Facebook Author Page

You may have noticed I’m not using my blog as much as I used to. I still love blogging (and will continue to do so occasionally), but putting worthwhile posts together takes time when I often only have snippets in amongst busy days. But I do love online worlds – connecting with those who love books and other writers and parents and little readers and fellow rabbit enthusiasts. In many ways I’ve found my Facebook Author Page has taken over. As a platform I find it more immediate and a lot more interactive. I can post up photos and links daily and people can send me things too, and then conversations flow and fun things happen. So if you haven’t found me over there yet…

CLICK HERE (yes, here)

Feel free to hop on over, as I’d love to meet you. And just in case you’re wondering, these are the kinds of things I’ve posted in the last month or so…

A sneak peek of the latest project I’m working on:

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The novels I read week to week:

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The delightful literary luggage tag a friend gifted me as I headed off on an adventure:

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The only rabbit that has stayed still long enough to be photographed since I arrived in Canada:

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A couple of gorgeous illustrated books I picked up in Cuba. They’re in Spanish of course, but luckily I have a Spanish speaker in my household:

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The only rabbit I spotted while in Cuba, down a side alley in Matanzas:

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The gorgeous sunset we were treated to at a literary event in Brisbane called ‘Romancing the Stars’:

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And finally a special February Valentine’s Day wish from both Squish and I:

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Hope to see you over there

New Year, New Home

2014 has brought some big changes. Big, but exciting.
The short story is … I’m moving to Canada. But that’s a bit too short.
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Our snowy house

The long story is this: The only regret I’ve ever carried in life is that I’ve never lived overseas. Growing up, my head was filled with travel tales told by my mum, who shifted around the globe through her 20s and 30s. My parents met in Africa, travelled across Europe, got married in England and I was conceived in Oman, all before they settled in Australia to raise my brother and I. As a family we did many overseas trips to visit relatives and friends. When I left home I always intended to move overseas after uni, but life kind of got in the way. Fifteen years later and, well, it’s about time.
I was considering England when the opportunity to move to Canada came up. I spent all of December over there, having myself a white Christmas and exploring Ottawa and the surrounds (which is where I’ll be based). There’s much to love about Canada – so much about the country and the people that have stolen my heart. It’s already left an imprint on my creative mind: I’m currently working on a new picture book about a big brown bear and a small wild girl. Plus I have a sudden urge to end my sentences in ‘eh?’ and I’m getting insatiable cravings for maple syrup.
While I’m officially making the move early March, I’ll actually continue to divide my time between Canada and Australia. It’s really important to me to keep in touch with my Australian readership and to continue to develop links with local schools and festivals (not to mention visiting family and friends!). I’ll be back in Australia over July and August for a packed two months of speaking engagements, however I still have days free in both months so contact my speaker’s agents if you’re interested in a visit from me or Squish Rabbit (links on the right).

Based on the photos, I keep getting told I look as though I was made to live in Canada. I think it’s the fair skin and pale eyes. I’m really excited about the move and love the idea of being closer to all sorts of other unique travel experiences. We already have two trips planned, first to Cuba and then in summer to the Moraine Lake Lodge in the Rocky Mountains. But instead of trying to convince you as to why I’m making the move, how about some photos so you can see for yourself?
Ottawa city and its frozen canal (perfect for iceskating)

Ottawa city and its frozen canal (perfect for iceskating)

Amazing museums and art galleries (I love this sculpture by Bill Reid)

Amazing museums and art galleries (I love this sculpture in the Museum of Civilisation by Bill Reid)

Lots of time to read and eat French pastries (in the inner city industrial style cafe 'Art Is In')

Weekends reading and eating French pastries (in the inner city industrial style cafe ‘Art Is In’)

Writing by the fire

Writing by the fire

Gorgeous outdoor installations (this lonely wolf haunts my dreams)

Outdoor art installations (this lonely wolf still haunts my dreams)

And another, this time in Montreal (called 'Light Therapy')

And another, this time in Montreal (called ‘Light Therapy’)

Did I mention the food?

Did I mention the food?

And the salmon (I could live on smoked atlantic salmon)

And the salmon (I could live on smoked atlantic salmon)

Loving the graffiti art (snow makes the bunnies a little mad)

Loving the graffiti art (turns out snow makes the bunnies kinda crazy)

An Aussie style barbecue (clearly)

An Aussie style barbecue (clearly)

Icicles taller than me

Icicles taller than me

REAL christmas trees (and all decorations I collected locally)

REAL christmas trees (and all decorations I collected locally)

Christmas morning sunrise from a cabin in the woods

Christmas morning sunrise from a cabin in the woods

Finally, I was lured to Ottawa with the promise of divine hot chocolate. And they didn't disappoint...

Finally, I was lured to Ottawa with the promise of divine hot chocolate. And they didn’t disappoint…

Every Idea is Different (or how to make life hard for yourself)

It’s not possible to get overconfident as an artist. Because every time I feel a little like I know what I’m doing – every time I get the inkling that I may have something of this whole storytelling palaver figured out – an idea comes along that makes me a beginner again.

This is no coincidence. If I truly knew what I was doing, then the project would hold no challenge for me. It would mean I wasn’t learning, and such a project wouldn’t be able hold my attention. New ideas fascinate us because we have unanswered questions that float around them – things we don’t yet understand that we attempt to grasp by carrying the project through to its conclusion.

With Squish Rabbit, it was the first time my voice and visual style really started coming together, which was such a thrill. Of note is the fact that a significant feature of my illustration style is white space. Then along came Brave Squish Rabbit … which is set at night. So much for white space. I suddenly had to create spreads using full bleed colour – deep blues and blacks, which was a real challenge.

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Next comes my latest project. It’s about a little bird on an isolated island. It has a single character (the bird) and a single setting (the island). Not a lot to work with in terms of creating a rich visual world with variety enough to carry an entire book.

I’ve spent the last few weeks storyboarding it out, and it’s certainly tested my creative problem solving. I’ve used more playful perspective, point of view and colour schemes than in any of my books yet. It’s been challenging and mind contorting and wonderful, and I certainly feel like a better storyteller for it.

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Not that this will help me with my next project. Which, judging by my track record, will likely be about a limbless lion who lives in a tree…

European Non-Rabbits

It is a well known fact that I have a bit of thing for rabbits. What is lesser known is that I actually love animals of all kinds. All picture books I write feature animals, usually as the main characters. In fact, recently I have begun working on my first picture book featuring kids, but even then they are all dressed as animals.

A few posts back I did a photo diary about all the rabbits I encountered during a recent trip across Europe. As rabbits feature a lot on this blog, I thought I owed it to all the other animals to give them a bit of blog time. So here are some of the non-rabbits that crossed my path in Europe:

These suspicious geese on a Scottish loch:

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This dog (dug) at an Edinburgh pub:

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Dogs could go anywhere in Europe. In pubs, banks, on buses and the underground. I wish Australia was more like this.

This grumpy bird (eyeing all the Geordies in Newcastle):

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This graffiti pig in Venice:

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This bizarre bronze zoo in the misty hills of Eze (France):

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Over 50 animals. Can’t imagine how they got them all the way up the mountain.

This snarly lion:

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Roar

This Scottish house for elephants:

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Actually, this is an obligatory children’s author shot (the cafe where J.K.Rowling penned her Harry Potter series)

This most enchanting stray dog on the drive from Barcelona:

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He so stole my heart I spent several days trying to figure out how to adopt him & get him back to Australia. But he was well looked after by the town & had made his home in a fuel station, greeting all passers by.

These fish in a Berlin blizzard:

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This delightful stray cat in Niguelas, Spain:

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We fed her and loved her and called her Peppi.

These noble once-dogs at Edinburgh Castle:

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These hungry goats and sheeps in a Spanish village:

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These wild-eyed things:

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You can be sure there will be picture books to come inspired by these animals. They were all quite unique characters in their own ways.

Especially the cranky bird. He had spunk.

 

Ink (or literary tattoos)

Rabbit - floatAs an illustrator I work in ink every day. I’m very familiar with it as a medium. And while my canvas tends to be paper, some artists use skin.

I haven’t got a tattoo myself, but I’ve long admired them as an art form. And being a bookish type, I particularly like literary tattoos. There are some amazing tats out there, based on work by some of my favourite illustrators. You only have to google about to find them. There are lots of Shaun Tan tattoos, based on images from his beautiful and often melancholy books. Also Oliver Jeffers, with his ‘boy’ and ‘penguin’ characters popping up regularly.

In a way, someone choosing your character as a tattoo always seemed like the highest form of compliment – that someone could so connect with something you have created that they would get it permanently etched onto their skin. I always said that I’d know I’d ‘made it’ as an artist when this happened to me. But I imagined if it ever did it would be 10 years or so down the track. But earlier this year I got an email.

From Ben. This is what he had to say:

I am currently studying Primary Education, and intend to specialise in ESL (English as Second Language) work. As a part time job I provide teacher’s-aide support at a local primary school. Last year I had a magnificent experience with the first Squish Rabbit book. I was tutoring a South American boy in year 6 and we used his interest in art to render his own edition of your picture book (which was played on a power point as he read it to the class). Since then, the boy came out of his shell, started socialising and developed so much confidence that he is almost fluent. This experience was immensely rewarding and confidence building in terms of my own professional development.

Thank you sincerely for your book. It brought great joy to my life and at least one other child’s. In the future, I also aspire to write books for children with such fundamentally simple yet such eloquently expressed messages. I think the message in Squish Rabbit bridges all cultural gaps (it certainly won my heart).

Based on this experience he decided to get a tattoo. The pictures below are evidence of the first Squish Rabbit tattoo out there in the world…

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It was truly an amazing message to receive. Quite overwhelming to be honest. I’m constantly in awe of the work teachers do with kids, and feel honoured to have been a part of that in any small way.

But as to whether I feel like I’ve now made it as an artist? Well, no. But it does feel pretty awesome.

European Rabbits

I promised you some European rabbits, and here they are. I didn’t have to look very hard while overseas. Everywhere I turned there were rabbits. Big ones, titchy ones, blue ones, fashionista ones, paranoid ones, even chocolate ones. I was starting to think Europe was particularly bunny obsessed, until I clued onto the fact that it was nearly easter (the chocolate bunnies gave me my first hint – I know, I’m a genius).

Either way, Squish Rabbit was proud that his European brethren were so prolific. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Berlin Bunny:

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Luckily this big guy was friendly (I wouldn’t have taken him in a fight, even in that flowy shirt)

Bookstore Bunnies:

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Can you spot them?

St Andrews, Scotland:

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Who would have guessed it was nearly Easter?

Big Brother bunny, Venice:

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Yes, Winston is watching you. Ignore at your own risk.

Frightened Rabbit, Edinburgh:

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The lead singer from Frightened Rabbit played a solo set at a poetry type gig we went to. Intimate and awesome.

I might have also been given a Frightened Rabbit album:

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Photo-bombed by the gift giver…

Austrian bunnies:

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I kinda wanted to be friends with these guys. They look like they’d make polite conversation.

Old etching bunny, St Andrews:

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I thought it was a good omen to have found this bunny in our St Andrews room, but it didn’t stave off the strange dreams we had (we were overlooking the scores where the ‘witches’ were drowned).

Surprised bunnies:

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I think he was in more shock that I was

Real bunny! In the Tiergarten, Berlin:

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Can you see it? Neither can I. The single live bunny I saw on the entire trip scooted under the tree to the right the moment it heard us.

And my favourites, graffiti bunnies. These were all found in central Berlin:

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Demon bunny

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Love this guy

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Shy blue bunny

If you want to see the bunnies I spotted on my last trip, hop on over to my post on the Year of the Rabbit.

A Stampede of Books (or Bologna Children’s Book Fair)

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I’ve been wanting to attend the Bologna Children’s Book Fair for several years now. It’s the biggest annual event in children’s books, making it an incredibly exciting place for a writer / illustrator. Now I knew it was a massive event, but this was purely an intellectual concept. It’s a bit like being told about a stampede, as opposed to standing in the middle of one. A glorious stampede, mind you. A stampede of colourful stuff from a child’s imagination.

The fair is “the most important international event dedicated to the children’s publishing industry”, and includes authors, illustrators, literary agents, licensors, packagers, distributors, printers, booksellers and librarians, all meeting up to sell and buy and meet and produce and discover all things to do with kids books. Sound exciting? It was.

There were 1200 exhibitors. From 66 countries. With 5000 professional trade representatives. And the exhibition covered over 20,000 square meters of floor space. Plus the fair was celebrating its 50th year. Now I may specialise in words, but those numbers sound pretty impressive to me. Here’s the sight I walked in on – this is one fifth of one side of one hall out of four, on the first and quietest morning:

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I spent three inspiring days wandering around the fair and being involved in all its amazing busy-ness. I got to meet up with the head of my American publishing house (Viking / Penguin) who was passionate and humble and funny and charming and all things you would want from a publisher. I also had an amazing meeting with my American agent, talking picture books and characters and lots of ideas for new projects to come. I got to spend time with the incredible ladies from Books Illustrated, Ann James and Ann Haddon, who are super supportive of Australia children’s book creators and who ran the stand that became my home for fair. They ran a live illustration table where I made art alongside some very talented Aussie artists (Alison Lester, Isobelle Carmody, Briony Stewart and of course Ann James). While illustrating I got to meet passers by who stopped to chat – other artists and publishers from all over the world. But none of this quite captures the spirit of the fair. No, that is best done with photos.

Here’s my US publisher’s stand. It was full of books and well-dressed-important-types and take away coffee cups. This was a quiet moment captured on the first morning of an otherwise bustling stand:

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Here is the Books Illustrated stand, and the two awesome Anns setting it up. See if you can spot the Brave Squish Rabbit cover and the feature illustration from the book:

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Doing live illustrations (with my terrible paintbrush grip – such a lefty):

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More live illustrating, using papers I’d collected on the trip so far (you can just see a couple of the drawings I’d already done in front):

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One of my favourite stands, a European publisher called Edelvives who make gorgeous books:

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There were quite literally hundreds of different publisher stands. So many books! Some funny:

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Some sad:

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But mostly just awesome. Lots and lots of awesome books:

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And more:

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And more. How cute are these guys?:

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But it wasn’t all just a bunch of people standing around talking about books. Sometimes it was a bunch of people standing around drinking and talking about books. Here we’re preparing for the Australian Publisher’s Association party (while Boori gets in some sneaky self promotion):

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And here we might be at the Irish Publisher’s Association party drinking whisky (all in the name of being culturally appropriate and warming the winter chest plate):

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I’d heard about the famous ‘illustrator wall’, where you can pin an illustration that people peruse throughout the fair. All up there were actually about eight walls. Here is one on the very first morning:

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And here it is again on day three:

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And this is what an author looks like after three days of wandering halls, reading, illustrating, meetings, being inspired and overwhelmed and just generally feeling like a very small fish in a big pond:

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Luckily, we were in Italy, so there was always good food at the end of the day. Salute!

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

Released Sept 2012:

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