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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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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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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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CBCA ISC Children's Literary Lunch 2017

Michelle Morgan - Monday, August 14, 2017

It was another fun Children's Literary Lunch at the Fraternity Club in Wollongong last Wednesday. This annual  event is organised by the Children's Book Council of Australia Illawarra-South Coast Sub-branch. 

I joined 15 other authors and illustrators, and an audience of nearly 200 students and teacher-librarians for a fantastic day filled with stories, books and drawing. I had the privilege of being the guest author at a table of students and their teacher-librarian from Port Kembla Public School.

The morning program consisted of three minute pitches from the authors and illustrators. I donned a woollen scarf and 1930s flying goggles to deliver my pitch about my new novel, Flying through Clouds. After lunch, we were entertained by Adam Murphy with his sketching techniques and stories from his time working on films such as The Lion King, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid.

Thanks CBCA ISC for a great day!

 

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Adventures of an indie author

Michelle Morgan - Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I've taken the first steps towards self-publishing my new novel - Flying through Clouds - a follow-on to Racing the Moon. After attending an excellent two-day indie publishing seminar at the NSW Writers' Centre in August, I put together a project plan and launched straight into it. I'll be sharing my experiences on this blog over the next few months.

I've hired a professional editor to copy edit my manuscript - to check for consistency of style, grammar, spelling, sentence structure and punctuation, and make recommendations for appropriate changes. They will also look for consistency of voice, characterisation, narrative and format. When they send the copyedited manuscript back to me, I'll systematically go through the Word Track changes and comments, accepting or rejecting them and making further changes where necessary. Based on my previous experience working with editors at Allen & Unwin on my first book, I'll be accepting almost all of the track changes, and taking on board the advice to make further changes to the manuscript. I estimate this process will take me at least a month. I also had a structural edit done about a year ago with a different editor who advised on structural aspects of the manuscript, and as a result, I made significant changes to the manuscript - deleting some chapters, writing new ones, moving a few chapters around, developing voice, the characters and narrative, and a sense of time and place.

While the copy editor is working on my manuscript, I have been busy buying ISBNs, a barcode and QR code from Thorpe Bowker. As I intend to publish Flying through Clouds in different formats, I need more than one ISBN - one for the paperback book and one for each different eBook format. I bought a set of ten ISBNs, one barcode of the ISBN for the paperback, and a QR code, which links to the Books page of my website:

There is no information about Flying through Clouds on the Books page yet because I need to hire a book designer to do the cover. I recently put together a book design brief and contacted a few book designers whose book covers I liked and obtained quotes. My book designer is working on some concepts at the moment.

In my next blog post, I'll  give an update on the copy edit and new book cover. I also have to put together a media list and investigate printing and distributors.

So much to do but one step at a time.

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Byron Writers Festival 2016 highlights

Michelle Morgan - Thursday, August 11, 2016

It was a wet and windy three days at Elements of Byron in Byron Bay for the Byron Writers Festival 2016, but what an amazing program and range of authors.

So many sessions to choose from with six concurrent sessions from 9am to at least 5pm every day, not to mention two literary dinners.

Annabel Crabb was in fine form in her conversation with Chris Hanley. Her witty insights into political shenanigans brought gales of laughter and tears to the eyes. Annabel was joined by other political journalists, including Kerry O'Brien, Sarah Ferguson, Leigh Sales, Nikki Savva and Paddy Manning, all of whom have written books on political subjects in recent years. Their forensic discussion of recent events and players was fascinating.

Being a YA author, I was keenly interested in what authors such as John Marsden, Anna Feinberg, Nick Earls, Damon Young and Tristan Bancks had to say about their novels and writing process. Other authors that contributed to lively literary discussions, include Thomas Keneally, Debra Adelaide, Charlotte Wood, Anna Funder, Kathryn Heyman, Emily Maguire, Drusilla Modjeska, Kate Forsyth, Louise Doughty and Dominic Smith, all of whom gave thoughtful insights into their books and writing.

Something completely different was Archibald Prize Unwrapped, in which Rosemarie Milsom did a great job keeping the loquacious barrister, Charles Waterstreet in check while encouraging her introverted and talented artist brother, Nigel Milsom, who won the Archibald in 2015 with his stunning portrait of Charles Waterstreet.

My favourite sessions were Feminism Now and Indigenous Lives through Women's Eyes. Anne Summers did a brilliant job as chair of Feminism Now, allowing the younger feminist writers, including Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Melanie Joosten and Emily Maguire, to voice their concerns and individual viewpoints. You couldn't help but be impressed by their lively discussions and thought-provoking arguments.

The Indigenous writers were just as impressive, with Melissa Lucashenko chairing and contributing to the discussions with Delta Kay and Tara June Winch. Their love of Aboriginal culture, story and writing was inspiring. After hearing Tara read from her beautifully written novel, Swallow the Air, I went to the bookshop marquee and bought the book.

Mary Ryan's Books did an amazing job selling books at the festival. The bookshop marquee was often busier than the food and coffee stalls.

The sky was blue and the sun was shining when I left Byron Bay, inspired by all the wonderful authors I'd met.

Many thanks to the organisers, sponsors and volunteers who did an amazing job.

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Big Book Day Out 2015

Michelle Morgan - Monday, September 07, 2015

BIG BOOK DAY OUT, hosted by the Children's Book Council of Australia NSW Branch, is being held at the NSW Writers' Centre in Rozelle on Sunday 13 September 2015 from 10am to 2.30pm.

I'll be one of the many children's / YA authors at this fun event. Bring a picnic, relax in the story tent, enjoy presentations by authors and illustrators or try your hand at one of the many craft activities. There is a book shop where you can purchase books on the day, including my debut novel, Racing the Moon.

See you at the CBCA Illawarra South Coast table between 10am and 12.30pm! Free face painting, craft activities and Racing the Moon balloons.

 

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What a buzz at Big Book Day Out!

Michelle Morgan - Monday, September 01, 2014

It was such fun at Big Book Day Out 2014 at the beautiful NSW Writers' Centre in Rozelle. There was a real fairground atmosphere with so much happening - the variety of activities and talks was truly amazing. 

The sun was shining as authors and illustrators entertained children and their families at stalls, under trees, on rugs, anywhere there was room, and the audiences were enthusiastic and appreciative. The event was a kaleidoscope of books, talks, art and craft, readings, stories, signings, jokes, showbags, posters, postcards, bookmarks and balloons.

In my session, "The moon, balloons and books", the corny moon jokes were a big hit, as were the four copies of Racing the Moon that I gave away as prizes to the young people who answered my jokes correctly. Before and after the session, my husband and I couldn't blow up Racing the Moon balloons fast enough.

 

Who would have thought that a children's literary event like Big Book Day Out could generate such a buzz and excitement? Many thanks to the organisers - the Children's Book Council of Australia (NSW Branch) and Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Well done!

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Children's Literary Lunch

Michelle Morgan - Friday, August 08, 2014

I had such a great time on Wednesday 6 August at the 2014 Literary Lunch of the Illawarra South-Coast Children's Book Council of Australia. With more than 160 guests from schools around the Illawarra and South Coast and fifteen guest authors, the day was all about stories and books - bringing them to life and encouraging a love and enjoyment of reading and stories, whatever the genre.

I had the privilege of sitting with ten students and the Teacher-Librarian (Sharon) from Jamberoo Public School as well as Jean, a CBCA representative. The students had so many questions to ask about my novel, Racing the Moon, and their enthusiasm was infectious. The historical photos that I brought along to give them a feel for what it was like in the early 1930s (the period when my book is set) were a big hit.

The really exciting part of the day was the three-minute pitch sessions by the authors: Di Bates, Toni Brisland, Jill Bruce, Lynda Calder, WeiChim, Bill Condon, Di Ellis, Sandy Fussell, Peter Macinnis, Belinda Murrell, Lillian Rodrigues-Pang, Oliver Pommavanh, Lesley Vamos, Jodie Wells-Slowgrove and myself.

Each of the pitches were so different - some authors talked a bit about themselves and their writing, some concentrated on a particular book, story or character, and some, like Oliver, just went wild. The pitches were all timed and there wasn't a computer or Powerpoint presentation in sight. It was very entertaining and the students loved it. Lillian, a professional oral storyteller, also gave a longer and very energetic performance of one of her stories after lunch, which kept the audience captivated to the very end.

After the presentations, I was so busy chatting to students, signing their program booklets and generally having a lot of fun, that I forgot to take any photos!

A big thank you to the CBCA ISC organisers and to the enthusiastic students and teacher-librarians who made the literary lunch such a special event.

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Literary events for August

Michelle Morgan - Monday, August 04, 2014

I've been busy preparing talks for the following events:

Monday 4 August - Guest speaker at the Australian Federation of Graduate Women (Southern Highlands Branch) annual general meeting at Bowral Golf Club.

Wednesday 6 August - one of the guest authors at the Children's Book Council of Australia Illawarra South Coast Literary Lunch in Wollongong - I'll be giving a short talk to the 160 teachers, librarians, students and other authors attending.

Sunday 31 AugustBig Book Day Out, presented by the Children's Book Council of Australia NSW Branch, at the NSW Writers' Centre at Rozelle - I'll be one of the many children's / YA authors chatting to people at this fun event. Bring a picnic, relax in the story tent, witness children's illustrators in action, participate in the Costume Parade, try your hand at craft and enjoy the sunshine. See you at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators stand!

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