Meet the Author: Dale Harcombe

DALE’S TOP WRITING TIP: Write, write, write. Don’t be content with first, second or even third drafts. Make it the best it can be. The hardest part then is knowing when to stop. Read, read, read as much as you can of all different writers and different kinds of books. Try and analyse why things work or they don’t. I’ve found since I’ve started to write I have become a more critical reader. I get impatient if the author doesn’t move the story along in some way. When I write I try and leave out the bits I would skip through while reading.  For example those passages that convey information because the author found it interesting but it does not advance the story or help the reader know the characters better.

Dale Harcombe

Dale lived in Western Sydney and the Central West of NSW before moving to the South Coast which immediately felt like home.  She started writing articles and poems. Many were published in magazines and newspapers. She has also written short stories, educational materials, bible studies and Sunday school materials, puppet plays, skits, and songs for young children. A radio play, called Edge of Silence, was broadcast in 2005.

Chasing after the Wind, her first published children’s novel was published by Scholastic in 1997. Since then she has had Kaleidoscope, a book of poetry and six other children’s books published.  Many poems in Kaleidoscope had been previously published in Australia’s literary magazines and newspapers. Her poetry has won prizes and been published in several anthologies. Streets on a Map, her first general fiction book, was published in December 2010. It is now also an E book. Dale is currently at work on another novel with the working title Sandstone Madonna.

As well as jobs as a bookseller and other sales positions, Dale has been a houseparent for a family of twelve boys, manuscript assessor, book reviewer and run creative writing classes at NSW Writers’ Centre, Parramatta Evening College and Central West Community College. She also wrote for several years about marriage and home related topics for She has a BA in Literary and Australian studies. More information about Dale can be found at or on her Write and Read with Dale blog


Why do you write? Sometimes I wonder! No seriously, because there are stories bubbling away inside that want to come out and hopefully, I might have some insights or knowledge that may be helpful to others in their life journey. I guess in another way it is something that has always been in me. I was one of those kids who sent off poems and stories to the newspapers back in the day when newspapers did such things. Do they even do that any more?

Over time that writing urge got pushed aside by other aspects of life. But like the phoenix it came back to life in later years. I started with poetry and articles, later moved to children’s fiction, back to poetry and then onto general fiction with Streets on a Map. Now I’m concentrating on fiction with a smattering of poetry still thrown in, because I can’t leave it alone. Fiction and poetry are my two reading loves as well.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Just living and enjoying life in this piece of paradise where I live. But I probably wouldn’t be as much fun to live with. I tend to get grumpy when I am not writing.

 What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Lack of knowledge of the way the industry works. When I first started, I didn’t have a website, know how to organise a book launch or anything else. It’s been learn as I went along and still learning.  I thought when my first children’s book Chasing after the Wind was published, I had a foot on the door and it would be easier. That didn’t turn out to be the case. The editor who had picked my manuscript out of the slush pile left. Sadly, the new editor didn’t seem to connect with what I was writing. So it was back to square one, and trying to learn more about writing and find markets. Six other children’s books were published before I had Kaleidoscope a book of poetry published. That was the quickest acceptance ever, less than 10 days from submission to acceptance by Ginninderra Press. By then general fiction was calling. Poetry got put aside. Streets on a Map was published and now I am working on another novel but also starting to work on a second collection of poems.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Seeing books I wrote in print and getting feedback from people when they like a book and take time to let me know. I have a few letters which live on my corkboard near my desk which are from readers who have told me how much they enjoyed my books. One of the most special is from a girl who struggled to read. Chasing after the Wind was the first book she ever actually read and enjoyed. That still gives me a thrill when I think about how I got her started on her reading journey and the response from her and her family.

 —the worst? Waiting. Writers spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for publishers to decide, waiting for contracts to arrive, waiting on proofs and editing, waiting for the book to be published. Waiting is not my strong suit. I usually try and forget about it and get busy with some new work in the meantime. E books and self publishing has changed a lot of that and cut out much of that waiting time but it’s not something I’ve investigated a lot to date. The promotion and marketing aspects that go with writing these days I also find hard. I’d rather just write.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d be less naive. I’d build a website and blog first and then go from there.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Be yourself because the reality is you can’t be anyone else anyway. So play to your strengths and don’t worry about things you can’t do or comparing yourself with others.

 {Visit the Author Bookshelf page for a snapshot of Dale’s novel, Streets on a Map and details about availability}.

23 thoughts on “Meet the Author: Dale Harcombe

  1. Understanding the industry … three words that can have an eternal meaning if one understands that the industry (if we can still call it that) experiences such enormous changes that we need to re-think something almost as soon as it’s established. Since mid-2010, the whole book business has reinvented itself, and there’s never been a better time to be a writer. Or so they tell us!!


    1. Not sure about that “better time”. I started writing in the days of portable typewriters and took many, many more hours to finish my first manuscript than I do now on a computer. Trouble is, means there are now far more manuscripts out there to compete with also when submitting to publishers. They are so inundated most now require writers to go through an agent who are as hard to find as a publisher!


      1. Have to admit Mary when the computer is not co-operating I think with fondness on the days of typewriters but when you can email a manuscript and save all that exorbitant double postage then it is worthwhile.


      2. I’m not too sure about that ‘better time’ either, Mary. I think that I was more objective in the days when I was faced with the prospect of having to retype an entire manuscript for the second draft. Instead of wanting to preserve my precious words at all costs, I wondered how many of them were actually required to tell the story.


  2. I agree that waiting is the signature tune of the writer. It is a big adjustment transitioning to the new way of ebook publishing, where acceptance, editing, and proofs are done within a few months. This increases pressure to produce more. What used to be a year’s output is now only 2 months and people expect the writer to churn out at least 2 more novels in a year. I’m not used to writing that fast and I doubt I could do it. But the ebook revolution does allow us to see our books in print, with attractive covers and selling at a reasonable price.


  3. I hate the waiting too, but find it hard to start work on a new project when I am still expected to keep the last one in my head to talk to the illustrator, editor, cover designer etc. So, I work on other people’s writing in between my own novels while they follow their publishing process.


  4. I totally agree with you, Dale: The best part about being published is “Seeing books I wrote in print and getting feedback from people when they like a book and take time to let me know.” Thanks for sharing.


  5. I loved this interview from beginning to end. I especially liked the “best advice ever given:” be yourself. Each writer has his/her own voice. We, as writers should spend less time getting dismayed when such-and-such is receiving so much attention, and our writing is not. We should remember those letters on the cork board, in whatever form they come. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.


    1. Thanks Alice. yes, now that Sandstone Madonna is off to a couple of beta readers for their input, after Christmas I will turn my attention more to the poetry book. A friend thinks she has a cool cover for it, so we will see.


  6. So interesting, Dale. I resonated with everything you said–especially thinking you were “in” when your first book was published. 40 years later I can still tell you every book is a new deal. It’s a crazy life, but I wouldn’t want any other.


  7. Did you really say two or three drafts, Dale? I lost count on the number for my first ever manuscript that was eventually published. I still call it my apprenticeship novel. Others since then certainly went through two or three but the current one is already up to eleven drafts. I am concerned now that too much editing and revisions may cause it to lose that first “freshness” – for want of a better word. Will just have to wait on what readers think.


    1. Thanks Bob. S long as it moves the story along it’s fine but when it’s just there for padding or because the author found it too interesting to leave out then it doesn’t belong, in my opinion.


  8. Sorry I missed this when it came out Dale. Was great to hear more of your writing journey and you’ve given some great tips there. Good on you for persevering with your writing when the going got tough.


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