Archive for the 'Agent' Category

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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Sydney in Photos

Last week I was flown down to Sydney for an art exhibition, awards night and general party-like-gathering for past winners of the Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship. The event was held at the Art Gallery of NSW, and the lovely organisers exhibited some of my Squish Rabbit illustrations, alongside installations from other previous winners (including paintings, sculptures, acting videos, dance, poetry and music). It was a whirlwind couple of days, and instead of writing about it all I decided to capture my time as a photo diary. I took these using Instagram, my current favourite iPhone app:

…..  ..View from my room by day…………………………….…and by night

At the exhibition (unfortunately the perspex display makes it hard to see my illos)

Coffee with lovely ladies (L to R): Melina Marchetta ('Looking for Alibrandi'), Sophie Hamley (my agent) and Pip Harry (soon to be published by UQP)

Autumn in Hyde Park

Reading + Lindt cafe = two of my favourite things

View from a bench where I sat writing to the kick and skud of skateboards

Lunch with illustrator friend/fiend Serena Geddes

Breakfast at Ampersand (look it up - awesome)

Final hot chocolate in Hyde Park

Booked Out

One of my favourite things about being a writer and illustrator is getting the chance to speak to children about what I do. Back at school, I remember having people from different backgrounds and professions come and speak to us. I remember listening to them and having new worlds of possibilities open up in my mind.

Now, as an adult, I’ve had the tables turn as I get to go back into schools to do the talking. Yet even now I end up feeling like I’m the one getting the most from it. I continue to have my mind open up as kids ask thoughtful questions and offer me new perspectives on my work. I come away feeling inspired, with new energy for what I do.

So I’m incredibly excited to have been recently signed up by the amazing Booked Out, a speakers agency for writers, artists and thinkers. I recently popped in to visit the team in their lovely rooftop office in Prahran, Melbourne. Their website says:

Booked Out is a speakers agency for the Arts. With roots firmly planted in Australian literature, Booked Out has long-established connections with all major and independent publishers and we count some of Australia’s most popular authors among our friends and colleagues.

I love doing school visits, literary festivals and running workshops for young people. I am also doing more adult based workshops, talking about the craft of writing and illustrating for children. Check out my profile on Booked Out’s website, and if you’re ever interested in having me talk or present, please contact them.

Power of Suggestion

I finished editing a story the other day. It’s an early reader I first wrote a few years ago and it’s been through many drafts and rewrites. Settings have changed. Characters have been edited out. Darlings have been murdered. I sent it off to my agent and planned to put it out of my head until I heard her thoughts. I was going to be incredibly sensible about it all. ‘I’m not going to draw the characters,’ I told myself. ‘I’ll wait and see if there’s any interest in it first’.

Along comes my writing partner. ‘Have you started illustrating it yet?’ she says. I told her no (loudly), and repeated that I was being horribly sensible about it all. But my characters heard her. After that simple question, the mere suggestion of illustrating, they wouldn’t leave me alone. Talk about a riot. They pestered me until I had to draw them just to get them out of my head. And who would have thought, after I got over the self-doubt this illustration project stirred up (see my last post) I actually had some fun too.

Who needs ‘sensible’ anyway? And if the story doesn’t go anywhere, I’m still practicing and developing my style and getting more confident with each pen stroke. You’ll find some of the riot below…

Training Wheels

Perspective is a funny thing. It twists your viewpoint around, so things you once knew to be true suddenly look very different. I recall many pivotal moments in life when this happened and the world shifted around me into a new shape. And that’s exactly what happened after I signed with my agent and got my first book contract.

Exactly one year ago, before I had either, like many aspiring authors I imagined getting a book contract meant you’d ‘made it’. I looked at published authors with a kind of awe. I imagined them to have answers I didn’t, to know things, to possess a kind of confidence I lacked. I was always surprised to hear when they expressed self-doubt about their work. I’d think: but they’re *insert-name-of-famous/successful-author here*. How could they doubt themselves?

I’m finally where I always wanted to be (and loving it by the way), but the world has shifted around me and suddenly I’ve realised that I’m actually at the very beginning again. It’s like graduating from junior school, feeling incredibly grown up, but then realising that you’re at the bottom of the high school. I still feel uncertain. I still don’t have all the answers. And I still feel just like me – a kind of dorky blonde girl who sits in the back room of her house, playing with words and colours in her PJs.

I may have a book contract, but I feel like I’ve just been handed my first set of training wheels. At first it terrified me – I worried I should have felt more professional and experienced – but I’ve realised it’s actually ok. I’m enjoying learning, figuring things out as I go, listening to more experienced people around me, growing with each step. I’ve recently received my first set of edits from my delightful editor and art director, and they have been so generous with their time and encouragement and feedback.

So I’m using my training wheels, gaining experience with each test ride and slowly learning to coast. Before long I hope to be riding with more confidence, maybe even leaving the safety of the backyard and taking to the roads. Then again, perspective is a fluid and flighty mistress. It’s likely that by then something else will have happened, and the world will have shifted once more…

Bouncing Manuscript

As of yesterday, Squish Rabbit is officially on submission. He’s off bouncing around editor’s desks, hopefully behaving himself and making some friends. I wont know anything for a couple of months yet, but keep your paws crossed for me…

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Note: Bunny courtesy of Dee White, photo courtesy of Sheryl Gwyther

Agent Love

Rabbit - balloonConfession time. I know I said I’d post once I’d calmed down a bit from my agent news, but I haven’t come down much. Then again, I think that’s something worth celebrating, too. It seems to be common among writers to achieve a goal and then too soon start worrying about the next step along the path. I’ve been training myself to enjoy good news for longer (with the help of my ever patient fiance). It seems to be working – I’m still smiling.

Getting an agent is a goal many writer’s strive for, and yet this often obscures the importance of finding the RIGHT one for you. It’s potentially a life long relationship, and one of the most important ones in a writer’s career. There are so many different kinds of agents: some who edit and others who don’t, some who are mentors and others who are much more business like, and as many different styles and personality types in between. I knew what I wanted. Someone I connected with, who I felt comfortable discussing career goals with, someone who could offer editorial advice and who was passionate about writing and writers. Not asking for much, hey? But even knowing all that, how do you choose which agents to submit to?

Here’s how I made the decision to submit work to Sophie Hamley:

  1. Background: Like many agents, Sophie spent years working as an editor in the publishing industry, and comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience
  2. Client List: This was a clear winner for me, because Sophie represents writers and illustrators I have admired for many years. People whose work I strongly connect with. It was also clear from her client list that she’s passionate about literature for young people
  3. Work Style: I was fortunate enough to know several of her clients, and have heard only wonderful things about how they work together
  4. Personality Match: This is the toughest I suppose, as it’s something you can almost only gauge after meeting a person. I was lucky enough to meet Sophie at a writer’s festival, which highlights the value of conference pitch sessions like those run at the Bundaberg WriteFest and Brisbane’s CYA. Her passion and enthusiasm blew me away, especially when she was talking about her clients, and from the moment we met I knew I’d enjoy working with her 

After all that, it was clear she was the agent for me, so I’m incredibly lucky that she decided to sign me! Now I’m suffering from a slight case of Agent Love.  Something I’m not sure I want the cure for.


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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