About Me

Hi. My name is Sally Hall and I write YA. In 2019 I was shortlisted for the Varuna Publisher Introduction Program (I was also shortlisted in 2016). In 2014 I won a PIP Fellowship for a young adult manuscript. In 2013 I was awarded the CBCA NSW Charlotte Waring Barton Award which included a mentorship with Penguin Books Australia. I've had magazine and short stories published in various anthologies and placed in many competitions. I also write in a corporate capacity for my 'day job'. My website is www.sallyhall.com.au.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Great YA Reads

Book Review – Stone Girl by Eleni Hale

Stone Girl is a powerful and confronting story about the Australian out of home care system. It is heavy and honest and draws on elements of the authors own experience.

When her mother dies, twelve-year-old Sophie is moved into a foster home. Some of the other children there are troubled, damaged individuals. Sophie’s world has crumbled and now she has to deal with violence, unpredictable personalities and the oppressive uncertainty of her life.

As time passes Sophie’s is over being disappointed by adults and begins to rebel against authority. She caves to peer pressure to feel like she belongs to something. To someone.

The characters are so real it makes you ache for them. Their hurt and vulnerability are covered up with bravado and sass. Really, they need stability and love.

The novel is gritty and raw. It shows the reality of the system that desperately needs more resources to help these children whose parents have died or of those not capable of fulfilling their responsibilities.

Stone Girl is an exceptional first novel for author Eleni Hale. I can’t wait to read more of her work in the future.
Inside the Tiger by Hayley Lawrence
This YA novel has it all...drama, complicated relationships, romance and intrigue. 
When Bel writes to Micah, an Australian on death row in a Thai prison, it's for a school assignment. When he writes back she's drawn into his world.

Letter by letter they reveal to each other pieces of themselves that no one else gets to see but the deeper Bel falls for Micah, the more her relationships at home are put at risk. Her father, a politician set to increase prison sentences would never understand and Eli, the boy next door, has feelings for Bel that he can no longer hide.

This story draws you in until you can practically feel the clock ticking between letters, the desperate tug of wanting something you can't have and Bel's hope that Micah could eventually be transferred home to Australia.

I couldn't put this book down. I had to keep reading to find out what happened to Bel, Micah and Eli. It made me cry and smile. It made me think about prisoners in a new light and I really cared what happened to the characters.

I highly recommend reading the 'From the Author' section to understand how this story came about. Hayley Lawrence is a brilliant author and clearly has a big heart too!

For more information see https://www.penguin.com.au/books/inside-the-tiger-9780143788959


Thursday, June 1, 2017

The magic of Varuna and Writing Retreats

I've said it before and I'll say it again... there is something magical about Varuna http://www.varuna.com.au/.

I originally came to Varuna after winning a Publisher Introduction Program Fellowship and I have come every year since.

So, what's so great about it?

  • You are away from home and all the associated responsibilities (work, kids, washing, cooking, cleaning, pick-ups and drop-offs etc).
  • You are given your own room and writing desk.
  • You meet like-minded people at dinner each night and have wonderful discussions about your creative endeavours.
  • The house was built by the Australian writer Eleanor Dark and husband Dr Eric Dark in the late 1930s and is now recognised as a site of cultural significance. There are also beautiful gardens and surrounds.
  • When you need a break you can walk into the nearby town of Katoomba.
  • You can write morning, noon or night without distraction or disruption. I swear a week here is equivalent to months at home.
  • The dinner every night is amazing thanks to Sheila.
  • You leave feeling energised and ready to take on the writing world.
  • Most importantly when you are here you feel like a 'real' writer even if you are as yet unpublished.
Other Writing Retreats on Offer

There are many other writing retreats on offer around Australia.

Romance Writers' of Australia Retreat in Bawley Point, NSW

Fiona McIntosh's masterclasses in South Australia

Sunshine Writers' Retreat in Queensland

Society of Women Writers' Retreat in Wilton NSW

Tasmanian Writers' Retreat with author Maggie MacKellar

Two day workshops (with nearby accommodation) at Gondor Writers' Centre, Queensland

Winter Writers' Retreat (South Coast of NSW)

Here's a list of 2017 writing retreats all over the world. Check out the comments section for even more suggestions.

Do it Yourself

If an organised group writing retreat doesn't appeal to you why not create your own? Lots of accommodation on Airbnb and Facebook advertise themselves as Writing Retreats. Or you could just hire a cabin the bush somewhere for some peace and quiet.

However, I have met some wonderful writers through my years of coming to Varuna and I think that definitely adds to the experience. I've kept in touch with a few and we workshop ideas or complain about rejections and celebrate wins together - that kind of connection in the writing industry is priceless.

Good luck. Happy writing.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Great posts about writing & meeting Rachael Johns

Out NowOn Good Friday we went to the Sydney Royal Easter Show. It was crazy, with so many people that you ended up just going where the flow of the crowd took you because it was too much effort to navigate away. We had fun but it was hard work!

The highlight for the kids was, of course, the show bags full of lollies. For me however, it was meeting Rachael Johns, author of many rural romance books including The Patterson Girls and recently released Outback Sisters. I really enjoy Rachael's writing because there is always a strong story line or action element to her books so that the romance factor almost becomes secondary to the drama unfolding.
Rachael was friendly, approachable and seemed genuinely happy to meet people at her stand. She even gave me some tips for my own writing including joining the Romance Writers of Australia who have helped her enormously over the years.  
I heard about Rachael's visit to the Easter Show via her facebook posts https://www.facebook.com/RachaelJohnsRomance?ref=ts&sk=wall so it pays to like authors you admire on facebook and keep up to date with their appearances.
Lately, I've seen a heap of posts with writing tips and so I thought I'd share in case you missed them:
Ten things that editors don't like
Alisdair Daws reviews writing software packages
Alison Tait's top ten posts about writing
How to stick with your writing by Natasha Lester
To plot or not from Kate Forsyth
Wildcare Tasmania Nature writing competition ($5000 first prize)
Happy writing!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

8 reasons why entering competitions is so important for emerging writers

There are many writing competitions out there and I believe it is vitally important for new and emerging writers to enter them regularly. Why? Well, let me tell you...

1. Competitions teach you to work to a deadline

This is a skill you will need if you want to be a writer. There's no point being brilliant if it takes you forever to finish a paragraph because no one will ever get to read it. Set goals for your word counts and really try to stick to them.

2. Competitions often have word limits

Word limits can be frustrating but they teach you to make sure that every single word earns its place in your story. You may have to start the action in a different way than you originally wanted just to save on the word count but more often than not your story will be stronger for the cut. Make sure you stick to the prescribed word limit for competitions though, most will immediately disqualify your entry if you go over.

3. Competitions stretch you as a writer

Many competitions have themes or a phrase that you must incorporate into your entry. A theme that you wouldn't normally deal with might give you an idea for a new full length manuscript in the future or a different style of writing than you would normally go for.

4. Feedback

Some competitions offer feedback as part of your entry. One such competition is the CYA Competition (for YA and children's writing) http://www.cyaconference.com/program/competition/aspiring-unpublished/. At the conclusion of the competition entrants are emailed the judges score sheets which include comments and suggestions for improving your story. So, you might win, you might not but at the very least you'll have some industry feedback to improve your writing for next time.

5. Exposure

Entering competitions exposes your work to new people. Judges are often published writers, publishers or industry insiders who know what they are talking about.

6. Writing Resume Credits

If you win or are shortlisted for a writing competition it is an entry you can record on your writing resume. When you submit a manuscript to a publisher or agent you will be asked what your writing history is. If you have some competition wins or anthology entries to your name it will look like you are dedicated to becoming a published writer.

7. Having your work published

Some competitions include the winners (or top 10 entries) in an anthology that is published at their expense. You are usually sent a copy for yourself but can purchase additional copies for friends and family.

8. Endorsement of your work

Writing can be a frustrating and lonely occupation sometimes so it's nice to have your work acknowledged by a third party who doesn't know you or worry about hurting your feelings. If they picked you as the winner, it's because your work is genuinely the best.

How do you find these competitions?

  • Join your local or state Writers' Centre and they will email you opportunities and competitions
  • Google
  • Industry newsletters e.g. Buzz Words http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.com/

I recently was placed on the shortlist for the 2016 Varuna Publisher Introduction Program. http://www.varuna.com.au/varuna/index.php/programs/varunanews/item/508-pip16-shortlist

The winner is announced in April. I was lucky enough to win a PIP in 2014 and it was an amazing experience to work with Stephen Measday and spend a week at Varuna. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Keep writing. Sally x

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Writers Unleashed Festival

The Writers Unleashed Festival this year was held on 14th November at Gymea Tradies.

There are always lots of good points about attending festivals but let me tell you what I love the most.

  • The freedom of picking which sessions you want to go to. There's always more than one though...sometimes it's a very hard decision to make.
  • Being exposed to new authors. This year I discovered YA author, Trinity Doyle. I bought Trinity's debut novel Pieces of Sky at the festival (and got it signed). I started reading it almost the second I got home and it is an amazing book. It's about Lucy, a girl who has recently lost her brother in a surfing accident and she's dealing with her sudden fear of water, a new boy in town and the fact that her brother's phone is getting weird, mysterious text messages. It was uplifting and tear producing and I loved it.
  • Hearing from the Publishing Panel. This year there were four publishers who gave us an insight into the publishing industry and generously answered any question the crowd members asked.
  • Meeting new people, networking, catching up with old friends.
  • Learning things! Ber Carroll's session on characterisation was thought provoking and I also enjoyed Pamela Cook's presentation on getting published.
  • Buying books! The speakers usually have their books for sale should you wish to purchase them. You can even get them signed (to yourself or for a gift).
  • Having a day off from washing, running kids around etc.
  • Sitting in the crowd and secretly (don't tell anyone...) imagining myself giving the presentation one day.
I had a great time and I will definitely go back again next year. Thanks to all the organisers who donate their time to make this wonderful festival a reality. 


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Varuna, I love you...

I have recently returned from my second visit to Varuna (http://varuna.com.au/). It was just as magical as the first time! I got so much work done that I estimate it was equivalent to three months of work I would have got done at home.

Typewriter in Eleanor Dark's studio with my laptop in the background

So what's so great about Varuna? Well, let me elaborate...

  • It's a beautiful, historical home full of character, books, amazing vintage treasures and gardens
  • You have your own room and writing space
  • A delicious meal is prepared for you every night so that means no time wasted on grocery shopping or food preparation
  • There are four other writers there each time meaning you will meet some amazing, like-minded people
  • There are huge bookshelves of works by writers who have visited Varuna House in the past
  • It's close to the quaint and quirky town of Katoomba and walking tracks
  • You can write, write, write all day and night if you so choose!
I would encourage any aspiring writers out there to apply for the programs offered by Varuna House. I was lucky enough to win a Publisher Introduction Program last year (and hence my first visit to Varuna). It is truly an amazing place.

 I hope to go back again next year!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Time Out

View from my hotel in Dubrovnik. Yep, absolutely gorgeous.

I was recently lucky enough to have some well deserved and highly needed time out with a holiday to the UK and Croatia.
It was totally amazing, although not that relaxing with all the things I managed to fit in to such a short break... anyway I'm slowly recovering from the jetlag and it's time to get seriously back into my writing.
Here's some interesting blog posts I've found this week. Hope you like them!
Hope you have an amazing day.
Happy Writing.