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Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

Sally Rippin wrangles the feelings monster

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Sally Rippin
Sally Rippin

Sally Rippin is one of the country’s best-loved children’s authors and was Australia’s highest-selling female author in 2016. Writing for almost 20 years, Sally has written more than 50 books for children and young adults, and holds numerous awards for her writing.

Best known for her Billie B Brown and Hey Jack! series, this year Sally will release the first book in a new series called Polly & Buster – The Wayward Witch and The Feelings Monster and a new imprint with Bonnier Publishing called Sally Rippin Presents.

Sally gave The Echo some insight into her literary loves.


Describe where you write.

At the kitchen table, or sometimes even in bed if it’s cold. The more romantic answer, which is also true, is in a little writer’s retreat I recently bought in the bush just outside Castlemaine in the old Victorian goldfields. It’s a tiny renovated barn, with a roaring wood-fired stove and when the rain falls on the tin roof I’m in heaven. I love it up there and even though it’s where I get my best work done, I can’t get up there all the time because I still have a son in school in Melbourne.

Tell us something about you that people may not know.

I’m a very anxious person and when I let it take hold it can even wake me in the night, heart racing, mind spiralling into all kinds of worst-case-scenarios. I definitely related to the main character in Sarah Watt’s film Look Both Ways. I suspect many artists grapple with out-of-control imaginations at times and this can be a wonderful thing when channelled into your work, but otherwise deeply terrifying.

What book made the greatest impact on you as a child?

Charlotte’s Web by EB White. To have your reader empathise so deeply with creatures that you wouldn’t have any trouble squishing with your shoe, or eating fried alongside poached eggs, is a true skill and a gift of compassion.

What author living or dead would you most like to meet, and what would you like to know?

Oh, I’m spoilt in that many of the book creators I most admire I already know and consider friends: Shaun Tan, Martine Murray, Andy Griffiths, Ann James, Leigh Hobbs, Jude Rossell, are only a handful of them who live in my very own city and we have such a tightly knit, supportive children’s book community here. I don’t need to look any further for inspiration. What would I ask them? Would they like to share a pot of tea?

Who should we be reading?

Whomever and whatever makes you feel good. I used to worry a lot about who I should be reading but now I just read what I want. Though if there are any ‘shoulds’ to be had, I reckon adult readers should explore the world of children’s books a little more. There is true magic to be found there.

What are you working on now?

Polly and Buster by Sally Rippin.
Polly and Buster by Sally Rippin.

The second book in my new series about Polly, the wayward witch, and Buster, the ‘feelings monster’. I am also about to launch a new list that I have been invited to curate with Bonnier Publishing called Sally Rippin Presents. The first books to be published under my imprint have been written by comedy writer Fiona Harris and illustrated by Tripod member Scott Edgar and they are set in a kooky little place called Moopertown.

Where do stories take you?

Not just figuratively but also literally, all around the world. I have had residencies in schools as far away as Ghana, China and even a tiny remote village in the mountains of West Papua, only accessible by helicopter. I have met the most extraordinary people through my books and made the most beautiful and unexpected connections. I never dreamed that writing for children would have opened up so many opportunities for me.

What are you looking forward to at Byron Writers Festival?

The weather. Melbourne is dreary in winter and I’m no good in the cold!


• Catch Sally Rippin at Kids Big Day Out on Sunday August 5 and session Reach for the Stars: Literacy in Children with Tristan Bancks and magician Cosentino, chaired by Jesse Blackadder on Friday August 4. Supported by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

• For more on Byron Writers Festival visit byronwritersfestival.com

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