Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 9.02.18 amToday, I’m very excited to welcome writerly friend and award winning verse novelist, Sally Murphy. I’m going to be talking about Sally’s latest wonderful book, Roses Are Blue, and Sally will share some great writing tips.


Roses Are Blue by award winning, Sally Murphy is another deeply moving verse novel about a real life family dilemma that a young child, in this case Amber Rose, must face.

Amber Rose and her family are dealing with tragedy and change. But sometimes hope blooms suddenly.

I have not got used to my new mum.

Even though I love her

(I absolutely love her),

I miss my happy,




smiling mum.

Something terrible has happened to Amber’s mum. After a serious car accident, she looks different and she can’t do many of the things she used to.

She’s still the same person inside, but will the kids at Amber’s new school understand that when they meet her at the Mother’s Day High Tea?

Amber is a beautiful, sensitive, and totally believable character learning to cope with massive changes in her life.  Her emotions of fear, embarrassment and love are so authentic.

She is vulnerable and flawed and  Sally Murphy skillfully draws the reader into Amber’s world and heart.

I love the way Amber changes and grows through the story with the truths she learns about families and friendship, and the things that are really important. She also learns a lot about herself.

Sally MurphyThe writing in this story is beautiful and tender, full of imagery and symbolism that present difficult issues in a way that young children won’t find confronting.

There are so many parallels to be drawn in this story and I love the way Amber expresses herself through her art, and it provides a strong connection to her mother, and to the past and the future.

This is a heartwarming story about compassion, understanding and trust.

I can see Roses are Blue being read by many just for its sheer beauty, but it will also be a valuable classroom book to be read and discussed.


Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 9.09.11 amMy love of verse novels developed when I discovered those written by Margaret Wild (Jinxed and One Night). I decided then that I wanted to write in the form one day, and that infatuation continued to grow when I discovered works by Steven Herrick, Catherine Bateson, Lorraine Marwood and more. It took a while to find the right story for a verse novel, but when a girl called Pearl started telling me her tale, I wrote my first verse novel, Pearl Verses the World. Later, I met (in my imagination) a boy named John who similarly wanted his tale told that way, in Toppling. Most recently, Amber Rose was intent on sharing her journey to coming to terms with big changes, also in verse.

I love writing in verse, but when I started writing verse novels I did it instinctively. I didn’t know how to do it, I just had a go. Having now written three, I still work largely by instinct, but when I reflect there are some things I do which work well for me, and may help you if you choose to try the form. Here, then, are my five tips for writing a verse novel:

  1. Love the form. Don’t try to write a verse novel unless you love verse novels. This may sound obvious, but lots of writers are tempted to try a new form because it features in awards list, or because another writer is doing it. Be true to yourself as a writer and write what you love. That passion shines through in your writing.
  2. Read lots of verse novels, but don’t try to copy them. I have been influenced by the work of Australian verse novelists like Steven Herrick, Lorraine Marwood and Sherryl Clark and also those from further afield including Sharon Creech. But it is important that my work has its own style, a point of difference. Reading widely assures that I see lots of different techniques and encourages me to try different things. I don’t want to write like any of those writers – though I do wish to be as good as them, one day.
  3. When you decide to write a verse novel, decide whether the story you have in mind is likely to work in this way. Most verse novels are written in first person voice (though they may have multiple voices rather than just one) and the form seems best suited to topics with a high level of emotion or conflict. If you prefer lots of description, lots of narration, or even lots of dialogue, you may find prose is a better fit.
  4. TopplingBe clear on your story arc. Yes, this is a series of poems – or perhaps one very long poem – but it is also a narrative. Is there a clear conflict and resolution? Are there twists and turns? Does the tension build? Other story elements such as character development and dialogue are also really vital.
  5. Consider whether your verse novel works as poetry. Although I write in poetry, I usually do so instinctively at the draft stage, and then during the revision process I focus more on the poetic techniques, looking for layers of meaning, considering line lengths and also reworking my use of techniques such as rhythm, repetition, onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, imagery, and rhyme.

Thanks for these great tips, Sally.

I look forward to reading more of your wonderful verse novels.


P.S. Next week we’re looking at a different form of poetry – Bush Poetry – and resident expert, Stephen Whiteside will be here to share his tips with us.



4 thoughts on “POETRY WRITING TIPS – WITH SALLY MURPHY – Writing Verse Novels

  1. I’m hooked. I LOVED Pearl and Toppling. Sally’s tips were interesting to read and as one who finds prose a natural fit, her advice not to try verse unless you love it made such sense. That advice fits all forms of writing – but I think it particularly fits this particular genre. Hats off to Sally and Steven, Lorraine and Sherryl – I so admire and envy those who do verse novels well. And Sally? Huge congrats on Roses are Blue – I know you and Amber Rose will do well.

    Thanks Dee – another great article. xxx

  2. Thanks Kerri,

    It is always interesting to read how writers write isn’t it? The verse novel I wrote for my Nevada Mentorship came to me in that form. And everything I’ve written since has been prose – although I think one of my books that isn’t working should perhaps be a verse novel. It definitely has to be a natural fit, whatever form you use. I must admit, I love all the verse novelists that Sally mentioned and I agree that Amber Rose will do well.

    I hope things are going well in your writing world:)


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