Archive for the 'Literary Festival' Category



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.

The Big Apple

As some may remember, last year I received a travel grant to attend the New York Winter SCBWI conference, as well as meet my publisher and US agent. Over a week ago, after boarding a plane, travelling backwards through time and flying over oceans and ice, Squish Rabbit and I landed in the frosty Big Apple.

Unprepared for the freezing conditions (I’m no snow bunny), the first thing I did was head out shopping. Ok, so it wasn’t just because I was unprepared … there were some incredible winter sales with awesome hats and boots and coats luring me into stores. Needless to say it was a successful shopping trip.

The SCBWI conference was incredible, with many inspiring talks and presentations on everything from digital publishing and picture books, to crossover novels and writing humour (Mo Willems!). Lots to take away, and I’ve left with a growing urge to dive back into my stories.

While over here I’ve been lucky enough to have the company of a number of lovely Aussie authors and illustrators. I spent the most time with Serena Geddes, Tina Burke and James Foley – all incredibly talented and whose books you should check out. After the conference we got up to all sorts of shenanigans, including: iceskating, pizza and gelato in times square, snow fights, Irish pubbery, late night hot chocolates (and maybe some cocktails), Chinese New Year (year of the rabbit!) and plenty of random meandering.

I’ve been keeping a visual diary while here, filled with ticket stubs and a muddle of found objects with scratchings and scribbles over the top. I’ll put some up over the next few days, but for now I’m going to go take another big bite out of that apple…

Illustration Workshop

At this year’s Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival I’ll be doing a series of talks for all different ages. I’m super excited, as getting the chance to connect with my audience is easily one of the most joyous parts of being a children’s writer and illustrator.

I’ll be doing several book talks with grades 2-5, where I’ll discuss the role of author / illustrator, read Squish Rabbit and talk about how the story and characters developed. I’ll also read my story Monster Music, teach the kids how to draw some of the characters and together we’ll create our own monster. Can’t wait to see the results!

I’ll also be doing a series of illustration workshops with grades 5-8 and 9-12, for those specifically interested in art. In these I’ll read my short story Haunted (from the anthology Short and Scary) and discuss how an illustrator would go about illustrating such a tale. Together we’ll then illustrate a single scene from the story, using collage and mixed media. We’ll also be making our own textured paper, using paint, oil pastels and certain tools. Yesterday I had a go at making the scene myself, which you can see below. There were some happy accidents, like the trees’ canopy – I had intended to keep the image limited to the rectangular canvas, but before folding back the overhanging trees I realised I quite liked them the way they were. I also figured out a few tricks in speeding up the whole process, and even discovered how not to do certain bits…

It should be fun. Kids are so creative, and I love hearing all their big ideas. I also know high school artists are incredibly talented, and am fully prepared for many of them to be better at drawing than me!

PS. The competition in the last post is still open, so remember to comment if you want a chance to win…

Competition Time!

This July I’ve been invited back to the Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival, which is held in tropical Mackay (north Queensland), my old home town. I’ll be doing a series of book talks and illustration workshops, along with a number of other wonderful authors and illustrators. I had such a fabulous time at last year’s festival and am thrilled I’ll get to be involved again.

Unfortunately Squish Rabbit will not quite be published in time for the festival, so instead I’ve created a series of postcards and bookmarks featuring my characters. They’ll be for sale through the festival bookshop.

COMPETITION: For your chance to win a signed copy of one of my postcards and bookmarks just leave a comment on this post, telling me which ones you’d choose if you won. Once I return from the festival (21st July) I’ll draw a winner out of a hat and announce it in the comment thread. Make sure I have some way of contacting you in case you win!

22/07/10 UPDATE: Thanks for all who entered and said such lovely, supportive things. I decided to draw three winners, and they are – Lynne the Lurker, Meg McKinlay and Susan Bonaci. I drew the winning names using an online random number generator (I wrote a few names out on pieces of paper, wanting to stay true to my above promise to draw the names from a hat, before giving up – clearly I’m too impatient). In a strange twist of fate, each person chose a different character. I’ll contact you each individually to find out where to send your prize…

Short and Scary

Up for a bit of creepiness? I hope so, because Black Dog Books is just about to release their latest anthology, Short and Scary. It’s a book that promises to be full of ‘a whole lot of creepy stories and other chilling stuff’, and it’s not wrong. Ghosties and ghoulies and monsters and all sorts of freakiness crawls over each and every page.

How do I know? Because one of my stories is featured between the pages. Just today I received my advance copy, and enjoyed seeing Haunted alongside stories written by so many authors and illustrators I admire, such as Shaun Tan, Sally Rippin, James Moloney, Gabrielle Wang, Carole Wilkinson, Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton, James Roy and the list goes on. It’s also thrilling to share the pages with many good friends of mine (girls, you know who you are). I encourage you to go grab yourself a copy, not just because it’s a great read, but also because all proceeds will be donated to a really worthwhile charity called Big Brothers Big Sisters, who provide a much needed youth mentoring program.

As an aside, I haven’t blogged much lately because I’ve been quite busy – not with my usual writing, but writing articles and preparing talks…

  • I was recently the featured author in Writing Queensland, the QLD Writers Centre magazine, which involved an interview
  • I was approached by the ACT Writers Centre and asked to contribute an article on picture books to one of their upcoming magazines
  • July 14th-16th I’ll be speaking at Whitsunday Voices, giving talks and illustration workshops to grades 2-4 and 9-12
  • July 17th I’ll be doing a talk on Making Picture Books for the Gold Coast Writers’ Association (non-members are welcome to attend too)

There’s nothing I enjoy more than speaking about writing and illustrating, and I’m really looking forward to doing some more speaking events. So I’ve been busy, but happy. Although I will enjoy getting back to my new novel…

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…

Sound Waves

As most of you know, while in Mackay for the Whitsunday Voices youth literature festival I was interviewed at the local radio station, ABC Tropical North. I got to have a chat with the delightful morning show host, Aaron Stevens, who was incredibly welcoming and enthusiastic. We talked all about the festival and the importance of books in children’s lives, and also discussed some of my work. If you’re prepared to lose 6 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back then feel free to listen below (by the way, the images are of the Mackay beach side suburb I grew up in):

Those astute listeners will have picked up on my clumsy plug for this blog…

Festival Fanfare (part 2)

Rabbit - climbI have now officially unpacked after the Whitsunday Voices festival (orderly Andrew was very restrained, and never said anything over the last few days). While unpacking my suitcase, I was also mentally unpacking, thinking through all I experienced and learnt. My favourite thing about the festival was that I had plenty of breaks, which allowed me to sneak into several of the other author / illustrator sessions to watch them work their magic…

  • Michael Gerard Bauer: Even with a tough crowd (well over 200 mid-graders) Michael had them captivated with tales from his childhood, revealing events that influenced scenes in his books. He’s a natural storyteller and had us all in stitches, and ignited a love of literature and stories in even the most reluctant reader
  • Sally Rippin: Sally is just delightful and discussed the evolution of several of her books, followed by an illustration workshop. She cleverly broke down the drawing of complex forms into simple shapes, and had the kids marveling at what that they could create with her help
  • John Marsden: John is a master at audience participation and used several clever games and volunteers from the audience to demonstrate how stories are created. I find his passion for stories and good writing is catching (the audience clearly felt the same way)
  • Boori Pryor: If you ever get the chance to see him speak, don’t miss it. He’s like the rockstar of kid’s literature. Storytelling is clearly in his blood, and he has a wonderful way of making every child in the audience feel like he’s speaking to them alone. He naturally involves the entire audience in his performance, reeling you in with his energy and humour. Then he whipped out his didgeridoo and had the kids doing dance interpretations of australian wildlife. I laughed so hard I actually cried when one little boy did a hip-hop style butterfly (the kind of butterfly you wouldn’t confront in a dark ally)
  • Matt Ottley: Matt ran an illustration workshop that literally had the audience wide eyed and gasping in awe. He started with simple shapes, then the audience marveled as, with a few lines, they emerged as characters from his books. He had kids draw ‘Mr Squiggle’ style doodles on the board, then transformed them into funny animals and fantasy creatures. Every child in that room left with the desire to learn to draw like Matt.

After all that, on the final day we had the big literary dinner. When I say ‘big’ I mean it – over 400 people attended. There was much chatting, socialising, eating and drinking. Even some dancing (although not on tabletops, as Michael Bauer would have you believe). Below are some photos of the night, which prove even us ‘reclusive’ writer and illustrator types can scrub up alright for a party.

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Michael and I (we may be on a table at this point - you'd never know)

Robert Newton (writer), me and Steven Herrick (poet)

Robert Newton (writer), me and Steven Herrick (poet)

Marc Macbride (illustrator), me, Matt Ottley (writer/illustrator) and Sally Rippin (writer/illustrator)

Marc Macbride (illustrator), me, Matt Ottley (writer/illustrator) and Sally Rippin (writer/illustrator)

Festival Fanfare (part 1)

Rabbit - floatAs mentioned in my last post, I was invited as an emerging author to speak at Mackay’s Whitsunday Voices youth literary festival. I returned to Brisvegas many days ago, but after several days of festivities followed by the big literary dinner, I’ve only just caught up on sleep and rejoined the land of the living.

The festival itself played out over Thursday 16th and Friday 17th of this month, and was run by a bunch of delightful teachers, volunteers and students. I had the opportunity of speaking with all the kids from prep through to grade three – kids who were enthusiastic, engaging and full of both thoughtful and hilarious questions. They truly made little-old-me feel like a rock star (I was even asked to sign many drawings and school diaries!). Several of my talks were in my original grade 4 and 5 classrooms, which brought back some very vivid memories of my childhood self.

While each talk varied slightly depending on the class, they looked something like this:

  • Storytelling: I introduced myself as someone who tells stories through words and images. We also discussed the history of storytelling and how it has evolved
  • Reading: The classes were my first test audience for Squish Rabbit. It was such a thrill to see how they responded to the story. I was constantly amazed at how their minds unpacked the characters and events
  • Discussion: There were lots of questions about how I made the images and where the ideas came from
  • Illustration Workshop: I went in armed with a cartooning workshop on people, but all the classes requested I teach them how to draw Squish and his Squirrel friend Twitch, which was great fun
  • Characterisation: After the drawing workshop, the kids created their own versions of my characters by adding colours, clothes or props. They were so imaginative that I had to share some

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Agent Twitch

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Daddy Squish, mummy Squish and baby Squash :)

Even though I was invited there to talk, I feel like I left with more than I contributed. Everyone was so generous and the kids filled me with energy and self-esteem, as well as many ideas for future stories…

Whitsunday Voices

The Mackay Festival of Arts is growing into a distinctive regional QLD presence.  This week it presents the annual Whitsunday Voices youth literature festival, which each year is attended by over 5,000 students.  2009 sees a stunning cast of authors and illustrators; people like Michael Gerard Bauer, John Marsden, Emily Rodda, Matt Ottley and Sally Rippin.

And me (*cheeky grin*). I’ve been invited to attend as an emerging author and illustrator, and will get the opportunity to be involved in the festival events and talk to a number of junior classes. The festival itself is held at my old school, so it will be an interesting experience standing up in front of kids in the very same classrooms I sat in as a student. Even some of my old teachers still work there. No doubt the experience of running into them in hallways will make me unconsciously duck away guiltily, feeling like a troublesome school girl again.

The festival itself runs on Thursday and Friday, but I’m in Mackay a day early. I had the fortune of being invited into the local ABC Tropical North studio to do an interview with the delightful morning show host, Aaron Stevens. It was lovely having the chance to speak about the great work the festival does in introducing a new generation of kids to books and reading, and to also be able to speak about my craft. While there I got to catch up with an old school friend, Melissa Maddison, whose dulcet tones present the news each day.

The Whitsunday Voices festival launch is tonight, and I’m all amped up for the beginning of what will be several days of writing and illustrating mayhem. I’m going in equipped with stories, art and even some little bookmarks I made for the kids I’ll be speaking to. Bring it on!

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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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