Interview: Sally Murphy

Sally MurphySally Murphy is the author of the verse novels Roses are Blue, Pearl Verses the World and Toppling and the picture book Do Not Forget Australia.

Comprehensive teacher notes are available for Roses are Blue.


Why are you drawn to writing verse novels?

I love the apparent simplicity of the form, which conceals a wonderful depth. From the time I read my first verse novel I knew I wanted to write them – but it took me a while to find a story which demanded to be told that way (this was Pearl Verses the World). Not every story needs to be told in this form, and not every story is suited to the form, but when it works, a verse novel can be really powerful, and accessible to readers of all abilities. A reluctant reader will find a verse novel attractive because of the white space, the relative shortness and the fact that a verse novel doesn’t beat around the bush. An advanced reader will love the layers of meaning and the space given to delve deeper.


Your verse novels gently deal with a variety of sensitive issues such as a disabled parent, loss of a loved one and terminal illness. Why you think it is important to introduce young readers to these issues?

The world is a tough place. For some children, these situations are very real, and it’s nice for them to be able to connect with child characters going through tough situations. For all children, having the chance to experience vicariously a whole range of situations through literature is affirming, meaning that if in future they do come across tough situations they know that there can be hope. And children like to read about real life stuff that evokes sympathy and empathy.


Many students find writing poetry difficult, what advice can you give to aspiring young poets and their teachers?

Poetry is fun. It doesn’t have to be scary and it doesn’t need a whole lot of rules. The only real difference between poetry and prose is that the poet gets to choose where the lines end. Everything else – rhyme, syllable counting, imagery and so on, can make a poem sing, but they are optional extras.

Roses Are Blue


You have visited a lot of schools and libraries to talk about your books. What’s the best question you have been asked? What’s the strangest question?

A boy named Cassidy once asked me the name of Pearl’s cat. This surprised me, because I didn’t know Pearl had a cat. I went back to the book and, sure enough, there was a cat in many of the illustrations, which I hadn’t really thought about. In answering the question, I not only gave the cat a name, but suddenly had a whole new story in my head about this cat. Although this story hasn’t been published, it is proof that story ideas can come from anywhere.

Not a question as sPearl Verses the Worlduch, but the strangest one was when an excited teacher asked me if I was a festival presenter, then gathered her whole class around in a festival bookshop and said “Class. This is a real author. This is Sally… Morgan.” I went from being stoked that she recognised me to a kind of awkward feeling of having to tell her I wasn’t as famous or brilliant as she thought I was.


What do you hope readers will take away from Roses are Blue?

I hope they’ll realise that life can be rich and wonderful, even in difficult, even horrible, circumstances. Tough stuff can happen but life can still offer hope. I also hope they’ll realise that poetry is rich, and that real friends don’t judge on appearances, or your family situation.