Archive Page 2

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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I’m Back!

Yes, indeedy I am. I arrived home a few weeks ago and after a short detour (hopping off to Alice Springs for their writers festival) I have caught up on sleep, unpacked and am back into the swing of things. After two months away, ‘back into the swing of things’ really means that I have had to remember what it is to be a responsible adult, pay bills and relearn how to operate my vacuum cleaner.

I had such an amazing time overseas and I have a million things to blog about (Bologna! Seven Stories! European rabbits! New projects!) all of which I will do soon.

Oh, and I may have had a change of hair colour…

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Someone pointed out that it’s kind of carrot coloured. I think Squish would be proud.

Planes, Trains, Cars and Bounty Hunting (or an overseas trip)

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Yep, that about sums up the next seven weeks of my life. Three planes, two trains and over three thousand kms of road will take us through seven countries on a massive European adventure. At least I’m calling it an adventure – some would call it insanity, considering how much driving we’ll be doing on the wrong side of the road, but I wont let that deter me.

And the bounty I’m hunting? Ideas, inspiration, writerly knowledge, illustratorly experiences, oddities and a whole lot of mischief. Plus, of course, rabbits. I am always on the lookout for rabbits. I will hopefully capture a few European varieties (you can see the ones I captured on my last big trip to America here, including the strange pink demon rabbit pictured above).

While in Europe I will get to do some pretty amazing things as a writer and illustrator, including*:

  • Scotland: I’ll be spending nearly two weeks in Edinburgh and St Andrews and several small towns in between, researching a young adult novel that I’m writing which happens to be set there. So much to look forward to … seaside villages all scuddy with cliffs, gothic churches, crumbling castles, eavesdropping on local teens. But most of all just generally absorbing the feel of the place and letting the world of my story settle into my skin.
  • England: I’ll be doing a short residency at Seven Stories, the UKs national centre for children’s books. I’ll get to be a part of some amazing exhibitions they’re putting together, browse their archives of original literary artefacts, help run activities for young people and learn from their expert staff all about engaging children in the world of books.
  • Italy: I’ll be attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the world’s leading children’s publishing event. I’ve had an image chosen for the second year running to be exhibited by the Australian Publisher’s Association Stand, and I’ll be featuring on their table doing live illustrations each day. Bologna also hosts an exhibition of the world’s leading illustrators, a bunch of professional development talks and is the years biggest networking event for creators, publishers and agents.
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My travelling visual diary

I can’t really tell you whether I’m excited or nervous or completely overwhelmed by it all. The feelings are quite indistinguishable. But either way it’s going to be amazing.

It’s not all work type stuff though. We’ll also be seeing my family in England, heading to Berlin for my man’s birthday, off to Venice just because, then driving in a meandering style (ie. we’ll likely get lost) down through Italy, southern France and into Spain.

Needless to say I may not be around much over the next two months. If you do see me here, make sure to shoo me away from the computer. I’ll likely have other things I should be doing … like freezing my little cotton tail off in the biggest cold snap in Europe since the 80s.

Now it’s time to get packing, if my pup will ever let me…

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* A significant part of this trip is generously supported by a career development grant from Arts Queensland.

I’m No Poet (but here are some haiku anyway)

Rabbit - floatIt’s so important as a writer to stretch your writing muscles. To step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Maybe even a little frightening. That’s what I did this Sunday, all in the capable hands of Graham Nunn, an incredible writer often referred to as Mr Poetry in Brisbane. He’s running a year long ginko course, a Japanese tradition where writers go on seasonal walks in natural landscapes to inspire and write haiku*.

Haiku have always fascinated me, but outside of the obligatory attempts in high school English, I’ve never tried them. As a children’s writer I have heard it said that a great picture book creator crafts each page like a haiku – quietly capturing an image or sound or thought, pinned down on the page in just a scatter of words. This is how I like to write. As you may have noticed (in my New Years Resolutions) I’m also interested in becoming more mindful in my writing practise, so this course seemed perfect.

For our summer ginko we all gathered at Karawatha Forrest and spent over an hour (longer for an unfortunate pair who got lost…) walking through the bush alone, taking down observations. It was such a great practise in stillness – in staying present and writing down what the world offered up. Words started to feel new again. Afterwards we all gathered to work on turning our observations into haiku. Here are some of my first attempts:

heavy sun

crow pleads

with the rusted tap

^ Crows appeared regularly in other writer’s work too. Although the crows themselves seemed indifferent to what we were doing.

leaves gather

dead trees disapprove

of movement

^ This is an example of not letting automatic thoughts intrude. I went to write about gusting trees, as I’m so used to them blowing about outside my home office window. But when I really looked, in truth I’d never seen such still trees.

summer ginko

must walk

to keep still

^ This one was inspired by Mr Poetry himself. He suggested we do a bush walk, but recommended spending most of our time sitting still. I found I had to walk a long way in order to do one of the walks within the hour, leaving little time for sitting :)

fresh air

city girl

trips on pollen

^ The world tells us we should make the most of fresh air. However this girl suffers allergies.

A couple of other snippets:

an intrusion of crows

watch grass die

.

flys ignore

personal space

.

twin trees

argue

A final thought on haiku and why I love them. It is said they often explore the concepts as captured by the Japanese words Wabi and Sabi:

  • Wabi: a sense of loneliness or solitude
  • Sabi: the suchness and beauty of ordinary objects

Now doesn’t that make you want to go out and write a haiku? Or read some?

* We were practising the more modern form of haiku, which doesn’t need to adhere to the 5/7/5 syllable structure

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):

Writing Resolutions (and some thoughts on white noise)

Rabbit - lookIt’s the beginning of another year and I’ve been thinking a lot about my writing. 2012 was my first year as a full time writer with a book out (and then two). It was an amazing year but it certainly brought a bunch of new challenges, pressures, and the need to juggle more balls. My time has changed. It’s not that I don’t have time, it’s that time is precious and I want to use it wisely.

With that in mind I have three writing resolutions for 2013:

Enjoy Blogging Again

I began blogging because words were just busting out of me and I needed somewhere to put them. Plus I loved thinking about writing / illustration, and if I didn’t put my thoughts somewhere I was going to drive my family crazy speaking about it constantly. This hasn’t changed – I’m still overflowing with words and love speaking about the industry (and still drive my family nuts). BUT nowadays I funnel most of my words into my manuscripts (deadlines!) and spend much time speaking about craft at festivals and schools. Weeks go by without me blogging and I feel guilty about it. And a guilty blogger is not a happy blogger. So: I’ve given myself permission to blog only when I feel like it, and about whatever writing stuff I want (rather than what I think I should blog about).

This means there might be spans of time where I don’t blog. If you want to keep up with me I’d recommend you:

Reduce White Noise

A big part of writing for me – in fact, probably the biggest – is the thinking. And I need lots of time to think: time where my mind wanders around and about and back again, allowing ideas to swirl and come together. I’ve been practising this skill my whole life. I started daydreaming as a kid (my grade 3 teacher wrote it on my report card as a negative but I knew otherwise). I think deeply about things. I’ve never been able to hear a story or anecdote without taking it a hundred steps further in my mind. And as a writer I rely on this trait.

That’s where white noise comes in. In the last few years we’ve gotten pretty good at eliminating ‘wasted time’ with the invention of the smart phone. We no longer sit on buses and stare out the window, or wait for a friend to arrive at a cafe by watching people go by. Because we pull out our phone. We’ve filled our heads with white noise – Facebook and twitter and blogs and always being accessible by email. For most this may not be an issue. But for me I’ve removed my mind’s chance to wander, daydream and ask ‘what if?’. I’ve filled it with other people’s status updates, blog posts and (often) inane chatter. Why this is a problem: I don’t think about my stories as much. I have less new ideas.

My plan is to cut back the white noise. Severely. It’s not easy, as my iPhone habits are quite ingrained, but it’s getting easier. And guess what? The ideas are already flowing better. I also like myself better when I spend less time on my phone. I smile more and have more to say about the world.

PS. My thoughts on this became more concrete after reading this awesome blog post on Nathan Bransford’s site (make sure you read right through).

Year of Writing

People assume that being a full time writer mostly involves a lot of … well … writing. Sadly, this isn’t so, which I discovered all too well this year. Most of my time has been consumed by business type stuff, promotion, travel and speaking work. This year has been a real eye opener. I’m still learning how to manage it all, and to be honest I’ve hardly created any new work. I miss writing. So I’m officially naming this my Year of Writing. I’ve resolved to put it first again.

Come hell, high water or the zombie apocalypse, there will be writing.

And on that note, I’m sneaking back to the first draft of my YA novel. 25,000 words and counting…

Squish Does Japan (part 2)

Last post I revealed that Squish had snuck into a travelling suitcase and headed off to the land of sushi and Hello Kitty. Find the rest of his photos and scribblings below…

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Luckily, Brave Squish Rabbit managed to escape the scary city of Nara.

He was so excited to visit Miyajima that he climbed up and danced on top of one of Japan’s most sacred Torii gates. Fortunately, he managed to elude police when he finally came down. Naughty Squish Rabbit!

Brave Squish Rabbit very quickly developed an addiction to Taito Station, a Japanese games arcade. In particular, he couldn’t get enough of the “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” drumming game. Best fun you can have for 400 yen!

And now, in his bravest move yet – yes, braver than facing chickens or going back to Nara – Squish Rabbit will head to Tokyo!

[a few days later I received…]

The Miraikan (National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation) building in Tokyo was under attack! Without thinking twice, Brave Squish Rabbit joined forces with 009 to come to the rescue…

… but, unfortunately, he got distracted.

Squish Rabbit’s trip to Japan had been WONDERFUL! He did NOT want to go home.

But then he remembered the toilets. And Nara. So he crawled into his futon (“It’s on the ground, but it’s not a burrow,” he said. “It’s not a bed either, but it’s goooood!”) and got a good night’s sleep before his trip back home. “Sayonara,” he said.

And then Brave Squish Rabbit made it all the way home before his bladder burst.

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Ah, Squish. Can I say how jealous I am? I’ve been wanting (desperately) to go to Japan for years, as I’ve had a long time love affair with all things Japanese. Their food, their culture and mindful traditions, their wonderfully finicky politeness, their clean design aesthetic, their animation (I want to live in the worlds of Miyazaki), their writings (oh to create characters like Murakami) and their art (Yoshitomo Nara does the best angry children).

And now my own character has made it over to Japan before I have. Clearly it’s time to get planning and scheming…


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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