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Sally Sutton

As a child

I was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1973. As a very young child, I was seriously ill, and missed out on a few crucial physical skills, such as tying a bow that didn’t come undone, and riding a bike in a straight line. I still have trouble with those... But all that time resting and recovering meant that my wonderful mum read me an awful lot of stories! I was lucky enough to travel the world with my parents, and did a lot of travelling in New Zealand as well. When I was nine, I got a little brother, which I thought was very cool, except for when I took him for walks in his buggy and had to stand for hours by the side of the road watching diggers and rollers. Actually, maybe that was the inspiration for my picture book Roadworks... so he would say I should be totally grateful! I don’t remember much about actually learning to read (except being absolutely perplexed by the incredibly difficult word "nose"), but I do remember learning to write. And I wanted to be a writer as soon as I knew how to make up stories. I also badly wanted to be called Adèle. I’m doing OK at making one of these dreams come true, but I still have to work a bit on the other one...

As an adult

I completed my Masters degree in German at the University of Auckland, writing my thesis on French, Italian and German versions of the Grimms’ fairy-tale ‘Allerleirauh’, or ‘All Kinds of Fur’, which is a little like Cinderella, only better! To this end, I spent a year living in Germany on a DAAD scholarship. As soon as I returned to New Zealand, I began writing fiction, which included short stories for adults, a doomed novel, and plays for the stage. I still love the challenge of writing for the theatre, though it is very difficult to get my work put on! Writing for kids is great fun, but a big responsibility too – the last thing I would ever want to do is to bore a child! I married Martin in 1996, and we have two beautiful daughters, Charlotte and Alice. We live in a bush-clad suburb on Auckland’s North Shore. Lucky, lucky me!

As an artist

My first picture books had a New Zealand flavour: the split-page Crazy Kiwi Tops and Tails’(illustrated by Dave Gunson) and a Kiwi alphabet book A is for All Black (illustrated by Scott Pearson). My first readers were called My Brother and My Sister, my first chapter book Charlotte Frisbee and the Slime Attack. My first book for Walker was Roadworks, illustrated by Brian Lovelock. This won the picture book section of the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards in 2009. With more books due for publication in the near future, it looks as if my childhood ambition to be a writer is shaping up nicely. Now for that Adèle thing...

Things you didn't know about Sally Sutton

  1. I am a very messy person. I like to pretend that my mess is creative chaos when really it is just, um, mess.
  2. Some people collect coins or stamps or recipes, but I like to collect words. I have a big book where I write down juicy little titbits like ‘scobberlotcher’, ‘taradiddle’ and ‘hubble-bubble’.
  3. I like to make up words too. Versplootch! Popplehum! This is mostly because there are not enough words in the English language. Like, what do you call that delicious scent that comes from the pages of a book? Or the action of slurping up a single, long strand of spaghetti?
  4. I think that listening to foreign languages is like listening to music.
  5. My favourite colour is purple.
  6. My favourite game is Boggle.
  7. I love weird foreign movies, long, empty beaches, books, coffee, food, Pohutukawa trees in bloom, and the sound of rain on the roof.
  8. I am really bad at maths.
  9. I have been parasailing, survived heart surgery, and discovered a scorpion in my sneaker in Phoenix, Arizona, but it is much, much scarier to be a mum.
  10. When I was a child, I had a poem published in the NZ children’s magazine ‘Jabberwocky’. It read: ‘There was an old man of Doomsdilly Day, who sat on a pile of rustly hay, and in the evenings, with his lively little dog, he’d settle on the haystack, and have a bit of grog.’ It is my finest work to date.

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