Dr Michael Sala

Dr Michael Sala

Lecturer

School of Humanities and Social Science

Behind the scenes of novel writing

Though Dr Michael Sala’s books have garnered prestigious awards, his greatest hope is to move, connect and enrich his readers through good storytelling.

Michael Sala in library

Dr Michael Sala is a writer and an academic in creative writing. He specialises in novels, holds a keen interest in the short story and teaches engaging courses on both. The crucial part of his research is practice-led, which means research through the development of creative work.

“I have this great opportunity to share my passion for, and insights into, craft and have some incredibly promising students.”

Michael’s first book, The Last Thread, won the Commonwealth Book Prize, (Pacific Region) and the UTS/Glenda Adams Award for New Writing in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. His second book, The Restorer, was shortlisted for the NSW and Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, and long listed for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Still, Michael hopes his work will be remembered for the same, evocative reasons that made him first want to write.

“The most important difference I ever hope to make is to individuals who pick up my work and feel enriched or less isolated or in some other way moved for having read it. I’d love to be able to make a whole bunch of people feel the same way that I felt when I read my favourite stories.”

Inspired by stories

In Michael’s earliest recollection of when his passion for writing was first kindled, he was living in Holland and preferred reading to making conversation. As an eight-year-old, he had just read J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

“I was much better at reading than speaking because my parents moved between Holland and Australia several times—and I struggled to keep up with how to talk. I discovered a magic in reading stories—the way bits of ink on a page have the capacity to transport the reader to a different world and different consciousness—that continues to amaze me to this day.”

Years on, his fledgling aspiration to master storytelling has flourished into notable talent—one that has produced an autobiographical novel and a strong work of fiction.

“Both of these works are set partly or completely in Newcastle and, in this way, have provided a creative perspective of the city.”

Over 8000 people have already bought his books while others borrow it from libraries. It’s a positive and encouraging response that is set to grow.

“I’m really just leaving the early stage of my career and gathering momentum, and I hope to see the readership for my next series of books increase significantly as I push myself into new genres and approaches."

Success and self-doubt

Michael is currently tackling his third book—the first volume of a fantasy trilogy and a genre he’s familiar with but has never attempted to write before. All his novels push him to grow in some way: The Last Thread—a 60,000-word autobiographical piece—is written from a single perspective. At 90,000 words, The Restorer iscomparativelylonger and encompasses three contemporary fictional perspectives. His latest work is different again.

“The first book in this series includes seven narrative arcs and perspectives, and will be about 270,000 words long. It’s the largest and most intricate work I’ve ever attempted in a genre that I have studied but not written within. I’m loving that challenge.”

In the sedentary, soul-bearing act of writing creatively, progress of any kind can be dogged by doubt. Michael is familiar with the quandary of “how to tell the next story”, and uncertainties that critically affect confidence.

“I believe that people often carry their greatest struggles within themselves. Certainly, it has been that way for me. It is a huge exercise in confidence to commit to a novel. The ones I have written so far have taken about four years each. Even my current book, which I expect to have finished in half that time, feels like a massive gamble. You expend an extraordinary amount of energy writing something that may not succeed.

“There is a very reasonable and often somewhat overly harsh voice of doubt in many writers. I learned that this doubt would never go away but have figured out that I can turn down the volume on it and push on regardless. I have learned to commit to the things I attempt and accept the possibility of failure.”

Michael attributes his achievements in part to working in a very supportive school and to a job he loves that encourages him to push forward in his endeavours.

“The hardest thing would be finding the time to write a novel—knowing that they rarely make much money and that it is never guaranteed—while doing a job that did not support the enterprise. I don’t have to worry about!”

Important collaborations

Michael’s accomplishments have afforded some extraordinary opportunities, including being appointed to judge entries for a literary award that his own work has been shortlisted for once already.

“My work has enabled me to be a judge in the NSW Premier Literary Awards three times and I was thrilled this year to see Tara June Winch win for The Yield. That is a great and important book that explores the vitality of Aboriginal culture and language in an amazing way—and I was proud to be on the panel that chose it.”

His success has been a combination of the time, patience and resolve he’s consistently applied to the creative process, and instrumental collaborations that have made all the difference to his efforts as a writer, academic and teacher.

“I’ve had two excellent editorial relationships with editors both based at Text, one of Australia’s leading independent publishers. But, you know, my research also feeds directly into my teaching, where I collaborate with a great team of academics, particularly Dr Keri Glastonbury who supervised the PhD that became my first book and has since worked with me to put great courses together.”

As if captivated by a good story, Michael looks to the next chapter of his literary career and can’t help but imagine what is to come.

“What really excites me is the possibility of what I might achieve next. I haven’t written the work that I think I am really capable of writing yet. I believe I might be writing it now, but until I finish this beast I won’t be sure. That’s what excites me though: the potential in whatever comes next.”

Behind the scenes of novel writing

Though Dr Michael Sala’s books have garnered prestigious awards, his greatest hope is to move, connect and enrich his readers through good storytelling.

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Career Summary

Biography

During a childhood spent moving between Europe and Australia, Michael Sala developed a passion for writing. In 2007, he dropped out of medicine to focus on writing his first memoir manuscript, Memory Vertigo, which was short-listed for the Vogel/Australian Literary Award that year.

He began his PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle in 2008. His short fiction and personal essays have since been published in a range of Australian anthologies and literary journals including HEAT, Kill Your Darlings, and Best Australian Stories in 2009, 2010, and 2011.  

He received his PhD in Creative Writing in 2012, and the creative component of his work was published in that same year as the autobiographical novel The Last Thread, by Affirm Press. The Last Thread went on to win the 2013 Glenda Adams/UTS Award for New Writing and The Commonwealth Book Prize (Pacific Region, 2013.) 

His second novel was published by TEXT in 2017, and has since been shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Award and the NSW Premier's Christina Stead Literary Award for fiction, and was also long-listed for the Miles Franklin. His research and supervision interests include the short story, memoir, science fiction and fantasy, and the contemporary novel.


Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Newcastle
  • Diploma in Education, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Arts (Honours), University of Newcastle
  • Master of Creative Arts, University of Newcastle

Keywords

  • Autobiography
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • Creative Writing
  • Editing
  • Fiction
  • Literary research
  • Memoir
  • Short Fiction

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
190402 Creative Writing (incl. Playwriting) 80
200525 Literary Theory 20

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia

Awards

Award

Year Award
2013 Winner UTS/Glenda Adams Award for New Writing NSW Premier's Literary Awards.
Arts NSW Premier Literary Awards 2009
2012 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence for Sessional Staff
Centre for Teaching and Learning, The University of Newcastle

Prize

Year Award
2013 Commonwealth Book Prize (Pacific Region Winner)
Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2009

Teaching

Code Course Role Duration
ENGL1201 Creative Reading and Writing
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Newcastle
Course Coordinator 29/7/2016 - 29/11/2016
ENGL2102 CREATIVE NONFICTION
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Newcastle
Course Coordinator and lecturer 29/7/2016 - 29/11/2016
ENGL6004 Creative Nonfiction Online
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Newcastle
ENGL6004 is a course offering in the Master of Creative Industries (MCI). It is currently being offered as an online course. 
Course Co-ordinator and Lecturer 29/7/2016 - 29/11/2016
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Chapter (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Sala M, 'The struggle in Karl Ove Knausgaard's 'My Struggle'', New and Experimental Approaches to Writing Lives, Red Globe Press, London 82-98 (2019) [B1]
2018 Sala M, 'Testing the Voice', Honour & Other People s Children Text Classics, Text Publishing, Melbourne vii-xii (2018)

Journal article (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Sala M, 'The Memoirist against History: Nabokov s Speak, Memory as the (re)negotiation of a literary form at the intersection of personal experience and historical narrative', European Journal of Life Writing, 8 28-46 (2019) [C1]
DOI 10.21827/ejlw.8.35515
2018 Sala M, 'Knausgaard s My Struggle: The Interplay of Authority, Structure, and Style in Autobiographical Writing', Life Writing, 15 157-170 (2018) [C1]

© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This article explores the relationship between style and structure in the first book of Karl Ove Knausgaard¿s M... [more]

© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This article explores the relationship between style and structure in the first book of Karl Ove Knausgaard¿s My Struggle series. A comparison of the stylistic features of Jean-Jacques Rousseau¿s The Confessions, Blake Morrison¿s And When Did You Last See Your Father?, and Knausgaard¿s My Struggle: Book One, illuminates the contradictory way in which key fictionalising aspects of style in autobiographical writing¿the sense of immediacy, and the intertwining of honesty and spontaneity¿can appear to bolster Philippe Lejeune¿s autobiographical pact in such a way as to potentially distort or overplay the writer¿s authority. The critical reception of My Struggle: Book One shows how reviewers are often complicit in reinforcing this distortion. This paper argues that Knausgaard deploys a neatly meshed range of strategies to counterbalance this potential effect of autobiographical writing, both through his modulating of style against the structural design of his book, and through the stance he adopts outside the work. The latter includes his deliberately ambiguous positioning of the book in terms of genre, and his deployment of a controversial title that both inflects the reading of the work and continues to generate considerable resonance in the discourse that surrounds it.

DOI 10.1080/14484528.2016.1187989
2013 Sala M, 'Confession and third party revelation in memoir: The narrator, the confessant, and textual strategies for decentring the memoirist's authority', TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Programs, 17 (2013) [C1]

Creative Work (6 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2017 Sala M, The Restorer, Melbourne (2017) [J1]
2013 Sala M, Swarte Piet, South Melbourne, VIC (2013) [J2]
2012 Sala M, The Last Thread, Melbourne, Australia (2012) [J1]
Supanova
2011 Sala M, The Catacombs, Woollahra, N.S.W (2011) [J2]
2011 Sala M, The Men Outside My Room, Collingwood, Vic. (2011)
2011 Sala M, The Hind, Yarraville, Vic. (2011) [J2]
Show 3 more creative works
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 3
Total funding $79,000

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20191 grants / $14,000

Creative Writing Lab$14,000

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Project Team

Dr David Musgrave (Lead), Dr Michael Sala, Dr Keri Glastonbury, Dr Toby Davidson (Macquarie), Dr Naomi Fraser (UON), Claire Albrecht and Chris Brown (Creative Writing HDRs), Carolyn Rickett (Avondale), Bonny Cassidy (RMIT)

Scheme Strategic Network and Pilot Project Grants Scheme
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2019
Funding Finish 2019
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20161 grants / $40,000

Arts Projects For Individuals and Groups$40,000

Dr Michael Sala has received funding to begin his third book, 'The City on the Edge of Everything,' linked short story collection set in Newcastle.

Funding body: Australia Council for the Arts

Funding body Australia Council for the Arts
Project Team

Dr Michael Sala

Scheme Project Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2016
Funding Finish 2017
GNo
Type Of Funding Aust Competitive - Commonwealth
Category 1CS
UON N

20111 grants / $25,000

Australia Council Grant: New Work$25,000

Funding body: Australia Council for the Arts

Funding body Australia Council for the Arts
Project Team

Michael Sala

Scheme Project Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2011
Funding Finish 2012
GNo
Type Of Funding Aust Competitive - Commonwealth
Category 1CS
UON N
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current11

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title Program Supervisor Type
2019 PhD Australian Masculine Identity: Crime, Violence and Race in Australian Literature PhD (English), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Principal Supervisor
2019 PhD Brushed PhD (English), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2018 Masters The Other Way Out: a Creative and Critical Exploration of Otherness, and the Methods Used in Speculative Fiction to Construct “the Other” M Philosophy (English), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2018 PhD The Loveable Rogue: Depictions of the Picaro in Modern Popular Fiction PhD (English), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Principal Supervisor
2018 PhD Subterrestrial: Using Contemporary Fiction to Explore Feminist and Post-Colonial Narratives of Place PhD (English), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Principal Supervisor
2018 PhD (Re)constructing ‘The Roaring Days’: Cognitive Narratology and World-Building in Writing the Historical Novel PhD (English), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Principal Supervisor
2018 PhD Classical Madness: (Re)Presentation of Madness in the Ancient World PhD (Classics), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2017 PhD Shoot the Wild Birds/ Ethics and thrills in the novels of John D MacDonald PhD (English), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2016 PhD Writing Newcastle: finding a regional voice through a survey of literature, and the production of a work of contemporary fiction PhD (English), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Principal Supervisor
2016 PhD From A Distance PhD (English), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2015 PhD Babushka: Her Memories, My Words PhD (English), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
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News

UON creative writing student wins prestigious prize

April 10, 2017

1st year creative writing undergrad wins Newcastle Short Story Award.

UON author set to publish second novel

February 14, 2017

Dr Michael Sala has had the publication of his eagerly anticipated second novel, The Restorer, announced.

Graduate's debut novel wins two awards

February 1, 2014

Michael Sala Regional Winner of the Commonwealth Book Prize & the New South Wales Premier's Award for New Writing

Dr Michael Sala

Position

Lecturer
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Contact Details

Email michael.sala@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4921 8811

Office

Room MC133
Building McMullin
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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