Book People: Sally Morgan
Book People: Sally Morgan
I am so honroured today to be featuring Sally Morgan on the blog, as part of my Book People series. Sally Morgan has been ‘in my life’ since the 80s, when I studied her iconic ‘My Place’ at school, a book I have read and adored many times since. Her latest book, ‘Sister Heart’ is out this week and, like all works by Sally Morgan, it will take your breath away. ‘Sister Heart’ is a verse novel, a form which I really love and have talked more about here. With verse novels the narrative is formed by free verse poetry and not a single word is wasted; in the hands of a masterful storyteller the text is spare and incredibly powerful. I read ‘Sister Heart’ in record time as I unwilling to leave the world of this heartbreaking story of friendship and loss. Sally Morgan is an Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, and a percentage of book sales of ‘Sister Heart’ will donated to the ILF.
To purchase books please click on cover images or title links – a selection of Sally Morgan titles are throughout this post for purchase.
A young Aboriginal girl is taken from the north of Australia and sent to an institution in the distant south. There, she slowly makes a new life for herself and, in the face of tragedy, finds strength in new friendships.
Poignantly told from the child’s perspective, ‘Sister Heart’ affirms the power of family and kinship.
Aimed at 10-15 year old readers, ‘Sister Heart’ will start many an important conversation about the Stolen Generation and, really, is so important to have these conversations over and over. Readers will relate to the story of deep female friendship and they will be challenged by the very real issues of loss – of family, of friends and of culture. ‘Sister Heart’ is jam packed with heartbreak and issues of national significance, but the verse novel form ensures that readers are not overwhelmed by the weight of the words. I predict this will become an important text in schools, and will pop up on shortlists all over the country in the next little while. And kudos to the book design team who have produced a coffee-table-worthy book in ‘Sister Heart’, it is my new favourite home decor item…hey, I’m a librarian!
And now over to Sally…
Ten Things You Need to Know About Sally Morgan
1. Tell us about your latest book
My latest book is Sister Heart, which will be published by Fremantle Press in August. It is a verse novel about 200 pages long. I had never written a verse novel before, but I knew that was the writing style I needed to use for this story. That was the beginning of a very steep learning curve for me. I read other verse novels to educate myself, but found reading poetry was most useful. One weekend I read 1000 poems. Reading poetry was helpful because the text is so short and you are forced to say a lot in few words.
Sister Heart is about the friendship that develops between two young girls who have been removed from their families and placed in an institution.
2. How did you get started as an author/illustrator?
When I was a child I never wanted to be an author, I wanted to be an artist. My interest in art came about because I spent a lot of time in the bush near our house and was always noticing the animals, wildflowers, patterns in the earth, in the bark of the trees and so on. There is no greater artist than the natural world itself. I became an author by accident. Mainly because I wanted to tell an important story – the story of my family – and for that I needed words. However, I find words are much more limiting than pictures. I now specialise in writing books for children and sometimes I have fun doing the illustrations too.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
I am up very early. My grandmother trained me as a child to rise early and I have been unable to break the habit, no matter how tired I am. Usually I have a cup of peppermint tea and sit with my dogs, all of whom are hoping for an early breakfast. Then I mess around with a book idea. I am a bit obsessive about picture books, so I often spend hours just playing with words. I have a lot of book ideas stored away that I couldn’t make work, but I never throw anything out. You never know when something will come in handy. Luckily I don’t apply this same rule to collecting other stuff in my life! I tend to do things in bursts, so I am either writing or painting, but usually not at the same time, as they are two different processes for me. Which process do I prefer? Definitely messing around with paint! At night I read. I am a mad reader.
4. Can you describe your workplace for us?
I don’t have a dedicated workspace or an office. I work on a laptop all over the house and outside, depending on the weather. I have a room where I store junk – mostly it’s filled with lots and lots of lovely paints, a large light table, and odd things I’ve collected, like rocks, leaves, feathers and other interesting things.5. Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
Let your imagination fly. Read and draw a lot. Spend time in the natural world. Don’t be critical of your own work until you are a long way into it. Creative energy needs encouragement, fun and happiness to thrive, not criticism. Don’t kill your ideas by criticizing them too early. Never ever give up.
6. Do you have a favourite book or character?
I have a million favourite books and characters. Some of my many favourite books are – The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina (but that’s probably cheating because Ambelin is my daughter!), Ruby Moonlight by Ali Coby Eckerman, Too Many Cheeky Dogs by Johanna Bell and Dion Beasley, The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland and Down The Hole: Running from the State and Daisy Bates by Edna Tantjingu Williams. To read more about Ambelin Kwaymulllina see here.
7. If you were not a creator of books for young people what would you be?
I would be a singer. I love music, but I can’t play any musical instruments. I love singing, but I don’t have a singer’s voice. I am passionate about musical theatre.
8. What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?
I never eat or listen to music when I work. I like to be quiet, still and alone. Well, except for my dogs.
9. How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?
10. If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
One wish really narrows it down! I think I’d wish for everyone to see the Earth as our mother. Then a lot of the problems we have now would vanish, there’d be less suffering and the world would be a kinder and more equitable place.