Portia Dery is the author of the children's picture book Grandma's List. She is the founder of the African Youth Writers Organisation, and she lives in Ghana.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Grandma's List?
A: Interesting question. I had no working plan when I started the story. The only thing I was sure of was the fact that the main character will be a Fatima. No idea how the story was going to end. Basically I just allowed the story to carry me along; it was an adventure for me and I totally adored every moment of it.
Q: What do you think Toby Newsome's illustrations add to the book?
A: From the first day I saw the draft illustrations, I was really excited! I think Toby has great talent and a unique ability to interpret a written story. I felt in love with the bold colours, and all the images created, particularly of Fatima and her grandma. Toby's illustrations bring the story alive, which just makes you want to jump into the book to join the characters.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: In the first place, I want kids to fall in love with the story just as I did in writing, and it's up to them to pick out their lessons, and enjoy them. One of the things I hope for kids reading this story will be to stimulate their imagination, so they ask, "What next!?"
Q: What are some of your favorite picture books?
A: I am quite biased, so I will always go for Meshack Asare books, who is an amazing children's writer and my childhood inspiration. If I may pick another, it will definitely be Enid Blyton. I read almost everything by her!
Q: What are you working on now?
A: This is a big secret! Shhh…I am finally starting to work on a sequel to Grandma's List. It is taking shape but very slowly. I am also working on a collection of love poems; hopefully this will be much easier to finish.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I run a literacy program called "the funky readwrite clinic" which helps kids from disadvantaged communities improve their literacy skills in northern Ghana. I have been doing this for five years now and am very excited about the progress of kids in the program. As a writer, it's my dream and passion to mentor more young people to develop skills in writing.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Grandma's List is a winner of the 2018 Children's Africana Book Award.