Ailsa Piper - Author Q & A

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5 minutes with Ailsa Piper

Ailsa PiperAilsa 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.

What was the last good book you read?

Draw Your Weapons by Sarah Sentilles. Its structure is idiosyncratic, its story is vast yet intimate, it made me expand my thinking about war, art and being human. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Do you have a favourite Library?

I love my local in Watsons Bay, I can go there in my bathers, it’s the perfect size so that I can feel like I own it. We all love books when we have sand between our toes.

And then my work space is the research library at the Art Gallery NSW, it’s a secret which most people in this city have not discovered so I’m reluctant to give it away but I’m more productive there than anywhere else I know.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever read about yourself or your work?

This goes back to when I was an actor, I was playing a character named Bubba in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, the reviewer intended to write 'Ailsa Piper is good as Bubba' but instead he wrote "Alissa Pipper is god as Buddha". I took it as a compliment.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Lighten up.

What inspired you to write The Attachment?

The Attachment was inspired by Sinning Across Spain, which was inspired by walking, which inspired by reading, which was inspired by curiosity. Curiosity is at the beginning of everything.

Want to read more about The Attachment?

Attachment book coverDear Ailsa, Sometimes I wonder whether the friendship that has caught us both-a most unlikely friendship I must confess-might find an echo in a far off Irish village somewhere in the wild, windy hills of old Donegal. Or am I allowing that uncontrollable imagination of mine too much slack?
This is the story of an unlikely friendship.

When priest and Sydneysider Tony Doherty emailed Melbourne-based writer and performer Ailsa Piper to say how much he had enjoyed her latest book, he was met with a swift reply from a similarly enquiring mind. Soon emails were flying back and forth and back again. They exchanged stories of their experiences as sweaty pilgrims and dissected dinner party menus. They shared their delight in Mary Oliver's poetry and wrestled with what it means to love and to grieve. This energetic exchange of words, questions and ideas grew into an unexpected but treasured friendship.

Collected here is that correspondence, brimming with empathy, humour and a fierce curiosity about each other and the worlds, shoes and histories that they inhabit. Described by one reader as 'a demonstration of how to have a conversation and a friendship', The Attachment is an intriguing, entertaining and moving celebration of family, faith, connection-even the correct time of day to enjoy rhubarb.

Dear Tony, Funny how our ears tune in to things. How our priorities shift based on who and what we know. How we come to care about such abstract or remote things through the experience of another. Lovely, somehow, but so serendipitous. All the other things we might care about. All that we might have missed had we not stopped to care for this person. I'm glad we stopped for each other.

The Attachment is available now from Allen & Unwin Book Publishers