.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Resounding Success

As a debut emerging author, I take the utmost pleasure in regularly soaking up as much information as I possibly can. Attending literary events such as the Gold Coast Literati Festival, not only allows me to occupy the same room as my peers and other revered authors and illustrators, along with prospective readers but also puts me in prime position for collecting new insights and clarifying old wisdoms.

Resonance was one such session I recently sat in on during which fantasy writer Rowena Cory Daniells, discussed what resonance was, what it meant for the writer and to the reader and how it was acquired.

She explained how Resonance was the unique feeling the reader took away with them when they finished reading a book. For the Writer, it was that special affinity you try to instill in your writing, the mindset you need to be in in order to write true to your story.

Resonance comes in the most part from past experience. For others on the panel, Steve Irwin (author of The Dead Path) and Nerida Newton (author of the Lambing Flats), their experience stimuli included recalling their own past events and fears to add authenticity to their writing. Visual stimuli such as photos of events or places also contributed.

But if you're like me, music has a profound influence on the way you feel, think and are at any particular moment. It can transport you to another time, setting, and place, instantly triggering a set of emotions unique to the way you felt at that precise moment when you may have first heard the tune.

I associate many memorable songs with scenes, smells, sounds, even the weather at the time. And to this day find it difficult not associating how a particular song or melody resounds with that memory. Most of us have these sorts of musical reminders, songs which resonate a moment intensely personal and special; our wedding waltz, what ever was playing on the radio the first time you tasted champagne...you know the ones.

But how does this improve our writing style? Quite simply. By drawing on these images and feelings conjured by such resounding stimuli, you are adding more than a bit of reality to your tales, more depth of emotion, which allows the reader to enter your world willingly, and enables them to suspend their own beliefs and reality for a while.

And what are some of those tunes which still resound strongly with me today? Here are The Top Five of my Musical Impressions from the Resonance File. And yes, I had to double up, I mean really who can stop at just five...

  1. Streets of Philadelphia - Bruce Springsteen. It transports me instantly to a top floor apartment in downtown Istanbul on a heavily overcast, languid morning. On the streets below water trucks clank by, men smash their backgammon chips down onto well loved boards and the scent of the Bosporus competes with the smell of humanity.
  2. Everybody's Talkin' (at me) - Harry Nilsson. Convertibles cruising through fields of swishing, swaying grass. Wind in my hair, freedom in my veins.
  3. Spanish Steps - Morton Harket (of A-Ha fame). Yes this one is a little out there but I used to play this one hard during my time working on a luxury super yacht in the Caribbean. I was developing cabin fever at the time, working endless shifts and used to play this at max volume whenever there were no guests aboard as I cleaned the staterooms below decks, away from other crew. It reminded me of Europe, licking gelato under the sunshine on the Spanish Steps, missing my freedom.
  4. Riding Home for Christmas - Chris Rea. OK, I admit, I have a great Resonance with the 80's but every time I hear this gooey little ballad, I'm on a bus, deep in the dry Turkish interior, covering miles and miles before the next bowl of lentil soup and feeling like I'd reached Nirvana.
  5. Khe Sahn - Cold Chisel equal tie with Land Down Under - Men at Work. Show me an Aussie that doesn't go a bit doolally whenever either of these two are played anyway in the world outside Sydney and you're not showing me a real Aussie. Images of roof top Raki parties in Turkey...ah...youth.
I could go on and on about the Sound of Music score, but you're probably feeling slightly nauseous already. So what about you? What do you use to gain Resonance in your writing or illustrations? How do past tunes, events, and memories affect how you feel when they reoccur years later? What are your Top Five Most Impressionable songs? You'll probably be amazed at where you end up...

Friday, 27 July 2012

Progress Report

I am disappointingly not one of those writers that reports on each writing hurdle cleared. I am not given to mapping every new twist and turn I encounter on the wondrous sometimes ponderous path to publication, which is odd because I'm a natural over sharer.

It's not because I don't want to share the experience, impart the new found realisations, or confirm the actualities of nursing your precious manuscript into existence. It's more a case of me being just too busy living the dream...(which also explains the long draught between posts)

Plus I'm conscious of a few things:
  1. Success comes in many guises. Whilst getting your story to print is a wonderful ego boost and validation of your hard work, there hangs forever above the heads of most writers, the dreaded cloud of 'what if it really isn't good enough?' Will they all laugh at my deplorable writing style and tragic failure to connect with the reader? Will they even want to buy it? (Well they should - would make an excellent stocking filler.) Who exactly are they? Do they really matter?
  2. My take on proceedings won't necessarily be the same for everybody. How you approach the job of perfecting your novel, pruning your novel, and then promoting your novel, will depend greatly on whom you have helping you and your own abilities and expectations.
  3. That I should be supremely grateful for the opportunity of just sitting in the roller coaster car for the climb up this learning curve, because it may be a long time between rides. It is thrilling and I'm enjoying the view more than I thought I would.
Things I'm glad I did:
  1. Listened, watched, learned. Every single snippet of advice, no matter how repetitive or seemingly unconnected to my stage of writing over the past 5 years, was dutifully recorded, studied and practised, not always enough but all tucked away for future use. I can not over emphasise the importance of this. The more you know, the further you can go.
  2. Leapt into the swirling FB pond. There I said it. Honestly without the advent of social media, my progress would have been much slower, my opportunities far fewer and my phone bills ridiculous.
  3. Joined a writers' group. It's fun, informative and friendly. It keeps me honest.
There's more of course but if you want to know what the best part about fulfilling a publishing contract is so far, it's the fact that it physically and mentally forced me to get my manuscript up to standard. I cleaned, scrubbed and polished it in a way I quite possibly would not have done so vigorously had I no deadlines. It helps to be able to see the finish line. Because of this disciplined force of action, I discovered something wonderful quite by accident.

Writing is no longer on the peripheral of life for me. The more I do, the more I want to do. Suddenly I find myself wishing for a couple of days, nah go on, make it a week, on a sun drenched island, surrounded by nothing else than the urge to write (and a sun smart sarong of course). I am finally beginning to understand the urgent necessity some writers feel to - just write. And I like it. Although I'm sure life will slap me back into reality if I stray from too long it, it's a lovely wish to entertain.

And what about all that wretched publicity pushing that accompanies the launching of ones first novel? Well I'm absolutely loving it. For me it's a bit like the wedding I started planning when I didn't even have a suitor to marry yet (come on girls we all do it) Ideas, concepts, imagery, locations, colours, even food treats; they were always there floating around in my subconscious waiting patiently to  materialise.

And there we have it: The Three Ps

Patience, Practise, Perseverance = Progress

Publication is definitely more of a tortoise's race for me. But then I like it slow and steady...I get to see more on the way.

Monday, 18 June 2012

What's in a Name?


Pseudonym, alias, non-de-plume, literary double, pen name ~ aka ~ not your real name.

Why do people use names other than those which were whimsically or half wittingly slapped onto them at birth? Why do writers in particular choose fictitious names to write under? The answers to these questions are probably as varied and colourful as the stories of those who use them.

When I married, I thought long and hard about surrendering my maiden name. I was advised not to. But acquiesced with tradition and assumed my husband's surname to the chagrin of many (mainly work colleges and business associates).

From the age of 13, I was reminded repeatedly what a great name I had: it's unusual, it's pretty, wow what an awesome name, you'll end being a movie star with a name like that. I kid you not.

 Have I stifled my chance of attaining greatness simply by shifting from a

Dimity Selina Zee
 to a
Dimity Selina Powell?

Maybe. Maybe not. Let's look at the reasons to change and considerations for picking a pen name that resounds with success.

  1. You need a name easier to spell and pronounce...Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski is a mouthful in any one's language aka Joseph Conrad.
  2. You like your books at eye level on book shop shelves because you believe it will result in greater sales. Choose surnames beginning with the first 13 letters of the alphabet. And they thought Zee was a better option?
  3. You want to be remembered...Oscar Fingall O'Flahertie Wills Wilde. What was his mother thinking? This was his actual name so perhaps not the best example.
  4. You wish to disguise your true identity to increase reader audience. Julie Fison for example writes under JE Fison; her Hazard River series is aimed at young male readers, whom the publisher thought would feel more comfortable believing the author was not a women. Using initials often blurs reader perceptions and therefore assumptions about the book. George Eliot (The Mill on the Floss) was really one Mary Ann Evans who wanted her work to be taken seriously.
  5. You feel it's more genre specific. I'm considering re branding myself as Dimity Dumpty  but Bob Graham has already beaten me to it. (interestingly this link takes you to Powell's book store-no relation) Seriously, pseudonyms can offer authors some degree of superficial protection especially if they write across a number of different genres.
  6. You just think it would be a fun, naff, liberating thing to do. Well so might jumping off a bridge without a parachute but things don't always turn out how we plan. Choose carefully and with cause.
If thinking up a new name is not for you, remebmer to embrace the title that is you and realise that it is just that; a title, a label, a mere moniker, which if you say loud enough and often enough for long enough, people will eventually know you for it (for good or bad).

Do I regret relinquishing Zee opportunity for greatness? Nah. A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet...

What about you? Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why? Have you ever used a different name? Do you regret it or rejoice your anonymity?

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Writing Wonderworlds

The words on the banner above state that I possess a desire to make reading and writing more inspired for children. They are not spoken lightly.

As part of the Coomera Rivers SS Book Week in May festivities, I have the privileged honour of being their guest author. Throughout the week I've been presenting writing workshops and reading sessions to over 500 primary aged kids and their teachers.

Nothing gives me more of a buzz than a room full of enthusiastic faces and arms thrust so far into the air (to proffer answers and anecdotes) I'd swear their fingers were full of helium. Together we explored the purpose, importance and structure of story telling. They discussed what makes a good read. They shared their reading secrets and writing aspirations with me. They set free their creative selves with exuberant abandon. And they committed to every writerly task asked of them.

They enthused over the marvellous Book Fair displays in their i Centre with it's rollicking Show Time theme, enticing them to roll up and get their tickets to read. All appropriate, important aspects to embrace in the promotion of a healthier literacy environment, especially within this National Year of Reading.

It's no small thing assuming the role of custodian of at least some useful information to encourage kids to read and write more. I hope I have managed to inspire a few. Notably it is I who is more frequently inspired...by them.

Part of the writing workshops aimed at Grade 4 to 7s included a group based RAFT activity. Not a completely new idea, but many had never attempted writing using this technique before. The results were more spectacular than I anticipated. So impressed was I by some of the writing that I have had to include it on my blog for all to share. Have a look at a couple of samples of RAFT writing on my Kool Kidz Page. Of course I can't include every stand out collection of words that gets produced but from the number of them created this year, I have realised, with no small amount of mixed foreboding and gratitude, that I'd better keep my own pencils sharpened and watch my back for fear of getting struck down by some other (younger) person's creative genius.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Celebrate Learning

In case you didn't know State Education Week 2012 is currently in full swing. It's a week where State Schools across Queensland celebrate not only the achievements of students within these schools but also their teachers.

Among the multitude of planned activities, Principal for a Day, My Favourite Teacher awards, morning teas, parades and community sharing sessions are all being celebrated, giving the entire extended school community the opportunity to celebrate the joys and rewards of teaching and learning.

I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in a thoroughly enjoyable morning of reading and presenting alongside fellow guest authors, Renee Taprell and Candice Lemon-Scott at the Helensvale State School.

Dimity working with Monty the Monster

Candice and her Ferret

Renee sharing a picture book














Both of these ladies are no strangers to children's literature; Renee being a keen picture book writer and Candice a published author of several titles including the humorous Aussie Chomps junior novel, Stinky Ferret and the JJs. The Helensvale Grade 3s and 4s absorbed every word of our various readings from novels, magazine short stories and picture books. But it was the interactive story telling with Monty the Monster which caused the must oohs, ahhs and Ohs.

Local MP Michael Crandon was also on hand, presenting one of my favourite picture book stories, Clancy the Courageous Cow by Lachie Hume to a captivated audience.

Michael Crandon reading Clancy the Courageous Cow
Other presenters included indigenous story teller Graham Dillon and school principal Coralee Pratt.

Readers: Authors Candice, Renee, Dimity and Michael, Principa Pratt and Graham Dillon
Time well spent because I never need an excuse to be able to share a book with kids.