Monday, February 9, 2009

Sally Murphy's Blog Tour - The Big Blowie

Welcome to Writing Children's Books with Robyn Opie

Today, we have a special guest, Sally Murphy. Sally is on a blog tour to promote her latest book, The Big Blowie. Thank you, Sally, for including us in your blog tour. We're glad to have you here.

Thanks Robyn. I’m delighted to be here.

1. First things first, Sally. Can you please tell us about Sally Murphy? Who is she? And how did she become an author of children's books?

Moi? I’m a mother, teacher, reviewer of books and, of course, children’s book author. My two passions in life are children and books, so it was a natural progression for me to become a children’s book author. But, more than that, writing for children is what I always wanted to do with my life from when I was a child myself.

When I left school, I did other things before I achieved my dream of being a published author – most notably having my six children, getting married and becoming a teacher, but I never lost sight of the dream and always knew that I would one day be able to devote myself to writing full time. Now that dream is close to a reality, though I still teach part time and, of course, am still a fairly busy mother.

2. The Big Blowie is a wonderful, catchy title. Can you please tell us more about the book? I'm intrigued and I'm sure others are too.

Every afternoon, tourists visit beautiful Lake Blowie. They have afternoon tea at Syd’s place and buy postcards and souvenirs. But the drought has made the lake dry up. A new attraction is needed – and Syd knows just the thing!

The above is the blurb from the back of the book, but as I'm here promoting the book I’ll tell you a bit more.

Syd’s family farm is reliant on income from tourists, who arrive each day with tour guide Dougie. But when Dougie has to stop coming because of the drought draining the lake, Syd decided they need a ‘big thing’ to bring the tourists back – and so The Big Blowie is born. It is made out of farm junk – an old windmill stand holds it up, a car body is the fly’s body, with corrugated iron for wings, old wheels for eyes and so on. But Syd still needs to convince the tourists to come back so needs to convince Dougie to come and see the Big Blowie.

The book is part of the Aussie Aussie Aussie series, published by Aussie School books (owned by Underwoods) and is being distributed by Blake. It can be purchased online directly from Blake at:

3. I know people are always interested in where writers get their ideas. Can you please give us some background on how you came up with the idea for The Big Blowie and what you did to develop this idea into a story?

The idea came from my brainstorming as many Australian things as I could that I thought would fit into this series. The series guide requested Australian subject matter and Australian issues, so I came up with a ‘Big Thing’ being built in the Outback to draw tourists in during the drought. Australians love ‘Big Things’, and what could be more Australian than a big blowfly – they are everywhere!

4. I'm curious about how other writers work. Can you please give us a little information on how you work as a writer?

Mostly, my work style is a bit chaotic. I always have several stories at different stages of incubation. Some are just ideas in my head, rolling around waiting for me to tease them out a little further. Others I have roughly planned and am working on writing a first draft (I do try to only do this to one story at a time, but it doesn’t always work that way). Still other stories have been written down as a first or subsequent draft but are waiting for me to come back and edit further before I send them out. Then of course, there is usually one that I’m working on editing right now. And others still have been put into the too hard basket for now, waiting for me to work out just what needs doing next. Lastly, there are the stories which are complete but unplaced, and the cherished few which are finished, accepted and in various stages of the editing process.

For example, at the moment I am working on the first draft of a verse novel, am at the planning stage with a nonfiction book, have several picture books which have been drafted and are waiting for rewrite, a pile of poems in the same stage, and a new story idea ticking around in my head for which I have done a little research. I also have four accepted trade titles in production which are at various stages of editing. So, from time to time I need to drop everything else to work on these.

When I have a new idea, I usually let it roll around my head for a little while, so that by the time I start writing I have a sound idea of where the story is going, though I rarely write a plan. For picture books I write the first draft in a single sitting, but for longer stories it of course takes longer but i try to work on it every day until that draft is done. Then, when it’s finished I put the draft aside for a while (days, weeks, sometimes months) before I start editing, so that I come back to it with a fresh eye. Editing is the hard part because when you bond with what you’ve written it’s hard to see its deficiencies. That’s why I belong to a critique group, and get my crit partners to critique anything I’m not sure about. . When I’m happy with a story (usually after many drafts), I send it off to a publisher. If it is rejected more than a couple of times, I usually take another look and see if the distance of time hallows me to see anything new.

5. I know you have another book coming out soon. Can you tell us about any upcoming releases? Or what's next for Sally Murphy?

Oh yes. I am very excited about my next book. It is called Pearl Verses the World, and will be released by Walker Books Australia in May. This is my first verse novel, aimed at younger readers and beautifully illustrated by Heather Potter.

In November I also have a picture book, Snowy, being released by Random House Australia and illustrated by David Murphy (yes, he is related, being my brother in law).

I also have a picture book being released by Koala Books, called Constantine and Aristotle, and being illustrated by Ben Wood. Unfortunately, I don’t yet have a release date for this one. And in 2010 I have another picture book with New Frontier.

So there’s lots of new things coming and lots of excitement at my end. What’s next is to enjoy each new release (and promote them, of course) and to write more stories.

6. What advice would you give to writers who want to write a children's book and get it published?

Read as many children’s books as you can – new release books, mostly – and write as often as you can. Don’t write one story then try to get it published. You must keep writing and revising and learning. Chances are, the first story you write won’t get published, but if it does, then you’ll want to be already working on the next one.

As well as writing and reading you need to study the market. You need to know who is publishing the kind of book you are writing, and you need to get a feel for what sorts of books appeal to kids. Visit bookstores, publishers’ websites, review sites, writers’ blogs, message forums. Spend lots of time immersing yourself in the world of publishing.

Importantly, if you are easily discouraged, writing is the wrong career for you. You need to be persistent, resilient, determined. The hard knocks can be very hard – but they make it all the more wonderful when you finally hold a published book in your hands.

Thanks for sharing with us, Sally. We wish you great success with The Big Blowie and your blog tour. Thanks for having me, Robyn.

If you’d like to follow Sally’s tour you can visit her at these blogs on these days:
February 8 Dee Scribe Writing Blog - htttp://
February 9 Let’s have Words -
February 10 Writing Children's Books with Robyn Opie -
February 11 Spinning Pearls -
February 12 The Book Chook -

Best wishes to all,
Robyn Opie


The Book Chook said...

Each day I am learning a little more about you, Sally. I loved your advice to writers here.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who is curious about how other writers work, Robyn. I learn something each time someone asks one of those questions.

Thanks to you both!

Sally_Odgers said...

I loved the Big Blowie tour. It's such fun to find out more about the genesis of stories, from the writers', readers' and marketing point of view. It would be WONDERFUL if we could coax an editor into being guest blogger.

Sally M is, of course, my idol. She is Organised. Or at least, she is a good enough actress to pretend she is.