Sofie Laguna originally studied to be a lawyer, but after deciding law was not for her, she trained as an actor. Sofie began her writing career as an author for children and has written over twenty books for young people. Her work has been published in the US, the UK and in translation throughout Europe and Asia. She has been shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Award, and twice been awarded Honour Book by the Children’s
Book Council of Australia.
Sofie’s second novel for adults, The Eye of the Sheep won the 2015 Miles Franklin Award. It was also shortlisted for the Stella Prize, and longlisted for the IMPAC Dublin IMPAC International Literary Award. The Eye of the Sheep has been optioned for film.
Sofie’s first novel for adults, One Foot Wrong released in 2008, was published throughout Europe, the US and the UK, was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award.
In 2017 Sofie released her third novel for adults. The Choke won best novel in the 2018 Indie Awards, was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier Literary Awards, the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal Award, the ABIA Award, the Voss Award, and longlisted for the Kibble Award, the Stella Award and the Dublin IMPAC International Literary Award. The Melbourne Theatre Company has optioned theatrical rights.
Sofie’s new novel for adults, Infinite Splendours, is scheduled for release in October 2020. She continues to write for young people, and in 2021 she will release her next novel for children, The Song of Lewis Carmichael, followed by a picture book, When You Are Older.
Sofie Laguna regularly presents to both children and adults.
In her presentations for lower-primary students, including kindergarten and preps, Sofie draws on her acting skills; she performs a play based on her book My Yellow Blanky. Sofie plays the main character, an energetic and wilful five-year-old, and the children from the audience play the other parts, complete with costumes and props. The show is dynamic and highly interactive, providing the students with an opportunity to understand the connection between text and performance and how exciting it can be. Sofie also uses her successful picture book, Too Loud Lily as a tool for interactive performance. With this text students have the opportunity to work together as a chorus, with Sofie in the role of ‘conductor’. These sessions celebrate the relationship between words, sound and action.
MIDDLE / UPPER PRIMARY:
There is also a strong theatrical element in Sofie’s presentations for middle and upper primary students. After speaking with students about the different inspirations for her stories, Sofie plays director and the students act out scenes from her novels. She has found this to be an excellent way of engaging the audience in her work and giving them a deeper understanding of character. Sofie also discusses the inspiration behind her work – from stories about embarrassing parents, to family holidays. She empowers her young audience with the belief that their own lives are rich with material for great stories. In 2004 the Australia Council awarded Sofie a writing residency in New York, at Art Omi in Ghent. It was here she wrote her first novel for young adults, Bird and Sugar Boy. The novel was published in 2006, (Penguin) winning Honor Book in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards 2007. Sofie uses this sensitive, moving story as a springboard for a discussion with upper primary/lower secondary students about families, best friends and the power of nature in our lives.
Using her books as a springboard, Sofie discusses the importance of character in her own writing. She examines the different ways we can create strong characters and their importance in building a compelling story. Sofie’s audience learns how to create characters of their own and to develop the stories that lie within them. The sessions end with real life ‘interviews’, where students play the characters they have created. This has proved to be enormous fun, and a wonderful way to understand how characters can be brought to life.
Sofie has kept a diary since she was seven years old when her grandmother bought her a blank book as a gift. When Sofie asked why the pages held no words or pictures her grandmother explained that the book was for writing stories about herself. Sofie has been keeping a diary ever since. In her journal-keeping workshops Sofie explores the different ways journals/diaries can function in both our personal and creative lives. She shows her audience the first drafts of her many books all contained within her diaries. Sofie discusses the value of having a private place to be creative and expressive and the ways it has healed and helped her.
Sofie’s writing workshops for adults include:
Creating Compelling Characters
Sofie will focus on different ways participants can create compelling and original characters with engaging stories to tell. Workshops will open with a discussion about character where Sofie uses her own work as a springboard to stimulate ideas, and to encourage students to identify memorable characters in their own reading history. She will then use a ‘brainstorming exercise’ where the group works together to create a character and his or her world. Sofie will demonstrate that the answers to the challenges of plot, tone, structure and style often lie in knowledge of character.
Participants will be asked to bring a 500-word dramatic monologue to the workshop, written in the voice of one of their characters. All participants will be encouraged to read out the work and receive constructive criticism.
Sofie will ask participants to consider their characters in unexpected ways in order to deepen their understanding of, and passion for their stories.
Elements of the Novel
Sofie will examine the elements of the novel – character, plot, voice, tone, and structure, and how these elements intersect. Sofie will give participants strategies that will address problems in every element, mainly through knowledge of character.
Participants will be asked to bring a 500-word piece of writing to the workshop. All participants will be encouraged to read out the work and receive constructive criticism.
Picture Books for Children
Sofie will explore the relationship between text and image – looking at the way language can successfully make space for illustration. Using a number of popular picture books, Sofie will as participants to consider the elements that make picture books work – rhythm, energy, tone and structure. And of course, story. Participants will be asked to bring their picture book stories to the session, and these stories will then be shared with the group for constructive feedback.