Writer Barry Dickins shares his story in Footscray University Town

Jack-of-all-(writing)-trades and storyteller Barry Dickins revealed in a wide ranging talk at VU at MetroWest on 21 April that it was his grandmother Gert who first got him into writing.

Dickins is a well known Australian author, artist and playwright whose work has been a feature on the Melbourne writing scene for many years. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and draw on his wealth of writing and performing work.

His tip to aspiring writers: "It’s good to be diverse in your writing. I could be writing a book about fairies one minute and interviewing Johnny Cash the next."

Dickins was born in Reservoir, Victoria, in 1949 and said he was largely reared by his storytelling grandmother.

She nurtured his imagination while shelling peas over a colander at the kitchen table and on frequent shopping trips to the local fruit shop in the early hours of the morning. On one trip, he recalled, a cherubic Italian baby was being weighed on the scales as shoppers guessed the reading while his grandmother assessed cauliflowers – always keen to get one without thumbprints on it – and protested, "I don’t like the look of that one".

Throughout his life as a writer quotes have come from all over the place and been recorded in a daily diary. He recalled that as a newly graduated teacher he asked a young girl drawing on the floor, "What are you up to?"

"At three and a half, I'm not up to much!" she responded. Young Dickins rushed to his locker to write down her words immediately.

For 14 years he worked for the Melbourne Times on crosswords, general stories, opera reviews and stories about Fitzroy Football Club.

He wrote the 30 minute movie 'Ruthven: The Story of Life and Dettol' and has written more than 50 plays.

His cartoons have regularly appeared in the Age newspaper and are in a number of his prose publications. His next book, A Line Drawing of My Father, is a memoir of his father Len Dickins and will be published in June 2015.

Dickins has won a number of fellowships and been a writer in residence at several theatres and institutions.

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