Not many authors can write an immersive novel from a galah’s perspective. Particularly a galah with remarkable perceptions of the world around her, dreams of flight and romance, a slight inferiority complex and a wild jealous streak. But not everyone is Tracy Sorensen.
Currently living in Bathurst, Tracy has become renowned in all the right circles for her first novel, The Lucky Galah, set in Australia and based around the 1969 moon landing. Tracy was recently announced the recipient of the Judy Harris Writer in Residence Fellowship at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and was longlisted for the 2019 Miles Franklin Award. She has been lucky, she will tell you, to have received such incredible recognition after her 2018 debut.
“There is an element of luck in everything, but as the cliche goes, you’ve got to be in it to win it,” Tracy explains. “Not for one minute do I think anything I’ve written is better than what Tim Winton has written, and he didn’t make the [Miles Franklin] longlist this year. It’s not only about literary merit, there are other factors going on, such as what’s in or out of fashion, and happening to hit that sweet spot at the right time.” She adds: “I got voted off the island for the shortlist, but the longlist was only ten novels, so it was pretty incredible.”
These achievements have far surpassed Tracy’s original goal, which was simply to get published. It was a dream that was almost cut short in 2014 when Tracy became seriously ill with ovarian cancer, causing the entire trajectory of her life to shift. “I didn’t know whether I was actually going to live,” Tracy explains. “Particularly in those early months when it looked terrible. And I was really, really regretful that I hadn’t finished my writing, and that I hadn’t been published.”
By the time Tracy’s health improved in 2015 she was “ready to give it one last go”, and began to write with fervour, determined to finish the novel she had previously wedged between the cracks of a busy life. “It’s like I got ill and everything fell into place after that. In a way I’m glad I wasn’t published earlier, because being ill gave me a new perspective on life. I felt I could be more open and generous in some ways, less political and snarly.”
On that note, I mention how much I enjoyed the inclusion of certain characters within the book who are clearly based on politicians in real life; they have been added in ways that are clever, confronting, and often amusing rather than snarly. But the real star of the book, of course, is the galah named Lucky, a bird with a rich and vivid inner life, a bird I missed dearly once the book came to an end.
When I ask what prompted the decision to write from a galah’s perspective, Tracy tells me that the book wasn’t always written from Lucky’s point of view. “Originally, there was a conventional, human narrator. I wrote one little bit from the point of view of the galah and found myself crying, and feeling really moved by it. There was something incredible about this vision of a bird meant for flight being stuck in a cage, watching on while these humans fly to the moon.”
After seeking feedback from friends, some encouraged Tracy to make the whole novel from the point of view of the galah, while others were adamant she should ditch the concept and stick with a human narrator. “But everytime I did that it just went flat for me. I thought: no, it’s alive when I stick to this concept. Lucky just pushed herself forward as the narrator; she came out of the writing herself.”
Tracy is now in the process of writing her second novel, and her journey shows that while much of life comes down to ‘good’ or ‘bad’ luck, it also has a lot to do with intention and perseverance – the art of simply showing up.
“I feel like writing is a form of tuning into something. It’s something that’s already there, and you’re working your way towards it. It might sound really odd, but the trick is to stay with that. If you show up, it will find you.”