Archive for the 'Book events' 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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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:

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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):

Travel and Other Stuff

Apart from blogging recently about my book launches, I’ve been mostly absent from this blog since about August. And believe me, I’ve been experiencing some blogger’s guilt. So please see this post as a kind of peace offering. Or an apology. Or even a series of visual excuses as to why I haven’t had much time for blogging lately…

Book Week

A week all about celebrating children’s books, which started in Australia with the CBCA in 1945. This year the theme was ‘Champions Read’, and I got to visit some delightful schools in Brisbane and Toowoomba. These schools put on book fairs and parades and school wide decorations which must have taken weeks to put together. They went all out in showing their love of books, and they made Squish and I feel very welcome.

Look at all those Squish Rabbits! This school created a whole wall of amazing Squish creations in preparation for my visit

These are some of my favourites. There are ghostly Squish Rabbits, cranky ones and plenty of whimsical pondering ones

At this school all teachers and students dressed up as their favourite character from a book. This mother and son team are Squish and Twitch! (so cute)

One teacher discovered I liked stripes, and donated this hat from her book week costume. Think I’ll wear it at Woodford this year…

Cairns Trip

Not an official work trip for me, as I was just tagging along with my partner. But who wouldn’t find an excuse to escape to tropical Cairns? I took the chance to make it a bit of a writing retreat, and got several thousand words written on my latest work in progress (a young adult novel). After the work was done we were also lucky enough to score a trip out to Green Island…

We all live in a yellow submarine

Brisbane Writers Festival

It was my first year speaking at this amazing festival. I did a bunch of talks with grades 4-6 and a few writing and illustration workshops too. I had a ball, and got to meet so many amazing authors and illustrators.

Brisbane Writers Festival loves books

Write Around QLD / Cairns Writers Festival

Back to Cairns again, this time with Write Around QLD, a BWF initiative that takes authors and illustrators out to regional and remote schools in North Queensland. I was thrilled to be involved, however it didn’t quite go to plan … I may have gotten an awful tummy bug and spent most of the week in the hotel room … but I did get out to a few schools in the end. Next came the Cairns Tropical Writers Fest, where I spoke on a few panels and taught a picture book masterclass, as well as had the chance to meet many budding local writers. I love Cairns – it’s beautifully laid back and oh-so-friendly.

With Katrina Germain, a lovely and talented picture book author

David and I spent a funny night with Tim Ferguson, who was also on the festival bill (he’s not only a talented comic, but also really warm and generous)

Hurrah!

Not work related but worthy of a mention because … my little brother got married! We spent a stunning few days in Mt Tambourine and I got to be involved in the reception as the MC. As you can probably imagine, it was a suitably serious affair with no shenanigans what-so-ever…

Me and my little bro

Not sure who these clowns are…

Goondiwindi

David and I were invited out to Gundy (as the locals call it) to be involved in a festival through one of the schools. This was no small event – they had a massive assembly performance where all teachers and senior students performed skits, there was music and craft stalls and several days where artists were brought in to run talks and workshops. The whole shebang finished with a starlit night of poetry, where the kids performed the work they’d produced with David.

We knew we were getting close when massive cacti started cropping up along the road

We took pup with us and walked along the river each day

The kids and I created a Julia Gillard monster (their idea, not mine!)

Our wacky burger. When the kids had me adding all the farmyard animals, I decided it was necessary to add to the farmer too…

Kumon

I’d never heard of this amazing organisation until they contacted me. Kumon began in Japan but is now worldwide, and is a method of learning where kids are encouraged to advance their skills beyond what they’re learning at their schools. Some of the most exciting young minds in Australia are involved in Kumon, and each year they hold an awards ceremony for their highest achievers. I was invited as keynote speaker for their Brisbane conference and loved meeting all the enthusiastic learners.

They even provided me with a corsage – cute!

Talking about imagination and literacy

Home

But even with all the events and trips I’ve done and the amazing people I’ve met, the best thing about travel is arriving back home again…

Launching Brave Squish Rabbit (Part 2)

As promised, here’s the second launch in all its rabbity glory:

Melbourne Launch

Held at The Little Bookroom in Carlton North, on not just any day but the store’s 52nd birthday! It was incredibly special to be a part of their celebrations. Believe it or not, they are the world’s oldest children’s bookstore, and in my opinion one of the most warm and beautifully designed stores. They also did a lovely post about the day over on their blog. It was a surprisingly chilly Spring day in Melbourne, but that didn’t stop the little rabbits coming out of the woodwork…

A brave and squishy window display

Look at those decorations!

A very special rabbit hopped along to help us celebrate

The brilliant and cheeky man of children’s lit, Andy Griffiths, launched my brave little rabbit

In a demonstration of what it means to be brave, Andy unleashed a crawling hand into the little audience (and they were brave indeed!)

Pretending I can stil fit in a mini children’s chair…

Book signing (no spelling mistakes this time)

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A ‘secret treehouse’ image the kids and I created together – click to see a larger version (see if you can spot Andy’s signature ‘bum’)

A final callout to my wonderful man. He manages to love and support the strange lady that is behind Squish Rabbit, help put together these launches (ie. arrange the whole thing) and somehow still be smiling by the end of it all. You are truly inspirational.

Launching Brave Squish Rabbit (Part 1)

It seems like only yesterday I was playing around in my art room, finishing the first ever full colour image of my wee rabbit. But that was back in 2009. Now it’s nearing the end of 2012 and little Squish Rabbit has two books out in the world. I have to pinch myself sometimes.

Squish’s second title, Brave Squish Rabbit, was lucky enough to have not one but two lovely launches, in Brisbane and Melbourne. Thank you to all those who made them such special days – to the bookstores and writing community and family and friends and little readers and especially to all those wearing rabbit ears. Squish and I had a ball, as you can see from the photos below…

Brisbane Launch

Held at the delightful Black Cat Books in Paddington, on a bright September morning out on their back deck.

How to prepare for a starry night book launch: glittery cardboard, star stencil, scissors and (40 stars later) tenacity

How to prepare for a rabbity book launch: carrots, thread and a precise hand

The wall of Squish (and someone in the way)

My two favourite bunnies

The lovely Steph from Black Cat, getting serious about books!

Chris Bongers, teen novelist extraordinaire, did a beautiful job of launching my little rabbit out into the world of books

Those pesky chickens (Richard Grantham understands, who is playing his wonderfully moody sound track behind)

Some floppy eared bunnies – even rabbits feel sad sometimes (although one looks a little cranky)

Glittery cupcakes to cheer up the bunnies!

Skye Staniford did a beautiful set of songs for the little-uns while I signed books

With my lovely smiley publishers, Cathy and Kristina from UQP

My pup couldn’t come, but we still celebrated with him when we got home

Keep an eye out for my next post, where I’ll put up all the photos from the Melbourne launch…

Brave Squish Rabbit Launch (Brisbane)

Behind the scenes I’ve been busily scurrying away organising the Brisbane Brave Squish Rabbit launch event. It’s all coming together beautifully, thanks to the wonderful Black Cat Books in Paddington.

There will be a bunny book reading.

There will be live illustrations.

There will be carrots and cupcakes.

There will be music and crafts and maybe a chicken pinata (random? Not if you read the book!)

I just wanted to hop on here quickly to post up the official launch invite. If you’re around, please join us for a Saturday morning full of rabbity celebrations – Squish and I would love to see you (click on the image to see a bigger version):

We’ll also be launching in Melbourne again, and I’ll be back soon with dates.

Now I’m off again for the Brisbane Writers Festival, followed by Write Around Qld and the Cairns Tropical Writers Fest. I promise when I return to do a post full of photos from these events as well as all the amazing schools that welcomed Squish and I over book week.

In the mean time, happy reading…

Literary Festival Season

We have just entered literary festival season. Writers, usually quiet pyjama encrusted and tea toting creatures, suddenly start popping up all over the place. Books begin to grow on trees. Festivals bloom in cities like pubs (ie. one on every corner). It’s an exciting time of year.

So far I’m having a ball – I’ve met so many wonderful writers, teachers, librarians and little reading rabbits. These festivals are put together by an amazing group of people who love books and the kids who attend are wonderfully enthusiastic. On the flip side, sleep is suddenly hard to find and I’m living out of a suitcase, but that’s kind of an adventure in itself.

If you want to catch me over the next few months, I’ll be doing talks and workshops and readings at the following places:

  • Aug 8th: Voices on the Range, Toowoomba based youth literary festival
  • Aug 20th-24th: Book Week, at various school around Brisbane and Toowoomba
  • Sept 5th-9th: Brisbane Writers Festival, both WordPlay and the adult program
  • Sept 11th-13th: Write Around Qld, an amazing program organised by the BWF that tours children’s authors around regional Qld
  • Sept 14th-16th: Cairns Tropical Writers Festival, kid’s and adult program
  • Sept 29th: Brisbane launch of Brave Squish Rabbit, at Black Cat Books
  • Oct (date TBC): Melbourne launch of Brave Squish Rabbit
  • Oct 28th: Making Picture Books Workshop (for adults) through the QWC
  • Dec 27th-31st: Woodford Folk Festival, kid’s program

Here’s a photo diary of the festivals and such that I’ve been involved in this year that have already slipped by:

May: Darwin Writers Festival (WordStorm) where I did a number of school visits and adult writing workshops and didn’t get eaten by crocodiles

June: Out of the Box Festival, which celebrates children’s books in big circus tents by the Brisbane river

July: CYA Conference, for adult writers of children’s and YA lit. I’m posing with the delightful Penny Whitehouse in front of Craig Smith’s playful illo

July: Setting up for the Brisbane Square Library ‘Journey of a Book’ Exhibition

July: Squish Rabbit glass cabinet display at the Brisbane Square Library

July: Whitsunday Voices, Mackay youth literature festival. Dave Hackett did awesome caricatures for all the presenters (which were very accurate – I think he had secret intelligence on us all…)

July: Whitsunday Voices – life sized bird-monster I drew with the help of some creative kids in an illustration workshop

July: David and I with Peter Carnavas at the launch of his latest picture book, the delightful ‘The Children Who Loved Books’

But I wont be able to convince you it’s all just work. Here’s some evidence that relaxing happened too…

Beach and sunset in Darwin. There may also have been wine…

Post festival breakfast on my parent’s back deck in Mackay

Media Bunny and Word Play

This little bunny was out on the media trail earlier this week, hopping over to Eagle Junction Primary to meet some fellow book lovers. The kids were adorable and full of smiles, and we had lots of fun doing silly poses for the cameraman (the photo they chose was probably the most traditional).

It was all in the name of Word Play, the amazing kid’s stream at the Brisbane Writers Festival. The 2012 program launched this week and I’m thrilled to be involved. I first attended this amazing festival as a book lover, then as an aspiring book writer, and this year will be my first presenting as an actual real live author (woo). You can check out the program online here, and have a sneak peek at all the amazing children’s writers and illustrators who’ll be doing readings and workshops here. I have three talks and a workshop spread across the days, where I’ll be talking all about writing and ideas and characters, as well as doing some Squish Rabbit readings. The kids who attend might even get an early peek at Brave Squish Rabbit too.

The festival runs from 5th – 9th September on the sunny banks of the Brisbane river. Hope to see you there!

CBCA Book of the Year Awards

Ever since I was a little girl I was aware of the round stickers that occasionally popped up on Australian book covers. I didn’t know what they said or exactly what they meant, but I knew one thing: whether the sticker was silver, bronze or blue, the book was going to be good. As I got taller and older I learnt about the Children’s Book Council of Australia, the organisation behind the stickers, and that each year they ran awards to select the best Australian children’s books published.

Over a lifetime these stickers have informed much of my reading. As a wee one I was much more likely to pick up a book if it had one on the cover. As a teenager so many of the books I treasured were awarded (Gary Crew’s Angel’s Gate, Isobelle Carmody’s The Gathering and Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi). As an aspiring author / illustrator, my reading list came directly from the award notable list (although I had often read most of them already). Then, as I became part of the writing community, each year I’d barrack for my friend’s book and my favourite picks.

This year the awards meant something different. I had my first children’s book ‘out there’. I was determined not to think about the awards, but a friend mentioned when the short-lists were announced and I suddenly found myself thinking (and stressing) about them a whole lot. It was kind of awful. Steven Herrick wrote a beautifully humble and honest post about how writers try to pretend that awards don’t matter – that we don’t mind whether we’re selected or not. I even tried to trick myself into thinking this, with lots of very sensible self-talk about the fact that it was only ‘my first book’ and that ‘so many amazing books are published each year’ blah blah etc, but it didn’t really work. I still harboured a deep secret hope.

Tuesday was the fateful day, and after all that stressing I still feel incredibly humbled and overawed with the news. Squish Rabbit was selected as part of the short-list for the 2012 Crichton Award, which aims to encourage new talent in the field of children’s illustration. It was also selected as a Notable Book in the Early Childhood Category of the Book of the Year Awards, which I’m thrilled about.

The Australian writing community is such a supportive one, and there was an outpouring of lovely congratulations and kind words – thank you. So many amazing books made this year’s lists, including those by some of my favourite people: Michael Gerard Bauer, Lucia Masciullo, Peter Carnavas, James Foley, Prue Mason, Sally Rippin and Wendy Orr. So proud to count these incredible writers and illustrators as friends.

The day’s celebrations included champagne, party poppers, a movie, a decadent Thai feast and a little pack of fun:

  • The Shin’s latest album: Their music makes me happy (and is part of the soundtrack for my latest novel)
  • Obi-Wan: A funny gift from my poet to remind me that Jedi like patience can bring rewards (for Star Wars nerds that would like to inform me that this is not actually Obi-Wan, I say to you that I had already named him thusly when I discovered this, and besides I like this name better)
  • My Neighbour Totoro: Possibly one of Miyazaki’s greatest films, which is quietly magical and so full of beauty, and one I have been meaning to get forever

The Little Big Book Club

Last month I got an e-mail from my lovely marketing manager at UQP to say that Squish Rabbit had been chosen as an April recommendation by The Little Big Book Club (LBBC). Now I knew a little about this wonderful organisation, so I felt a bit chuffed, shared the news with my dog, then got back to work. About 10 minutes later I got a call from my editor at UQP to say that the e-mail they had sent may not have quite captured how exciting this news was.

And she was right. It was only as I learnt more about the amazing organisation that is The Little Big Book Club that I started to understand just how exciting it is to have a book chosen by them. The LBBC branched off from The Big Book Club, which was established in South Australia in 2003 as a not-for-profit organisation all about (summed up best on their website):

promoting reading, the discussion of books and the promotion of Australian authors and illustrators

And they do an incredible job of all of these things. Their national program includes an initiative called ‘It’s Story Time’ where each month they select three age appropriate picture books to get behind – promoting them to parents, carers and various early childhood sectors. The program includes three age brackets: 0-2 year olds, 2-3 year olds, and 4-5 year olds. They then use their monthly book recommendations as the subject of various newspaper editorial, advertising, activity suggestions, learning time downloads, online e-books, games and many other age appropriate resources. Since the program launched in 2006 it has featured over 234 titles for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, all of which can be found on their website. You can also read more about their amazing work here.

In preparation for the April selection of books, Leanne Williams has already written a great article all about books and self-esteem for the latest SA Kids Parenting Magazine. Not only is it incredibly informative, but it also includes the most delightful photo of Leanne’s sweet little girl sleeping with her copy of Squish Rabbit! Click on the image above to see the full article.

As I was recently in Adelaide, I popped over to the LBBC office in Norwood and got to meet the crew, who are just as energetic and enthusiastic about all things books as you’d expect them to be. While there we made a series of little videos where they interviewed me all about where my ideas come from, the importance of reading for kids (and what I was like as a young reader), Squish Rabbit, the sequel (Brave Squish Rabbit) and also technology and books. It was great fun, and they should be going up on the LBBC website soon. Until then, take a little sneaky peek below:

At the end of my visit the lovely staff also gifted me the most delicious smelling hand cream. Having just used it, scents of vanilla and jasmine are now wafting up from my keyboard…


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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