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Spotlight on 2022 Short Story Shortlist: Meredith Downes

Here is the first of our spotlights on our shortlisted writers. Meredith Downes has been shortlisted for her short story ‘The Pop Girls’, a subtle story about a girl immersed in swimming but who still observes what happens around her in the pool.
Meredith is a writer of children’s & young adult fiction. She has always enjoyed the quirky characters of the Australian bush – adopting a baby river turtle as a kid, befriending a rescued Boobook owl in later years, entertaining native visitors to her rundown old Queenslander and running into wombats, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, echidnas, and emus in her travels around the country. Originally a biologist, and a one-time archaeologist in training, Meredith combines her love for native wildlife and her scientific understanding of animals to create her fiction for young readers.
Meredith’s other writings are inspired by her interest in history, martial arts, magic and unique voices with untold stories.
When did you realise you wanted to be a writer? How long have you been writing?
I may have to blame L. M. Montgomery for my earliest aspirations to be a writer. I identified very much with Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon, her imaginative heroines with their writerly ambitions. I also had some fantastic teachers in school who encouraged me. I think I transitioned very quickly as a child from devouring books to writing stories of my own.
What is your favourite genre to write? Do you write for adults as well as children? 
In terms of genre and form, I go where the story and the words take me. I have written short adult fiction, as well as plays and poetry for adults. I have a great passion for writing for young people though and I spend most of my time on that.
What is your motivation? What makes you want to write something? Are you doing it for fun? To save the world? Or somewhere in between?
My imagination provides me with stories whether I write them or not. I have learned it is much more fun to write them out and see where they end up. I also have an irrepressible urge to tinker with words. As for saving the world, I think every story has the potential to do that in some small way, by taking the reader on a journey outside of themselves and giving them joy or wonder or understanding they might not have had otherwise.
Is there any other writer out there who inspires you? Favourite writers?
When it comes to children’s fiction, my reading is more about escapism than anything else. I lean towards middle grade and young adult fantasy/historical fiction – Francis Hardinge, Sophie Anderson, Scott Westerfeld, Philip Pullman, J. K. Rowling, the Tiffany Aching books, Jessica Townsend. I enjoy detailed world building.
When not working on short stories for StoryLinks what are you writing atm?
I am currently querying a middle grade action/adventure novel set in the Australian bush. I am also working on a chapter book with graphic novel elements, based on my longlisted submission to the 2020 Queensland Stories, Songs and Rhymes competition.

You can find more information about Meredith at meredithdownes.com and follow her on Twitter @meredith_downes

The winner will be announced at the annual Narelle Oliver Children’s Literature Lecture on Thursday evening, 26 May 2022. The winner will receive $250.00, and they will be invited to have their story published on StoryLinks website.
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