Book People: Ailsa Wild
The fabulous new ‘Squishy Taylor’ series for young independent readers has sophisticated writing and engaging storylines which will resonate with young people. They are books which I hope will end up in the hands of many, many young readers and you can read my full review and purchase here.
Author Ailsa Wild has had a very cool ride to into the world of children’s literature. She is an acrobat, whip cracker and teaching artist who wants to run away from the circus to become a writer. This is her first foray into the world of junior fiction. As soon as you pick up Squishy Taylor you’ll know it’s an Ailsa Wild book because you’ll never have read anything quite like it
before. Ailsa perfectly captures the nature of the curious and mischievous Squishy Taylor
and conveys the frantic excitement and unbridled joy that is unique to childhood.
Tell us about your latest book.
I’m writing a series about Squishy Taylor, a brave, ridiculous, big-hearted girl who lives with her extensive step family in a chaotic little inner city apartment. She and her step sisters (who she calls her bonus-sisters, because they were the bonus she got when she moved in with her dad) launch themselves into a series of adventures featuring runaways, diamond smugglers, hackers, hauntings and their super-cute baby brother. The Squishy Taylor books are published by Hardie Grant Egmont.
How did you get started as a writer?
I always wanted to be a novelist and wrote all kinds of stories for years but it wasn’t my main focus – I got distracted by working at the circus for a while! In 2010 I quit my circus job to do a masters in creative writing at RMIT. I had learned a lot about telling stories on stage from working at the circus, and had always worked with young people, so the Squishy Taylor adventures seemed like a really fun extension of what I’d already been doing.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Usually my days begin with tea in bed with my partner, Jono, but apart from that, they are never typical! I work for quite a few different organisations and as a freelance performer. So I might be running bookmaking workshops with young people with Kids’ Own Publishing or supporting professional artists to work with children at ArtPlay. I might be packing my costume into its suitcase and making my way to a festival to perform my solo roving act. Or I might be meeting a group of performing artists to help them think about how to write a grant submission for their latest project. On my writing days I try to start with core strength, flexibility and handstand training and get writing by nine am (but I don’t manage this every day!) Usually by two pm I know I’ll be a bit creatively exhausted and ready for company so I try to line up meetings in the afternoon. Unless I’ve got a deadline. Then I just open the floodgates and work wildly until it’s done!
Can you describe your workspace for us?
At the moment I’m working from home. (Though sometimes I work in cafes, libraries, caravans and on long train trips.) At home I either work at the dining room table – which means I can spread out. Or, if I have guests or Jono is home I have a small desk in our bedroom. It’s my great grandmother’s bureau and has a gold inlayed leather top with lots of little shelves and drawers. It came on a ship from Yorkshire and I love it, but sometimes it’s a bit small for what I need.
Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
Read read read, write write write. Try things that scare you. Live a big, brave life. Train your empathy on the people around you – as well as making the world better, your characters will be more believable.
Find someone who inspires you and stand next to them as often as you can. Find someone who believes in you and drink in their belief.
Learn what creative practices work best for you. Try different processes. Experiment. Learn how you learn and use that knowledge.
Then read read read, write write write.
Do you have a favourite book or character (your own or somebody else’s)?
I love characters like I love real humans – and I have a lot of loves to choose from so that question feels hard. One of my favourites is Nancy Blackett from the Swallows and Amazons books – she’s so determined to have adventures and she’s both competent and hilarious. She takes charge in such fabulous ways and really brings the story and the high stakes into their world. I love her.
If you were not a creator of books for young people what would you be?
I would be a performer of theatre for young people. Oh wait, I already did that! If we’re really thinking outside the box, the only career I’m sad I’ll never have is astronaut. If there’s ever a moment where someone decides it’s a good plan to send an author to the moon, I desperately hope it’s me. Truly, desperately hope.
What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?
My favourite food is always macaroni cheese! And when I write I drink endless cups of tea – or glasses of soda water, depending on the weather. When I was doing highschool homework, my brother used to play the piano all the time and I loved that – so sometimes I put on music that’s just piano, but usually I write in silence.
How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?
Huge amounts!! But none of my characters are based on any one particular person, or is even a specific mash-up of two or three. They are all whole, created individuals in their own right but they have elements of so many people I know, as well as characters from stories and movies I’ve seen. I take from everywhere.
If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
Since you’ve offered, can we please end all oppression? (I wondered, for a moment if this would make stories less interesting, but then I decided we can have all sorts of inspiring, daring, super-fun adventures that aren’t anything to do with working to end oppression.)