May 12, 2022

Do you believe in magic?

Do you believe in magic? Local author, Sarah Armstrong does. Her new book – and her first book for children – is called Big Magic. It’s about an 11-year old who has ‘big magic’ in her veins.

Released in early May this year, Sarah could not be more delighted with the response she’s already had from readers. “I’ve had messages from kids who bought the book at the launch on Saturday and have finished it already,” she says. “I love this because I was a kid who gobbled up books.”

Sarah also sees magic in the Northern Rivers, the region she’s chosen to call home since 1997. “I moved from an urban environment and working a gritty intense 9-5 life to a tiny cabin in Upper Huonbrook, where I could go to a waterhole to swim every afternoon,” she says. “It felt like I was in a dream, it felt so magical.”

“Every novel I’ve written is set entirely or partly in this area,” Sarah says of her books Salt Rain, Promise and His Other House. “There’s a big flat rock in Huonbrook that appears in every one.”

The word ‘magic’ also applies for Sarah’s writing group that includes Tristan Bancks, Zanni Louise, Lian Tanner and Deborah Abela. “I drop into a different space when we meet at a peaceful, beautiful restored church,” she says. “There’s something about having others writing nearby. There’s magic that comes when writing in a group.”

Across the early weeks of 2022, Sarah instigated a different group, that created a small moment of magic for those working incredibly hard on the Covid front line. “In early January, we were hearing how stressed and stretched hospital staff were,” she recalls. “There were so many people with Covid, waiting to hear if they had Covid and caring for families with Covid, that staff were having to do double shift after double shift, all in full PPE.”

Sarah’s instinct to make a plate of biscuits grew into was Front up for the frontline, an organised effort to get meals and snacks to staff at Byron, Lismore and then Tweed hospitals as well as ambulance centres.

The crowd funding, around $34,000, was all used in a tightly-run effort by a dozen volunteers that took Sarah back to her days of journalism and television production. “I used to troubleshoot and think logistics all the time,” she says. “So different to my life as a writer, which is so inward and quiet.”

Just as Front up was winding up, Sarah’s attention turned to a new need for support; flood recovery. Huonbrook, where she used to dream during creek swims, was one of many parts of the Northern Rivers devastated by flood.

Along with Byron Writers Festival, Sarah sourced donations of books from publishers to replace the books in flooded school libraries. She also donated a signed advance copy of Big Magic as part of a literary-focussed fundraiser for Lismore’s rebuilding after the floods that raised over $56,000.

That’s big magic.

Vivienne Pearson is a freelance writer whose writing lives at viviennepearson.com

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