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Ailsa Wild is a whip-cracker who ran away from the circus to write stories. She is an author, performer and community artist who loves collaboration. Ailsa is known for her Squishy Taylor series for 6-10 year olds, about the adventures of daredevil, mystery-solving Squishy (Hardie Grant Egmont), which has now been published in the US, the UK, Spain, and Brazil. The first book in her new series, The Naughtiest Pixie (Hardie Grant Egmont) published in July 2019 is about a cheeky, greedy little pixie who can’t stop getting into mischief. Ailsa is also the lead writer of the Small Friends Books series: science adventures starring microbes, molecules and mucus, where the bacteria are the heroes (co-published by CSIRO Publishing and Scale Free Network).
Ailsa’s first graphic novel The Invisible War (with Scale Free Network) was selected as a ‘Notable of 2017’ by the Children’s Book Council of Australia and won Most Outstanding Educational Resource at the 2017 Australian Educational Publishing Awards. The Invisible War was just released in the USA by Lerner Books, with Korean and Arabic versions scheduled for release in 2020.
Ailsa’s work has appeared in Meanjin, The Monthly, ABC online, #METOO: stories from the Australian movement (Picador) and on stages across Australia. She has spoken at many literary festivals including Melbourne Writers Festival, World Science Festival Brisbane, Ipswich StoryArts Festival. She has also guest lectured at several universities and presented at more than 200 schools around Australia. She has a Masters of Creative Media (creative writing) from RMIT and has collaborated with scientists, musicians, children, nurses and circus performers.
She often reads past her bedtime.
I was born in Sheffield in England, in the attic of a tiny terrace just around the corner from where they filmed the Full Monty. I was going to be called Laura, but the midwife said ‘Hurry up, Lazy Laura,’ so my mum had to come up with something else.
I’ve worked in lots of different theatre jobs. I’ve been a director, performer, circus coach, stage manager, and theatre tour manager. Before that I was a sandwich maker, ice-cream scooper and a seller of Mexican silver. My very first job was goat milker, but only when my mum was away.
Now, as well as making books, I work at City of Melbourne’s ArtPlay, supporting artists to run fabulous workshops with children, where the children are the co-creators of the artwork.
I pretty much always have a bit of ‘collaboration overcoming adversity’ in my stories. Also, I’m keen to challenge gender stereotypes. I try to write a diverse range of human characters, whose gender is only a tiny element of what makes the whole, complex, amazing person.
Once I was performing as a dog in a circus show (but standing on two feet, wearing normal clothes, enhanced only by doggy ears and a tail). Afterwards a child drew a portrait of me to say thank you. The portrait was just a picture of a furry little dog. I saw this as a serious compliment to my acting skills and have never been so happy.
We sent David Suzuki one of our science books and he wrote back:
“I read your first book ‘The Squid the Vibrio & the Moon’ to my four-year-old grandson and he was absolutely riveted. As soon as I finished, he demanded that I read it again. He was swept up by the story, the incredible characters in it and wonders of the relationships that have evolved.”
My first books were published by Small Friends Books, a science-art collaboration based in Collingwood. You can buy those books online and they’re mostly sold within Australia, but we’ve also had orders from all around the world. They’ve gone to London, Paris, Seattle, Vancouver and, particularly, Hawaii, where we have a special science laboratory full of fans. http://www.smallfriendsbooks.com/
The Squishy Taylor adventures are published by Hardie Grant Egmont and you can find them in bookshops across Australia and New Zealand.
I think that good human relationships can make us resilient and help us to have more integrity and generosity. I’m passionate about encouraging those kinds of relationships.
I also really like cheese. A lot.
Maybe, when I was a dog in a circus show? Or that time I performed as a roving poet in a giant 19th Century hoop skirt? Or perhaps it was when I cracked whips at the combined Meanjin, Overland, Southerly launch party…
For teaching notes on Squishy Taylor, please see below!
Year 6 students responded with great enthusiasm to Ailsa Wild’s visit. Ailsa adapted our author visit to an online format and it couldn’t have been better. She got the students moving and they jointly began constructing a story which many have written their own endings, or written a new story inspired by her ideas. Ailsa was a fabulous and inspiring guest speaker.