Q. What inspired you to write for children?
I started writing for children when I was teaching (primary school) and was seconded to work on the NSW Department of Education School Magazine, when Lilith Norman was the editor. As a teacher I know how difficult it is for some children to learn how to read so all of my early books, in particular, used simple language, simple plots and lots of humour.
Q. Where do you get your story ideas?
I get ideas from many sources but mostly from my own childhood experience and from talking to children about their lives.
Q. What do you do when your characters want to take the story in a different direction from where you intended?
I go with where my characters want to take me. If they are that real that they want to go in a different direction, then who am I to deny them? They are like one’s own children: they make their own lives and as their parent, you respect that and go along with it. I love it when my book characters become real enough to go down their own paths!
Q. How do you get the creative juices flowing again when you have writers’ block?
I don’t believe in writers’ block as I never run out of ideas, but my husband, Bill Condon, who last year won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for YA literature, always but always has problems getting into a new novel. His solution is to put the superglue on his pants’ seat and sit down every day and work at his writing. Superglue and persistence are the best tools in any writers’ kit.
Q. What tips would you give to a potential author in writing their cover letter to a publisher?
Keep it simple and impersonal: this is the key to being professional around publishers. In a cover letter,never praise your own writing and never presume to tell the publisher who your work would suit: that’s up to the publisher. Most of all, don’t tell the publisher that your children or grand-children love your story (of course they will!) Make sure you have a title page attached to your manuscript with the title, type of manuscript (eg picture book for children 3 to 5 years), word length and all of your contact details. Number every page and have a footer with the title and your name.
Q. If you could be any character from any book for a day who would you be and why?
There are so many characters I’d love to be! But most of all I guess I’d like to be Grandma Cadbury from my books of that series: she’s feisty, energetic and gets things done with passion and skill.
I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into Dianne Bates’ world.
For more information about Dianne Bates visit her website www.enterprisingwords.com.au and find out for yourselves what a wonderful ambassador she is for Australian children’s literature.