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Postcard from Sydney Writers Festival 2019

Michelle Morgan - Sunday, May 05, 2019

Another brilliant Sydney Writers Festival has wrapped up. I thought it couldn't get any better than previous years, but it did. I took a different approach to selecting sessions to attend this year. As a writer, I've previously chosen sessions that related to my writing - historical fiction, YA fiction, playwriting / screenwriting. However, this year I decided to explore broader areas of interest from international relations to the mind of the octopus.

One of the most interesting panel discussions I attended was about Russia and whether it's the enemy the West has come to believe. Monica Attard, a former Russian correspondent and author of a book on the collapse of the Soviet Union, did a great job moderating the discussions between Emeritus Professor Graeme Gill (University of Sydney) and Tom Switzer, Executive Director of the Centre for Independent Studies. Both speakers agreed that Russiaphobia is alive and well, and they presented arguments from Russia's perspective, taking into account significant events of the 20th Century that had huge impacts on Russia, including the Russian Revolution of 1917, The Second World War and Stalinist regime, the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union from 1989. In view of these events, they argued it is understandable that Russia would see American influence in Georgia, the Ukraine and the Crimea as a threat to their national security. It was surprising to discover that Russia's economy is comparable in size to that of Australia's, even though Russia's nuclear capability is that of a superpower.

Another interesting panel discussion was "Can you spot a liar?" with crime reporter Matthew Condon, investigative journalist Kate McClymont and forensic psychiatrist Dr Calum Smith and moderated by Chris Taylor (broadcaster and former member of The Chaser). Discussions related more to why people lie and the relevant contexts rather than the behavioural cues to look for to spot when someone is lying. When politicians for example have a conflict between their party's policies and their own personal situation or beliefs, there is an increased likelihood they will lie to maintain party solidarity. But the truth usually emerges when there is no perception of personal or professional threat.

Janice Peterson (SBS TV) talked with Iraqi journalist Dunya Mikhail about growing up in Iraq as well as her compelling account of how a honey trader helped liberate Yazidi women enslaved by ISIS, also the subject of Dunya's latest book. It was fascinating to learn about Dunya's personal experiences before and after the wars in Iraq as well as the plight of the Yazidi women, a minority group in Iraq who were treated appallingly.

Although I have heard David Marr speak on several occasions, his lively repartee and views on Australian society and politics are always entertaining and insightful. Sally Warhaft, a broadcaster and anthropologist, managed to keep David's enthusiasm in check, like Dr Watson to Sherlock Holmes.

The panel discussion about living in the age of anxiety curiously included three UK writers - Marina Benjamin, William Davies and Olivia Sudjic - and was moderated by Australian author Sophie Cunningham. The panel discussed their personal perspectives on the causes of present day anxieties, with particular reference to the impact, both positive and negative, of social media. As a writer, I found the open discussion of their own anxieties as writers to be particularly interesting, although greater cultural diversity of the panel would have made the discussions more broadly relevant.

The discussion between Dr Michael Mohammed Ahmad and hip-hop artist / political activist / public intellectual Akala about race and class in the ruins of Empire was electrifying. Self-educated, Akala has an extraordinary intellect and depth of understanding of racism and interrelated class and gender issues. His view on how ubiquitous racism is and how the experience of racism varies between cultures was backed up with many examples. The contrast between his experiences of racism in the UK compared to Jamaica were particularly interesting, and made more complex when class and gender were added to the mix. Dr Ahmad was an enthusiastic facilitator whose contrasting style and personality helped make this for me one of the highlights of this year's festival.

Peter Godfey Smith's talk on our mysterious cousin, the Octopus was fascinating. Peter is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney with a particular interest in the philosophy of biology and the mind. He explained very clearly how octopuses and other cephalopods such as squid are our distant cousins in an evolutionary sense and are the most intelligent of the invertebrates. The short videos he showed of octopuses interacting in their underwater habitats off the south coast of NSW were amazing. Each of an octopuses eight arms are alive with neurons and have the ability to act independently due to the complexity of the octopus's nervous system and distributed brain. Each sucker of an octopus's arm also has thousands of neurons for taste and touch. What magnificent creatures!

I look forward to discovering more wonderful writers and speakers at Sydney Writers Festival 2020!

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Tamworth Country Music Festival

Michelle Morgan - Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Had a ball at the Tamworth Country Music Festival this year! The city was buzzing with dozens of buskers along the main street, and over 70 venues with free entertainment during the 10-day festival. I managed to see at least six performances each day in marquees, pubs, the Town Hall, Regional Gallery & Library, the Services Club and Bicentennial Park, and on my last night I bought a ticket to the McClymonts concert at the Entertainment Centre, which was sensational. I was amazed at how different all of the acts were, with a variety of country music styles on offer. There were some particularly good fiddle and banjo players, which I surprised myself by really enjoying.

The city centre had a great vibe with music everywhere, market stalls in a pedestrian friendly section of Peel Street, and lots of cafes, pubs, clubs and restaurants catering for all tastes. It was relatively easy to escape the heat and plenty of shops and stalls where you could buy an amazing array of hats. I loved the festival so much, I'm planning to go again next year. 

While I was in Tamworth I donated a copy of my latest novel, Flying through Clouds, to the Tamworth City Library. I was pleased to find there were already copies at two of their branch libraries, as well as two copies of my first novel, Racing the Moon.

Only eleven months to the next Tamworth Country Music Festival!

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Islands to glaciers

Michelle Morgan - Monday, October 08, 2018

I recently had the privilege of spending five amazing weeks in Hawaii, Canada and Alaska where I trekked through rainforests, snorkelled coral reefs, kayaked on rivers and mountain lakes, watched whales breaching, dolphins spinning and brown bears catching salmon. It was the first time I'd ever seen black and brown bears, caribou, moose, bison, dall sheep, wolves and bald eagles. Here are some of my favourite photos from the trip:

Now I need to do some writing!

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Spotlight On @WritingNSW

Michelle Morgan - Monday, July 30, 2018

It was a privilege and a pleasure to be interviewed by Writing NSW for Spotlight On, a monthly feature article on a member of the Writing NSW community:

https://writingnsw.org.au/michelle-morgan/

Thank you Writing NSW for the brilliant job you do supporting writers!

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FLYING THROUGH CLOUDS eBook on sale @Smashwords

Michelle Morgan - Friday, June 29, 2018

To celebrate winning the SCBWI Spark Award and as a thank-you to readers, Flying through Clouds is 50% off on Smashwords from July 1 to July 31:

Buy FLYING THROUGH CLOUDS eBook on Smashwords 

The 50% discount will be applied automatically by adding the book to your cart. 


Enjoy!

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Spark Award for FLYING THROUGH CLOUDS

Michelle Morgan - Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Flying through Clouds looking dapper wearing its new gold Spark Award: 

The Spark Award is awarded annually by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and recognises excellence in children's books that are published independently. Flying through Clouds has won the 2017 Spark Award in the Older Readers category. 

Thank you SCBWI !

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Autumn Revel: a celebration of the Arts in Canberra

Michelle Morgan - Thursday, May 17, 2018

AUTUMN REVEL is a free festival of the Arts to be held this Saturday 19 May 11am to 4pm at the Gorman Arts Centre in Canberra.

There will be live music, dance, open studios, art exhibitions, book and craft stalls, kids’ activities and workshops, local food, wine and beer.

I'll be one of the authors selling books at the tables in the courtyard closest to the ACT Writers Centre.

Flying through Clouds and Racing the Moon will be available at the discounted price of $10 each.

And free Flying through Clouds bookmarks and Racing the Moon balloons!

Hope to see you there!

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Happy 1st birthday FLYING THROUGH CLOUDS

Michelle Morgan - Thursday, April 05, 2018

I can't believe it's a year since this baby was launched!

It has been a hectic twelve months with a book tour, blog tour, interviews, articles and reviews. To be the winner of the Spark Award (Older Readers) 2017 is the icing on the cake.

Happy 1st birthday FLYING THROUGH CLOUDS!

 

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Enjoy the Easter Holidays

Michelle Morgan - Thursday, April 05, 2018

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Author talk video at Berkelouw Book Barn

Michelle Morgan - Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I recently had the privilege of taking part in the Author Talks video project of the Tom Keneally Centre and Sydney Mechanics School of Arts Library. While enjoying the peaceful ambience at Berkelouw Book Barn Bookshop & Café, I chatted about my novels for a five minute video that is now available on YouTube:

 

SMSA short videos for more than 50 Australian authors can now be viewed on YouTube.

Many thanks to the SMSA Library and the Tom Keneally Centre for this wonderful opportunity!

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