Sarah Armstrong

Sarah Armstrong

New South Wales

Speaker type

  • Author

Sarah grew up in a family with no television, which meant she was a voracious (if fairly indiscriminate) reader, and was determined, from an early age, to be a writer. This led her to study journalism, and she joined ABC Radio Current Affairs where, in 1993, she won a Walkley Award for a story on diggers returning to Gallipoli. Later she became a researcher and field producer on ABC TV's 'Foreign Correspondent' program.

What most satisfied Sarah as a journalist was meeting people and telling stories which explored the emotional and moral complexities of life, but what she really wanted to do was to use fiction to explore this messy and beautiful business of being human. In 1997 she resigned from the ABC and moved to the hills outside Byron Bay to devote herself to writing fiction.

The week she moved into a rustic cabin in the forested valley, it started raining and rained for three months. That rain found its way into her writing. Sarah's first novel Salt Rain was published (Allen & Unwin) in 2004. It was shortlisted for the 2005 Miles Franklin Award, the Queensland Premier's Literary Prize and the Dobbie Literary Award. Salt Rain was published in the United States by MacAdam/Cage.  Her second novel His Other House was published in March 2015 by Pan Macmillan and in Germany in August 2015.  

Her third novel Promise was published in June 2016 by Pan Macmillan.

Sarah lives in sub-tropical northern New South Wales with the writer, Alan Close, and their young daughter.

Getting your writing flowing

Duration: 2 hours

Suitable for: High school. Works best with a year group (eg year 8 or year 11) or a mixed group of particularly keen writers, drawn from Years 7 – 12.

Workshop overview

Sarah draws on her years of experience as a novelist and journalist to teach techniques that will get students’ creativity flowing. She also teaches concrete, practical tools to create narrative tension, deepen character, and create a sense of immediacy for the reader.

She gives comprehensive handouts, with examples from others’ writing, and illustrates with anecdotes from her own writing experience. She gets the students writing straight away, and they’ll do lots of writing throughout the workshop.

Topics covered:

  • Free-writing as a brainstorming tool and fast, effective way to write a first draft.
  • The drafting process – how a first draft is different to the final draft.
  • Exercises to flesh out character.
  • Using detail to show rather than tell.
  • Writing a ‘sensory brainstorm’ to generate material to bring a piece of action alive.
  • Student Q and A.

 

Writing scenes that leap off the page

Duration: 3 hours

Suitable for: High school. Best for year 9 and up, unless students are focused, keen writers.

Workshop overview

Sarah draws on her years of experience as a novelist and journalist to teach students techniques to get their writing flowing, as well as concrete, practical tools to create narrative tension and to deepen character. She explains how students can write ‘scene’ to create immediacy for the reader and to show rather then tell. Most students write in summary and find it a revelation to learn about writing in scene.  

She gives comprehensive handouts, with examples from others’ writing, and illustrates with anecdotes from her own writing experience. She gets the students writing straight away, and they’ll do lots of writing throughout the workshop.

Topics covered:

  • Free-writing as a brainstorming tool and fast, effective way to write a first draft.
  • Fleshing out character using free-written character histories
  • When to show and when to tell.
  • Using scene to show and create immediacy
  • Writing a sensory brainstorm to add effective detail to scene.
  • Student Q and A

 

Extension English 2 workshop

Duration: 3 hours

Suitable for: Year 12 students studying Extension English 2

Workshop overview

For students studying Extension 2, Sarah can offer tools to help students come up with ideas, refine those ideas, generate material, decide on form and strategies for approaching the rewriting process.

Topics covered:

  • Free-writing as a way to overcome writing blocks and effective way to write a first draft.
  • When to ‘show’ and when to ‘tell’ when writing fiction or creative non-fiction.
  • How to write ‘scene’ to create immediacy in fiction or creative non-fiction.
  • Student Q and A – which is usually very fruitful.

Depending on the size and duration of the class, Sarah is happy to include some one-on-one sessions with students while others write.

Testimonials

  • We were lucky enough this year to have the published author, Sarah Armstrong, come along to our school and lead some writing workshops with our students.

    Sarah visited our school as part of the Byron Writers Festival Storyboard event. She was exceptionally well received by our students! She taught the students how to use free writing to expand their ideas and deepen their writing skills. Our creative writers from Year 10 and 11 were involved in the workshop and Sarah was able to engage very well with this age group. Many of the students have asked when Sarah is coming back! There is no doubt that the students gained many new skills in how to write creatively and overcoming blocks that arise. She has also delivered a workshop to some of our senior students in Year 12 English Extension 2 who were all able to progress their compositions in positive ways following her work with them.

    I highly recommend Sarah and would be happy to talk further regarding her work at our school.


    Cape Byron Steiner School - 2017

    Cape Byron Steiner School - 2017
    Sarah Armstrong
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Sarah Armstrong