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Sullivan, Jillian
Writer's File

Jillian Sullivan

Nelson - Whakatū
Sullivan, Jillian
In brief
Jillian Sullivan is a prolific author, and has published multiple novels, short-stories and poems. Her writing is predominately targeted toward children and teenagers. Her collections of short stories for teens include Hey Tony (1999), and Launched and Other Stories (2005). Her novels include, Shreve's Promise (2004), and Silverstream (2008). She has also released a collection of historical myths and legends, Myths and Legends – The Gift of Stories from Our Cultures (2007) and a non-fiction book exploring the creative process, Fishing from the Boat Ramp: A Guide to Creating (2009). Her first collections of poems, parallel, was released in 2014. She has received a number of awards for her work including the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2003, and was runner-up in the 2002 Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition.


Sullivan, Jillian (1957 - ) is a novelist, short story writer and poet. Her writing is often targeted toward children and teenagers, and her stories deal with difficult issues in a relatable manner for young readers. For seven years she was a single parent with five children, and writes from experience about families outside of the traditional model.

Two of her books for younger children are published in Learning Media's 'My Feelings' series. Two Homes for David (1995) looks at a young boy's experience of travelling between his mother's and father's separate homes. Sophie's Mum and the Dinosaur (1997) tells the story of Sophie's mum, who doesn't turn up to collect Sophie from school.

Hey Tony (1999) is a collection of short stories for teenagers. Ideal for reluctant readers, these are 'tough, honest stories for those who live on the frontline.' Janice Marriott writes that the stories 'capture small moments so perfectly that reading the collection is like looking through your family photo album. You recognise everybody. Read this book and take a journey into the heart of the New Zealand.'

In 2002, Sullivan was runner-up in the Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition for her work, Getting On.

Shreve's Promise (Scholastic, 2004) was the winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2003. It seamlessly incorporates supernatural elements throughout the story of teenage girl Shreve, whose Mum has gone to live on a commune and whose Dad is more interested in their housekeeper than her.

Launched and Other Stories (Pearson Education NZ, 2005), is a book of teenage short stories following on from Hey Tony. These stories deal with issues that teenagers face in daily life – school, relationships, love and death – in a humorous, relatable and often touching manner.

What About Bo? (Scholastic, 2005) was listed as a 2006 Storylines Notable Book.

Myths and Legends – The Gift of Stories from Our Cultures (Pearson Education NZ, 2007) is a collection of myths and legends from some of the cultural strands that make up the heritage of many New Zealanders and Australians. It includes stories from Europe, the Pacific, New Zealand and Asia, and tells them in an accessible style for both teenagers and adults.

In 2008 Sullivan’s novel Silverstream (Pearson NZ) was released. She explores the implications of a dystopian society in which a government has restricted rights, and enforced indentured labour. It features a child protagonist, Lorna, who has to make a decision that places her own freedom, even her life, at risk.

Her first non-fiction work, Fishing from the Boat Ramp: A Guide to Creating (Steele Roberts & Associates Ltd, 2009), is an exploration of the creative process. In it Sullivan explores her inspiration, her doubts and fears, and ultimately her desire to write. Now published as an Ebook, A Guide to Creating gained an Honourable Mention for a Spiritual Book at the 2014 London Book Festival.

Rat Keeper, Cat Keeper (Pearson 2009) is a book aimed at younger children. It was shortlisted for the CLL Educational Publishing Award.

Sullivan’s first collection of poetry, parallel, was published by Steele Roberts & Associates Ltd in 2014. Based on her prize winning sequence of poems for the Kathleen Grattan Prize, judge and fellow poet Selina Tusitala Marsh described it as a ‘sensitively connected sequence,’ one that ‘held me from beginning to end with its tender, understated sophistication.’

A Way Home (Potton and Burton), a memoir telling the story of the fulfillment of Sullivan’s dream to build a straw bale house, was published in 2016.

Sullivan was the winner of the 2016 Takahe Poetry Competition. Judge Peter Bland said of her winning poem My Mother at the Edge of Town that it touched him deeply ‘as much by what it doesn’t say as by what it does’.