Posts Tagged 'Viking Children’s Books'

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

2013-06-07a

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:

2013-06-07i

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:

2013-06-07h

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:

2013-06-07g

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

2013-06-07

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):

2013-06-07b

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

2013-06-07f

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

2013-06-07d

Some sad:

2013-06-07e

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

2013-06-07o

And more:

2013-06-07p

And more. How cute are these guys?:

2013-06-07c

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):

2013-06-07l

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):

2013-06-07m

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:

2013-06-07j

And here it is again on day three:

2013-06-07k

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:

2013-06-07n

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

2013-06-07q

Squish Rabbit Bookplates (and kids say the darndest things)

Meeting readers is such a cool thing, and along the way I get to hear funny stories about how kids relate to my books. One little girl told me (referring to Squish Rabbit) that sometimes she feels lonely too, but her family makes her feel better and that maybe Squish should find his family too. One mum told me that (in Brave Squish Rabbit) her little girl is obsessed with the tiny pair of scissors in the bottom corner of one page. Another family said their daughter asked about my author photo, so they explained that I was the lady who made Squish, and ever since she has been calling me Squish’s mum.

Because my books are out in the US, I often get e-mails asking when I’ll be stopping through the various states for book signings. And oh how I would love to come and meet my American readers. But this is tougher than it sounds, considering I live in Australia. So while I wont be there in person any time soon, luckily there are some clever people about who organised some lovely bookplates for me to sign, which is almost the next best thing. If you can get your hands on one of these, they can be stuck in the front of your Squish Rabbit books…

My publisher, Viking / Penguin, sent a stack of these for me to sign for some special fans:

2013-01-29

I was really touched when an amazing bookstore in the Mississippi Delta, TurnRow Books Co, got in touch to say they had listed Brave Squish Rabbit as a favourite Fall read. They then went to the effort of creating some specially made bookplates for me to sign, and sent them along with some books for special customers:

A close-up of the unsigned bookplates. Get in touch with TurnRow if you’re interested in purchasing a Squish Rabbit book with one of these original signed bookplates (while stocks last):

Happy Hoppy Easter

Having nursed a long and healthy obsession with rabbits, Easter holds a very special place in my heart. I’m almost equally passionate about chocolate, which may also help. But Easter is particularly special for me now, having my first book out about a little bunny. So Squish and I would both like to wish you all a very happy and hoppy Easter.

I’m thrilled to see that many have been giving Squish Rabbit as a gift to their favourite little people this Easter:

  • Over at Lavender & Lilies one very thoughtful mum has put together an Easter basket for her little girl (take a look – just delightful!)
  • My Book Corner have done a lovely review of Squish Rabbit, as well as named him as one of the best Easter books
  • The Little Big Book Club are featuring Squish all April
  • My wonderful publishers, UQP, have also been twittering Easter competitions where you can win copies of Squish Rabbit

And to top it all off, look what just arrived in the mail:

The print proofs for Brave Squish Rabbit, plus two galleys (unbound mock-ups). I am thrilled to bits with how it’s turned out! So much so that I’m even willing to use exclamation marks!! Considering the first book is all about white space, I made it quite hard for myself by setting book two at night. It meant I had to develop a more complex colour palette, working hard to create space and balance. I love how it’s come up on paper – seeing Squish swimming in all those colours. I might give you a few more sneaky peeks at the interiors as the publishing date of September approaches.

In the mean time, though, I’d better hop off to find some chocolate that I hear a very special festive bunny has left for me around the house…

Merry Squishy Christmas

Look what arrived in the mail:

My very own Squish Rabbit Christmas cards! This was a delightful gift from my US publisher, Viking. It turns out they select one book from their list each year to turn into a Christmas card, so they can send it out to all their contacts. They left it as a surprise that they’d chosen my book, so I only found out when a big box of cards arrived on my doorstep. I’m absolutely thrilled, as is Squish. It is, after all, this little rabbit’s very first Christmas.

Among my many treasured Chrissy presents I got some amazing bookish gifts this year. A favourite is the first volume of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic, which I’m a little addicted to and nearly through already. I also adore my new copy of Tim Burton’s deliciously dark and playful The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy. The two combined have re-jigged my desire to start developing up an idea I have for a strange / sweet / melancholy kind of graphic novel. But more on that another time…

I have just arrived back from Woodford, the amazing folk festival held on the Sunshine Coast each year, where I called in the new year. I dug up this photo from last year’s festival, where I got a henna tattoo to celebrate the year of the rabbit.

2011 has thoroughly spoiled me, with my first book out, two publishers I adore, overwhelmingly lovely reviews and so much support from YOU dear readers. Thank you. If this year to come is even half as good as the one just passed then I can count myself blessed. A big Happy New Year to you all and bring on 2012!

Writing to Contract

In late 2009 I signed a two book deal with Viking, Penguin, and I honestly felt like the luckiest little rabbit in the writerly stratosphere. It was the kind of thing I hadn’t even let myself dream about, especially in the years prior where I’d experienced the slew of rejections all writers do. Yet even as I signed the contract I had a nagging voice in the back of my mind wondering about book two – the book they’d contracted based on Squish Rabbit. An undefined book I hadn’t even written yet. But of course this thought was quickly overtaken by everything involved in getting Squish out into the world. And all the excitement. And maybe the champagne.

Flick forward to early this year. Squish Rabbit was but months away from appearing on bookshelves and suddenly my publisher was asking about book two. They wondered whether maybe I’d considered doing another Squish book? Now I had tried to prepare for this moment. I had certainly considered other Squish stories, as he’s so alive to me and I know much about his little life. I had some notes about other possible stories and even some very basic drafts. But nothing I had done really prepared me for my first experience of writing to contract. Cue dramatic music…

Before that point, every story I’d created I had written for myself. Sure, I’d hoped to get published and I certainly had readers in mind, but in real terms I was following my own whims and ideas. No matter how determined or focussed I was in my writing, ultimately I was just chasing around my own muse. And besides the whole ‘not knowing whether I’d ever get published or not’, it was really quite glorious.

Writing to contract was completely different. My first book had a sell-in to bookstores that was encouraging enough for my publisher to ask for a second Squish story. Suddenly I had an editor with hopes and expectations. In fact I had a whole team I’d worked with. What if they didn’t like anything I sent them? If the chances of getting one picture book accepted were so rare, what was the possibility of me writing two they’d love? What if I only had one publishable book in me? What if they began to regret signing me up for two books? Would I have to give back the money? Oh horror of horrors … every iota of self-doubt I’d ever experienced kicked up into a dust storm inside me. So instead of ambling through the creative fields of my mind, I was paralysed. I couldn’t write a word.

Self-doubt always settles in me eventually. And with time, I realised a number of things that helped me push through this:

  1. Always write for yourself first: No matter where the story is going, no matter who it is for, always begin by writing something for yourself. Something that moves you, that pulls at the strings of your mind, that calls to that secret little place where your inner child hides. I honestly believe that if you write something you love, you’re much more likely to write something someone else will too. And besides, editing can come later…
  2. No story is brilliant from the beginning: You have to write crap before your story can get better. I’m sure this is a rule, written somewhere in the vast and dusty annals of ‘The Craft of Writing Awesome’. We can’t help but compare ourselves to all the amazing writers out there, and yet their picture books and novels that we read have often been through years of rewriting. Nothing we write on day dot will ever come close to it. It. Takes. Time
  3. Your publisher is not all seeing: I had this weird and creepy feeling that my editor could see everything I wrote. Every time I tried to write something down, my mind would conjure up how she would respond to it. My poor delightful editor (sorry Tracy!) turned into the voice of my inner writing critic. It was actually a revelation to me that she couldn’t see my first draft! Once I realised this, it freed me up to play again – to try out all sorts of different story options and to toil through many drafts
So I released the pressure valve, took a month or two out to play with story ideas, and finally sent off a manuscript and storyboard to my editor. And the end to this story? She took it to their editorial meeting and the team responded with a delightful ‘We fell in love all over again’ :) Squish’s second story should be on bookshelves late 2012.

Rabbity Book Launch

As of yesterday, Squish Rabbit is now officially in Australian stores! Only a few days now until the Brisbane book launch, which will be held at the glorious Black Cat Books in Paddington. Please join us if you can.

There may even be an appearance from a little furry friend…

(click on the image to see a larger version of the invite)

Sneak Peek

Here’s the first sneaky-rabbity-peek of the cover of my picture book. My wonderful art director did a brilliant job in suggesting a background colour, which makes Squish just pop out of the page. Love it. Viking recently sent the digital page proofs of the final layout my way for approval and the book is now at the printers. I should get the first printed page proofs in the next few months. Exciting times. Still a while until release though, but I can now officially say that Squish Rabbit will be in bookstores on the 4th August 2011…

The City That Never Sleeps

Sometimes the world works in strange ways. Wonderful, but strange. You may remember late last year I attended a workshop on applying for grants (and blogged about some of the things I learned), then in October I had a go at applying for a well renowned scholarship.

One of the many reasons I was applying was with the far flung hope of being able to travel to New York to meet my publisher. I knew the winners of the scholarships were being announced in March, so as the March days trickled by I accepted that I wasn’t one of them. Still really hoping to be able to meet my publisher, I started investigating other possible grants for writers. I made a shortlist of about three I was eligible for, and on the final day of March I sat down to begin writing my applications.

As my fingers hovered over the keyboard, I got a call on my mobile. And nearly dropped it. It was a delightful lady, ringing to tell me that I had been awarded a 2010 Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship. For a writer, I was embarrassingly lost for words.

The scholarships were established by John Chisholm Marten and commenced in 1967 as a way to support young artists. Their website describes the awards as follows:

The … Scholarships provide support for young Australians in a variety of categories to help them further their cultural education and achieve their dreams. They are awarded each year for study, maintenance and travel either in Australia or overseas.

The scholarship will span over two years, and true to their word it will allow me to access opportunities that have so far been purely the stuff of dreams. So it turns out I will get to meet my publisher, next year in January while I’m in New York for the annual SCBWI Winter Conference. I’ll also get to attend some other conferences, research a series of middle grade novels set in South America, research a new YA novel I’m currently planning set in the UK, plus have some dedicated writing time away from other commitments.

They’re lucky they didn’t wait a day longer to call me, as April 1st being what it is, I never would have believed them…


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:

Available:

Author Talks

Speakers Ink
Creative Net

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers