Archive for October, 2011

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.

Melbourne Launch + More Reviews

It’s been a big time for little Squish Rabbit. He’s been out hopping around bookstores for nearly two months in Australia and these last weeks have seen more reviews, interviews and an approaching launch in Melbourne…

Squish and I would love to see all you Melbournites at The Little Bookroom for our morning of Squishy celebrations. The book will be launched by talented author (and all-round lovely person) Wendy Orr, who wrote Nim’s Island as well as one of my current favourite picture books, The Princess and her Panther. There’ll also be plenty of fun for cotton tailed kids and adults, with live music, an illustration demonstration, a book reading and craft table. Hope to see you there!

In review news, the delightful Deb Abela reviewed Squish Rabbit on the ABC radio ‘Drive’ segment with Louise Maher. There were moments where Squish had her laughing so much she had trouble getting her words out! Very sweet. You can read the review here or listen to the audio file at the bottom of the page. Here’s a snippet of what she said:

This story is illustrated by a mix of collage and drawing giving it a rich layered texture that is both as inviting and delightful as a long, warm hug.

Over at Hooray for Books!, an independent bookstore in Virginia, one of the staff names Squish Rabbit as one of her favourite picture books (alongside Oliver Jeffers‘ The Incredible Book Eating Boy – huge complement). Hop on over and read the review on their blog. I love this one – it’s so special when a reviewer really gets inside the heart of a story:

It’s always a pleasure to find an author who understands that childhood is not all sunshine and birthday parties; that children sometimes feel loneliness, and feel it deeply. “Squish Rabbit,” however, is not dark in the slightest; it’s matter-of-fact and elegant in its emotional honesty … I highly recommend it as a thoughtful read-aloud, even for the wee ones.

Boomerang Books is my pick of online Australian bookstores, and over at their Kids’ Book Capers blog they’re currently celebrating a week of literary rabbits. The lovely Tania McCartney has just interviewed Squish – she asks some really sweet questions and does a beautiful job of hosting this little cartoon rabbit. If you read the interview you’ll also get a sneak peek of Squish Rabbit’s second book (which should be coming out August 2012). Kids’ Book Capers’ other resident blogger and fellow rabbit lover, Dee White, has also interviewed me as well as done a lovely book review here.

Exciting times. Now I’d better hop back to the drawing desk. Still more spreads to complete for Squish’s second adventure…

Shhh… Deadline Looming

This is a bit of an apology really. Because all has been quiet on the Western Front (aka. my blog) for a while now. Posts have been sporadic at best, even though I’ve had plenty of things I’d love to blog about. But I do have a good excuse, if you’re willing to listen…

I have been holed up in my writerly burrow, working to deadline on book 2. I’ve been researching the shape of a squirrel’s paws, quietly observing the oddities of chickens, and creeping back into the mind of one very small rabbit. What fun.

Once I can carve out a little more time, I’ll be back on the blogosphere with posts about:

  1. The Melbourne launch of Squish Rabbit (Saturday 5th November)
  2. What it’s like writing to contract
  3. Creating a picture book series
  4. Pictures of strange rabbits (which I’ve been collecting on my travels)
But for now, please accept this peace offering – a sneaky peak illustration that may just end up in book 2:
Now I’d better get back to it, otherwise I may end up like Mr Hitchihiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by  …..~  Douglas Adams

Squish Loves Boxes

I have to begin this post with a confession. It’s something I’m sure all writers do, but we rarely speak about it. Yes. Well. I suppose I better get to the point? So … the other day I was googling my name …(ahem)… and came across an amazing children’s bookstore in Cincinnati, called Blue Manatee. The reason they came up in my search is because a few weeks back they hosted a Squish Rabbit craft day, where kids were invited to make collage pictures from the book. How cool is that? Even now one of my favourite things to do is get messy (and creative) with paper and glue, so it was a thrill seeing my book being used to encourage this.

I contacted the bookstore to thank them, and it turns out the kids are not the only ones getting creative in store. This bookstore is soon launching something called ‘Blue Manatee Boxes‘ – a fun new way of buying books, which is described on their website:

The mission of blue manatee boxes™ is to provide unique gift boxes for babies and young children featuring books and materials that promote reading, creative play, and parent-child engagement, in a fun, affordable, sustainable, and developmentally-sound manner.

Through this you can order special packs of pre-chosen books (grouped by theme and interest) or choose your own favourites. However what’s unique about this initiative is that kids are encouraged to reuse the packaging the books are sent in. Suggestions are provided for creative ways to reuse the box in play and even the styrofoam cushioning isn’t wasted. Many children’s illustrators have joined in on the fun, sending in illustrated examples of how their characters would use boxes (which are featured on the website). John, the lovely owner of the bookstore, wrote to ask if I would participate. And as both Squish and I are long time lovers of boxes and silliness, I couldn’t say no…

They feature Squish and I on their website, but you can also click on the image above to see a bigger version.

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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