Posts Tagged 'Getting Published'

Brave Squish Rabbit

I love mail. Bills – not so much – but letters and postcards and invites and … packages. Oh yes, especially packages. Most especially those that come in the shape of books. Or those with little white rabbits tucked away inside. And yesterday I received just such a package.

These are the final print proofs of the Australian version of Brave Squish Rabbit, which will officially be released on October 1st, just after the US release date of September 14th. And this version has a very special difference. Something we’re super hoppy excited about. Which is…

It’s glow-in-the-dark

It was all my editor’s idea, who has been looking for the right book to use this effect on. Along came Squish with his second tale, set at night and with luminous little glow bugs on the cover. It couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s taken quite a mammoth effort to get the printing of this book just right, and the UQP editorial team and I have spent much time together in dark cupboards testing glowing samples. Not quite how I imagined this whole publishing thing would work. But a lot of fun :)

The glow effect is on the glow bugs on the cover and the little stars on the back:

l always imagine that because I have spent so long illustrating a project and have seen it every day on my computer screen, that I wont react when I see the final book. But it’s just not true. When I opened the package I might have been heard repeating the words ‘It’s a book! It’s a book!’ like some kind of neanderthal who has just discovered the written word. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. I’m really proud of this book, and so thankful of the support my two publishers have given me in helping bring it to life.

But I wasn’t the only one in this household who was excited about the arrival. You can see what happened below:

First, Squish (who has a giraffe beanie on – don’t ask) wanted to read his story

Then my pup, Frank, got jealous and wanted in on the action

Like all good siblings, they finally settled their differences and decided to share

Bookstore Paparazzi

[Please read with your best David Attenborough voice…] Armed with camera, carrots and a sense of adventure, on Monday we headed out into the wilds of Brisbane suburbia in search of our first glimpse of Squish Rabbit. The book was said to have been released into the bookstore savanna just that morning, however there had been rumoured sightings for several days prior.

A notoriously shy creature, Squish Rabbit is best approached with reading glasses and a gentle hand. If having trouble tracking him down, try asking your local bookstore or librarian, as they are well trained in the art of literary rabbit spotting. As a last resort, attempt the tried and true trail of carrots. On this day we were in luck, as we managed to track the wily rabbit to our local bookstore: Black Cat Books. And for a typically nervous creature, Squish seemed to quite enjoy the paparazzi attention…

I also had a box of books arrive from both publishers on the same day, and now have a veritable fountain of rabbits in my home. If they keep multiplying (as rabbits tend to do) I may have to start putting them to good use around the house. One on the bookshelf of course. Several as matching drink coasters. One to entertain the dog. Hang one on the wall as a postmodern art work. One beneath the outdoor table leg to stop it rocking. Two as ironic book ends. Any other ideas..?

Front window display in Black Cat Books

The countdown is now on for the launch. Only two days to go…

Happy Squishy Day!

It’s finally here. It feels wonderful and surreal and a whole mix of different things. It all began back in 2006 with the first spark of an idea. It’s come such a long way since those first baby rabbit steps. Today it’s emerging from it’s burrow, all grown up and ready to enter the world. And with a hop, skip and a jump…

Squish Rabbit is finally in bookstores.

Only in the US so far, but it will also be available here in Australia by the end of the month. I’ve been spoiled with some lovely reviews so far.  Kirkus Reviews says:

Battersby’s expert, ample distribution of white space provides room on each page for readers to luxuriate in her impressive, evocative ink, watercolor and collage illustrations — and to absorb a small rabbit’s feelings. Minimal, moving and adorable, little Squish makes a big impression.

Publisher Weekly also had some encouraging things to say, as did a lovely mummy blogger over at Baby Centre.

I’ve been busy organising the Brisbane book launch (Saturday 3rd September) with my wonderful Aussie publishers, UQP, and the amazing indie bookstore, Black Cat Books.  All are welcome – kids and adults and anyone willing to go back down the rabbit hole. I’d love your company if you can make it. I’ll have the official invite up soon, and have a facebook page all about the launch that you can check out too.

Now this little cotton tailed writer is off for a day of celebrations … welcome into the world Squish!

Squish Rabbit – First Copy

I love mail. Nearly everything is digital now-a-days, especially when it comes to correspondence, so more than ever it’s exciting to get mail with sticky tape and handwriting and creases and stamps. Just a few days ago I had a particularly exciting package arrive. My first copy of Squish Rabbit (the US version) came in a crisp white envelope, all the way from New York. It even had a handwritten note from my editor with it.

I was out with my partner when it arrived, so we had an emergency celebratory coffee just to mark the occasion. As you can imagine, there’s been much excitement at my house. Even my special little pup Frank has been caught up in the thrill of it all. I’m so proud of this book, and so grateful to everyone that has helped it to become all it is. Squish has been with me for a long time, so I’m thrilled to finally have his story in hardcopy.

For the first few days after it arrived I could be seen gripping the book, repeating the words ‘It’s a book! Look, it’s a real book!’ to anyone who would listen. But it’s slowly becoming more real to me that it will be in bookstores in just a few short months…

Writerly Party

Who said writers are a shy, unsocial bunch? I can’t speak for all writerly types, but at the very least Queensland writers aren’t. Last Thursday the Queensland Writers Centre threw its annual Christmas party, the first one held at their new premises at the State Library, South Bank.

This night was especially exciting for me as it was also the launch of the 2011 program of workshops and masterclasses. For the first time I’ll be a part of it, presenting a workshop called Making Picture Books in August next year. For more info (and to see my grinning mug) check it out on the QWC’s webpage. Here’s a snippet from their site about what the workshop will cover:

Focusing on the principles of writing for children and the craft of creating picture books, as well as covering how to build your resume and submit work to publishers, Katherine Battersby will illustrate each concept using picture book examples drawing from both classic and modern Australian titles. Perfect for anyone with a children’s story in the making!

It was a great night, with much chit chat, wine, finger food and posing in lovely frocks (mainly the women). Unfortunately there was no dancing, as some rumour mongers would have you think (you know who you are – Kathleen I’m looking at you). See the photos below for evidence of the fun had:

Me, Simon Groth (author and new addition to QWC staff) & Jodi DeVantier (WQ Editor)

Me, David 'Ghostboy' Stavanger (poet and general trouble maker), Kathleen Noud (YA writer / rumour monger) & Peter Allert (illustrator)

Print Proofs

Squish can be a wily little rabbit. He’s hoppity and excitable. Hard to get a hold of. From the very beginning he was tough to pin to the page – it took me several years to do just that. So I wasn’t surprised when, after my publisher sent him on his first trip to me through the post, he went missing.

We’re not really sure what happened. Maybe he got lost. Maybe he got distracted. Maybe he hopped off on a detour through Fiji – even a mini rabbit can harbor secret desires for sun and surf (and cocktails). Rumour actually has it he got held up in customs.

Anyway, after a long wait Squish Rabbit finally arrived:

My first printed page proofs. These are a set of unbound prints of all the pages that will make up the picture book. As a writer it’s important to look over the layout of the text and check for any typos. As an illustrator it’s vital to ensure all the colours have printed the way you hoped and that there are no glitches in the images.

Holding the proofs is wonderfully surreal. A few years back this strange little rabbit lived purely in the warren of my mind. But it’s all starting to feel real now. There was even a sighting of him online (thanks Maddy!). And with a printed version it’s really starting to look like a proper book. Fun times…

Plotting a Novel (part 2)

by Kate Forsyth

The Forsyth Triangle

I have developed a diagram to help my writing students understand the basic narrative arc of stories and I’m going to share it with you all today – though if you are going to share it with anyone else please make sure you credit me!

It is based on Freytag’s Triangle, developed by the German dramatist Gustav Freytag who studied Aristotle’s Poetics. Freytag divided a drama into five parts which he named:

Exposition – Rising Action – Climax – Falling Action – Denouement

I have combined his theories with the idea of a three-act structure often used by playwrights and screenwriters.

Some definitions:

  • Expositionbackground information – characters, scene, & situation – a scene that shows the normal life of the protagonist
  • Inciting Incident the catalyst that begins the major conflict – a problem or complication to be solved – the point at which normal life is changed
  • Rising Actiona series of conflicts and crises – obstacles to overcome, ordeals to undergo, lessons to be learnt, revelations to be understood
  • Crisis – a crucial or decisive moment in the story that has a powerful effect on the protagonist – a turning point
  • Midpoint Reversal the middle of the story, where it seems all is lost and the hero cannot go on – it often marks a movement from one place to another, whether physical, spiritual or emotional
  • Climaxthe turning point of the action, when tension reaches its height. The point in which the hero must not only face – and defeat – his enemy, but also his greatest fear
  • Resolutionthe final stage, where questions are answered and problems solved
  • Falling Action the action following the climax that moves the story towards its end – it is usually much shorter than the previous series of events
  • Denouement comes from the old French, and means to ‘untie the knot’.  The final scene when all is well – ‘the feast scene’

Understanding the basic narrative arc of a story can help you make sure your story does not sag in the middle, fizzle out at the end or drone on for too long at the beginning (the most common mistakes I see in manuscripts!)

Plotting a Novel (part 1)

by Kate Forsyth

To plot, or not to plot – that is the question …

To me, there are two parts of writing. There’s the wonderful enchantment that overcomes me sometimes, when words tumble through my head faster than I can write, when every word rings true as soon as I catch it in my net. And then there’s the hard slog of writing when every word is dug out of obstinate rock.

To me, good writing seems so effortless, it is as if the reader was making it up as they go along, as if every word and every happening in the story is inevitable. I never want to be seen striving for effect – I want the architectural girders of the story to be invisible.

However, to write that well is hard. It is all too easy to lose your way, which is why having a plan of what you are writing can help you be a more focused and effective writer. I have two mantras that I teach my students:

  • To write without a plan is like going on a journey without a map
  • Never start a novel with a blank page

There are basically two methods of writing.

The Intuitive Approach

Sometimes called ‘free associative writing’.

You set off on a journey with no idea where you are going, allowing the words to carry you along as they will.

Every time you get stuck, which you will be often, you can use a form of brainstorming to get you going again. Ask yourself questions – where are my characters? What are they doing? Why did that happen? What can my character hear, see, smell, taste, feel? What am I trying to express or communicate with this story?

The main problems with this method is getting so stuck you can’t get going again, or ending up with a lot of material that cannot be used, thereby wasting time and energy.

The Analytical Approach

Some writers plot out the entire story before they write a word, complete with characters sketches, chapter-by-chapter and scene-by-scene breakdowns, and thematic conclusions.

Such planning can help with both the actual writing process (you know what you are writing about) and with the tying up of any loose ends. However, it can also limit you to only writing what was planned and so not leaving room for any of those great leaps of the imagination that can take you in all sorts of surprising directions.

What I do is use a combination of both of these methods – I develop a plot-line where I know my beginning and my end and a number of key scenes along the way. Then, as I am writing, I develop this plot-line further as new ideas come. I also do a fairly comprehensive outline before I write each chapter so I know exactly what I want to have happen in that scene.

So what exactly is a plot?

A Plot is a series of events which is driven by the protagonist’s attempt to RESOLVE a source of CONFLICT. The plot is therefore driven by the protagonist’s actions and reactions to a set of problems or obstacles or ordeals.

You could also describe this as a causal sequence of events in a story.

  • This means a plot works in two ways – what is happening (the sequence of events) and why it is happening (cause and effect of what is happening)
  • Character and plot are therefore inextricably entwined, because the personality of your characters will determine how they react to any given situation

The Basic Formula Of All Stories

Protagonist + Objective + Obstacles = Story

Another way to put it:

Character + Desire + Conflict = Story

i.e. someone wants something that is hard to get 

Once you understand this, it is much easier to plan your story.

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…

Yearly Goal Post

I’m so sorry. Puns are my mortal enemies but I couldn’t resist this one. So … this is not only my yearly post on goals but also where I set out my writing goal posts for the New Year. Setting yearly goals is particularly important for writers. Writing is an activity that relies solely on self motivation and perseverance. Goals give us something clear and tangible to work towards – they keep us focussed through the ups and downs.

But unrealistic goals do exactly the opposite. It’s all about setting the RIGHT goals. As writers, so many things are out of our control, so it’s vital to make our goals only those things we can control. Our goals should be the things that are within our power to achieve by the end of the year. No pie in the sky stuff – no goals for nabbing a superstar agent, or signing a six figure book contract, or for your debut to hit the New York Times best seller list. Those things are mainly within someone else’s control, or the universe’s (or whatever you believe).

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with wanting those things, but I like to think of them as my ‘dream goals’. My current dream goals are for my first picture book, Squish Rabbit, to get great reviews and be a super seller. That’s a lovely daydream to entertain for a moment. But my real goals, the ones I write down and talk about, are more tangible. They look something like this:

  • Goals about specific projects: writing the first draft of a new novel, redrafting a certain project, finishing the final illustrations for a picture book
  • Goals about submissions: in 2007 I chose to submit just to my critique group, in 2008 I chose to target competitions and magazines, and in 2009 I chose to target agents
  • Goals about networking / branding: getting to more book launches or writing functions, developing a website, visiting schools, promoting yourself as a speaker, or my 2009 goal – starting a writing blog *grin*
  • Goals about craft: focussing on the areas of your writing you know you need to develop by reading books on craft or attending workshops / conferences

I have goals in all of these areas. I think I probably always will. How about you?

PS. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night (I’m signing off for the year, but will be back in the New Year, fresh and chirpy and ready to post)


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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