Archive for September, 2009

A Sentimental Moment

Rabbit - lonelyI love my local writer’s centre. They provided many ‘firsts’ for me. They were the first writing organisation I joined. In their wood paneled foyer, I first said out loud my deep down dream of wanting to be an author. They ran the first workshop I attended, where I started to believe that maybe I could do this. Their magazine informed me of the opportunity that lead to my first paid acceptance. Their e-mail bulletin advertised the competition that lead me to meet and sign with my agent. Not only have they paved the path for me, but they have been there to celebrate each of my steps along it.

Anyway, you may ask: why the sudden sentimental moment? Recent events have me reflecting on my journey more than usual (and the people who have played a big part in it). So I was touched when the lovely girls down at the Queensland Writers Centre asked me to join in their annual blog tour. Which I shall – by answering the following questions:

Where do your words come from?

My words ultimately come from the things that move me: things I see that make me laugh and make me cry. I’m an emotional sort of person. As a children’s writer I suppose my words also come from my childhood. I’m still fascinated by the way kids see the world – the way they’re so open to ideas and people and places. Often my stories come from an experience I had as a child, but I rarely recognise this until I stand back from my work.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in a small coastal town called Mackay. I was one of those barefooted kids who spent their life on the beach. I still miss the smell of the salt and burnt sugarcane (sugar is a big Mackay industry). I now live in sunny Brisbane in the suburb of Ashgrove, which seems to be a mini hub for children’s writers. Must be something in the water.

What’s the first sentence/line of your latest work?

‘It’s said that the most haunted part of any town is its graveyard, but in Cain’s village it was the old church.’ It will be a mid-grade novel about black magic and bounty hunters and 17th century beasts. It’s a tale I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, but the first sentence only seeped into my mind the other day, bringing with it the world of the story. I’m now letting it simmer away a while before I delve into the first draft.

What piece of writing do you wish you had written?

The Book Thief. I love the way Markus Zusak plays with language. He uses words in utterly surprising ways that are so unique and perfect. I always remember that one of the characters is described as having ‘gangling blue eyes’. More recently I’ve fallen in love with Glenda Millard’s A Small Free Kiss in the Dark. Go read this book then come back and tell me how much you loved it.

What are you currently working towards?

I’ve only just received my first contract for a picture book I wrote and illustrated, which will be published by Viking in the US (an imprint of Penguin). I’ll be working with the lovely editorial team at Viking over the next while to make it the best it can be. In the meant time I’m also trying to look towards the future and keep working on my other picture books / novel projects. Ultimately I still feel like I’m working towards the same goal I always have – striving to be the best writer and illustrator I can be.

Complete this sentence: The future of the book is…

Ever evolving. I’m not sure where it will take us, but I’m excited that I get to be a part of that journey.

This post is part of the Queensland Writers Centre blog tour, happening October to December 2009. To follow the tour, visit Queensland Writers Centre’s blog The Empty Page.

A Very Happy Birthday

Rabbit - playWriters often talk about The Call. That wonderful phone call they got with the news that they were going to be published. I’ve always loved reading those stories. Now I have my own to tell.

I had sort of been warned that The Call was coming. My picture book was on submission in the US, and my Australian agent had said the deadline for offers was on Thursday – we both assumed this meant US time, so translated that to mean Friday here in Oz. So I was prepared. Ready to be cool and calm. Thursday was my birthday, and I had woken up to flowers from my fiance and had just finished breakfast when my mobile rang. A completely unsuspecting Katherine picked it up.

It was my Australian agent with news of offers. It turns out the deadline was actually Wednesday US time, so Thursday here. There was lots of jumping and whooping and dancing and plenty of giggling (I’m an unashamed giggler, but usually only after a few drinks). So I got The Call on my birthday. There really is no better birthday gift. And for the first time, I got good news while my fiance was at home with me, so I had someone to jump around with.

So, I’m now thrilled to say that I have a two book contract with Penguin US (Viking Imprint). I have spoken with the editor there, who is an absolute delight and the kind of editor I’ve always dreamed of working with. She has many years of experience nurturing writers and stories, helping them to be the best they can be. Viking has also been a strong influence on my love of books: they produced many of my childhood favourites, so it’s a lovely feeling that I’ll get to work with them and one day be a part of their list.

I feel like I’m walking around inside a bubble. But I also still feel just like me. Today I’m back in the house on my own, sitting in my office with my puppy asleep on my feet, working away on a novel redraft and my latest picture book project. Still the same girl.

But with a big smile on my face.

Writers Party Too

So. Writing Festival season. Never have I been kept out so many long days and late nights in a row. Not even at uni (and that’s saying something). Yes – writers can indeed party too. So where did the whole shenanigan start? Let me tell you, my friend…

Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature

Apart from the dramatic start to the Saturday (Jenny – our hearts go out to you) the weekend event was perfect. The setting was stunning (think heritage winery in the rolling hills), the talks were intimate and the speakers were enthusiastic. Anna Ciddor and Simon Higgins shared insights into researching historical fiction, Justin D’Ath and Brian Falkner gave tips for writing compelling action / adventures, Boori Pryor and Jan Ormerod shared the story of their unique collaboration on a picture book, then Boori joined Belinda Jeffrey and Michelle Witheyman-Crump to discuss their experience of race and culture in their lives and books. A highlight for me was the demanding role of playing a tree during one of Boori’s performances. I had feedback that I did an inspired job – I always knew I was destined for great things.

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Me, Belinda Jeffrey, Sheryl Gwyther and Julie Nickerson

Queensland Writer’s Centre Cocktail Party

This event was to launch a new initiative by the QWC called Industry IQ. I’m constantly in awe of just how hard the QWC staff work and how much they put back into their writers. I will always remember them as the people who nurtured me into the writer I am today. Anyway, sentimentalities aside, it was also a rocking evening. Wined and dined on the rooftop deck of the Gallery of Modern Art, I got to meet many writers I admire and friends I had yet to meet face to face. My lovely agent was also there, as well as a number of other publishing professionals and high profile presenters from the festival itself. Afterwards a number of us kicked on to a modern restaurant in South Bank, where I sat and chatted with the lovely Kate Eltham (QWC CEO) and had a few quiet drinks with JJ Cooper (thriller writer and all round nice guy).

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Karen Tyrrell, Ally Howard and I

Brisbane Writer’s Festival

Perfect sunny weather and an ideal location (the state library by the river at South Bank) boded well for this year’s festival. There were too many incredible children’s authors and illustrators talking at the festival to name, however some of them were Michael Bauer, Belinda Jeffrey, Tristan Banks, Richard Newsome, Sherryl Clark and James Moloney. Like many years, while I made it to a number of talks and panel discussions, some of my favourite times were running into other writers and sitting and chatting our way through the day.

Children and Young Adult Writer’s and Illustrator’s Conference

Or, for those who don’t like tongue tiers, the CYA conference. This yearly event is run by the energetic duo Tina Clark and Ally Howard, and for me is always a bit like a reunion (it’s attended by most of my nation wide network of writerly friends). Some favourite presentations at this year’s conference were Jackie French’s passionate opening speech, Meredith Costain’s talk on crafting picture books, and meeting the delightful Peter Carnavas, whose workshop on writing and illustrating picture books was the perfect end to the day. Afterwards a large group of us went out to dinner and had a few celebratory drinks, toasting to all those involved behind the scenes.

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Too many people to name. Feel free to play 'guess the author'

So: 5 days of writing festival, 50 hours of writerly networking, 15 hours of writerly socialising and 0 hours of writing. I love irony. Now back to that novel redraft…

Little Monsters

It’s that time of year in Brisbane again. Festival season. Every time I turn around, there’s another writer’s event to attend. Cocktail parties, conferences, dinners, talks, debates and everything in between. Not that you’ll find me complaining – any excuse to mingle with others passionate about children’s literature – but I may be a little quiet on this blog over the next week. You can be sure that when I do get back I’ll have plenty to talk about…

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some images from my latest picture book project: a few little monsters who have literally been running riot around my mind.

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Reading Blind

2009-09-06I love reading blind. Not literally (obviously), but reading a book I know nothing about. One where I’ve never read a review and have intentionally avoided the back cover blurb, so all I know is the title and the author’s name.

I find this allows me to enjoy the story and the characters as they unfold. Each new discovery is like a little gift – completely fresh and unexpected. Obviously, this only works in certain circumstances: when a book is recommended by someone I trust, when an author I adore releases a new book, when a book wins an award I innately trust. When that happens, there is nothing that gives me greater pleasure than letting the author reveal the tale in exactly the way they intended, without any preconceived notions or ideas that others have placed in my head.

At the end, I read the back cover blurb, and always find it reveals things that would have disrupted my journey with the book. If I’m told there’s a twist, I’m notorious for figuring it out long before I’m meant to (in movies, too). But if I’m not forewarned, then when it comes, the ground falls away from under me and I get to experience that wonderful sensation of plummeting with the characters.

The most recent book I did this with was Glenda Millard’s intensely beautiful A Small Free Kiss in the Dark. I have adored all her work – she draws such vivid, eccentric characters and her voice is poetic and unique – and this was no exception. I laughed and cried and wished I knew these characters and cried some more. If you want to try reading this book blind, then don’t read this next sentence. Some of the things I didn’t know about the book were small and immediate details – like that the main character is homeless and an artist and collects other lost souls along his journey. Then there were bigger things – like the fact that a war tears apart their city. All this was on the back cover and more, but because I knew none of it, I got to savour each detail as it was revealed through the narrative.

A small thrill, but one I savour.


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

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