Sarah grew up in a family with no television, which meant she was a voracious (if fairly indiscriminate) reader, and was determined to be a writer. She became a journalist at ABC Radio where she won a Walkley Award. In the late 90s, she left the ABC and moved to the hills outside Byron Bay to devote herself to writing fiction. She wrote three acclaimed novels, including Salt Rain which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award.
Her first children’s novel is Big Magic, for readers aged 9+ (published by Hardie Grant in May 2022). Big Magic is a rip-roaring mix of modern day adventure, family drama, and magical realism, set in a travelling circus. 11-year-old Tulsi shares a rare, secret ability with her mother – they both have Big Magic in their veins. When her mum gets trapped in a parallel universe, Tulsi sets off on a race against time to save her. She has to learn a lifetime of magic in a flash, voyage through alternate worlds, magic battle her evil grandmother and change the course of destiny. Oh, and save the circus too.
The sequel to Big Magic will be out in 2023.
Sarah has been working as a highly regarded writing teacher for nearly twenty years. She works with primary and secondary students, mentors teen and adult writers, and teaches adults’ classes and workshops, including the Byron Writers Festival’s The Year of the Novel course. She also lectures post-graduate creative writing students at Southern Cross University.
Her writing presentations and workshops in schools are dynamic and very practical, and her goal is to get children excited about writing and reading. She shares the writing tools she uses in her own books (such as how to get a first draft down really quickly). She explains her own writing process from first idea to published book, and takes the students behind the scenes of a writer’s life with stories and photos. In her workshops, Sarah emphasises the importance of rewriting, and demonstrates how helpful brainstorming is for plot ideas.
She lives with her partner, the writer Alan Close, and their daughter in the northern NSW town of Mullumbimby (which features in all her novels, albeit slightly disguised!).
Behind the scenes of a writer’s life
Half-hour talk to a group (upper primary) about where her ideas come from, and the fun and hard work of being a full-time writer. Discussion of a book’s life from the first inkling of an idea to publication. Sarah will touch on the importance of setting and character in writing and how it informs her own writing. Using stories and photos, she will take students behind the scenes of a writer’s life.
The writer’s toolkit
Small-group workshop (up to 30 children) 60 - 90 min (grades 4, 5 & 6)
Sarah’s workshops are very interactive and practical, and students will start writing straight away. She’ll teach them freewriting (her #1 tool) and brainstorming, and guide them in coming up with their own story idea and story plan. She will draw on examples from her own work and that of other writers in exercises on character, plot, setting and dramatic tension. Sarah will hear some of the young writers read their work; she’s well known for her detailed, constructive feedback. There will be time for student questions throughout, and at the end. The 90 min workshop allows for more feedback and questions.
HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Get Your Writing Flowing
Small-group workshop (up to 30 students) 60 - 90 min
Sarah draws on her years of experience as a novelist and journalist in this very hands-on, practical workshop. She’ll teach techniques to get students’ creativity flowing, as well as 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. This workshop works best for a group of the same stage or a group of keen writers across a mix of stages.
Topics covered include: 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; a strategy for creative writing in an exam; student Q and A.
Bring Your Writing Alive
Small-group workshop (up to 30 students) 60 - 90 min
In this practical workshop, Sarah will 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.
This workshop is also suitable for keen and focused stage 4 students.
Topics covered include: 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; a strategy for creative writing in an exam; student Q and A
Sarah Armstrong shared her passion for reading and writing with us at Holy Family and inspired the students with her stories of travelling to exotic places as a journalist and living in a rainforest valley. She also taught the students tips and tricks on how to create their own magical stories, using their imagination, observation and curiosity. The students loved Sarah Armstrong’s visit and enjoyed listening to her read from Big Magic. They also had fun participating in the writing workshops, where they practised creating their own characters, settings and conflicts. The older students especially appreciated the opportunity to improve their writing skills and receive feedback from a professional writer. A huge thanks to Sarah for visiting our school - she is a talented and generous writer who has a gift for creating magic with words. We'd love to have Sarah back again in the future!
Holy Family Primary School, Indooroopilly - August, 2023Holy Family Primary School, Indooroopilly - August, 2023Sarah Armstrong
Sarah's presentation with our Year 5 & 6 and Year 7 students was highly engaging. She hooked the students into the world of story telling, shared tips for crafting clever stories, and even had the students perform circus acts! All of this was in an effort to convey different ways students can be inspired to write their own stories. Our students loved their visit from Sarah.
St. Rita's Catholic College - August, 2023St. Rita's Catholic College - August, 2023Sarah Armstrong
Sarah was great, very accomodating to our needs. Her talk to the whole school as well as small group workshop was exceptional.
Sophia College - August, 2023Sophia College - August, 2023Sarah Armstrong
Sarah's presentation was invaluable! Her insights and techniques have transformed the way I approach my writing. I can already see a significant improvement in my work.
Coomera Anglican College - May 2023Coomera Anglican College - May 2023Sarah Armstrong
Sarah's whole school performance and workshop sessions were so incredibly engaging and captivating. She was able to retain the attention of all students from Kindergarten to Year 6! Sarah's presentation was fun, exciting and very humorous. She has left our students incredibly inspired, thank you Sarah!
Condong Public School - May 2023Condong Public School - May 2023Sarah Armstrong