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Portraits of Australian Authors: Ailsa Piper

December 20, 2017

Ailsa PiperBorn: ‘I was born at the bottom of the world, on the edge of a great ocean, in Perth; but before my eyes could focus, I was taken to a place in the red desert of the north called the Gascoyne to live on a 500,000-acre sheep station.’

Childhood: Reading was a big thing for Ailsa from an early age. Living in the isolation of the outback, the arrival of the mail truck was hugely exciting, as it always signalled the arrival of new books to read. It was also the time when Ailsa learned to love solitude and walking. 

Best known for: Her debut novel, Sinning Across Spain, published in 2012. It is the story of Ailsa Piper’s 1300 kilometre walk from Granada to Galicia. Aside from 10kgs of practicalities, she also lugged a load of sins in her swag.

How many books published: Two.

Most recent book: The Attachment: Letters from a Most Unlikely Friendship, co-written with Tony Doherty.

How Ailsa became a writer: Ailsa always loved storytelling but it was a drama teacher at school who woke her up to the joys of Shakespeare. A career on stage and television followed and she began writing for both radio and the theatre. ‘Almost every time I wrote something, it went on to have a life. I was lucky. But acting claimed me for a long time, because I did love collaboration and the family aspect of it. Community is a big thing for me – to belong to a tribe is important, and the theatrical tribe is a vibrant and seductive one.’

Quotable quotes: ‘Reading is like a transfusion for the mind and spirit – it brings new life and invigorates us!’

Past-Times: Ailsa is a big movie-goer and reader. She has also taken swimming and dancing lessons. ‘And when I’m a bit blue, I just hop on a ferry and let it take me away.’

Did you know? Ailsa Piper played Ruth Wilkinson, a physio in the television soap opera Neighbours for 3 years. She has worked for 35 years as a writer, actor, teacher, speaker and broadcaster. But ask her what she does and she will answer simply ‘I am a walker.’ Ailsa was co-winner of the Patrick White Playwright’s Award for her script Small Mercies in 2001.

About the Author 

Ailsa Piper has made her life in the arts, having worked as a writer across many mediums, and as a director, actor, teacher, speaker and broadcaster – but for her, the most important labels are ‘walker’ and ‘friend’. Ailsa was co-winner of the Patrick White Playwright’s Award for her script Small Mercies, and her passions for walking and poetry were reflected in her memoir Sinning Across Spain. She is a collector of postcards, a student of three of the Romance languages, and a hopeless swimmer – but she is taking lessons.


  1. Marilyn Paterson

    Hi Ailsa,
    I’ve just finished reading Sinning Across Spain for the third time. The first time because I bought the book after reading The Attachment; the second because I didn’t take it all in in the first reading. This third was a “pick up put down” reading. I have the book beside my bed and when sleeplessness happens, your book is my friend. You do have a way with words and I love your writing and your take on live and love. I’ve also read The Attachment three times, probably for the same reasons.
    Around the same time I discovered your books I discovered Eckart Tolle. So much of what you write embodies his philosophy of “living in the moment”. I congratulate you and feel a closeness to you. Thanks

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