Artist Interview: Sarah Laing

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To what do you owe your love of storytelling?

My love of reading and books!

What were your all-time favourite childhood books or stories?

Where do I begin? I’m sure to leave some out and regret it later. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I bought Maurice Sendak’s In The Night Kitchen and Where the Wild Things Are, and Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine. I also bought Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea pretty soon after my son was born. I had a book of folk tales collected by Ruth Manning-Sanders that I adored. As a middle reader I had numerous favourite writers: I loved Judy Blume, Joan Aitken, Nina Bawden, CS Lewis, E Nesbit, Susan Cooper, Margaret Mahy, Cynthia Voigt, Robert C O’Brien. I read Goodnight Mr Tom, Harriet The Spy and A Wrinkle in Time over and over. And of course, being a comics fan, I read all the Tintin and Asterix books (I was team Asterix) and Charlie Brown, The Far Side, and Calvin & Hobbes, which seemed like the best comics ever.


As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot or avatar?

I really like otters. Oh – one more for the favourite books – Ring of Bright Water!


What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I have been to Katherine Mansfield’s birthplace numerous times, and as a child, my parents took us to Beatrix Potter’s Lake District (another favourite!). My first literary/artistic pilgrimage as an adult was to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s houses in Mexico City.


If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Patience, patience. It will happen, just not exactly when you want it to.


What do you think most characterises your writing?

My ability to find images to complement it.

Patience, patience. It will happen, just not exactly when you want it to.

What do you do when you are not writing?

I like reading, hanging out with my family, listening to music, going on walks, gardening, cooking, trying to declutter my very messy house, and trying to find the perfect vintage dress at the local Sallys [op shop/thrift shop – not sure what the common Australian parlance is].


Where do you find your ideas?

I find my ideas from the things that happen around me – like the tailless skink that went missing under our bed yesterday and leapt out of my novel two hours later, scuttling around the dining tabletop in a series of Ss. I also find going for walks is an excellent way of remembering stories and figuring out how you can translate them to the page.


How do you know when a story is finished?

I don’t! In comics, I will often decide it has to be a certain length or shape and finish it when it fills the allotted space. I will also often put stories aside and then go back to them to see if they feel done or they need more. With a novel or graphic novel, you sometimes get the feeling that you could keep improving it forever and you have to put it aside or you’ll never have anything to show for all your years of hard work. You’re finished with it, more than it’s finished with you.


Want to see Sarah at the festival? Book here for her workshop, Art School.