Posts Tagged 'Michael Bauer'

Voices on the Coast (Part 1)

Ah the serenity. Sun. Surf. Sand. Seagulls. Palms. Sound luxurious? It was.

What it doesn’t sound like is the venue for a children’s literature festival, but then again – this isn’t just any festival. Voices on the Coast is the award winning super festival held annually on the sunshine coast, which has been providing a gamut of literary talks and workshops for school aged kids since 1996. This year I was lucky enough to be a speaker at the festival, and was incredibly spoilt on 3 accounts: I got to…

  1. spend time with inspiring kids and teens
  2. hang out with a bunch of other author / illustrators
  3. take some much needed time out scudding along the beach

L to R: Michael Bauer, David 'Ghostboy' Stavanger, Kate Forsyth and me

David and I headed for the coast last Sunday afternoon, and were joined at the festival by other creatives Michael BauerTristan BancksDeb AbelaPascalle BurtonKate ForsythSerena Geddes and Oliver Phommavanh (just to name a few). We were put right next door to the party room (Michael – I’m looking your way) where the first night’s festivities were held – a dinner and general get together for all the festival presenters to meet and greet (and drink … sensibly of course).

L to R: John Flanagan, Lili Wilkinson, Serena Geddes, Kelly Dunham (festival organiser), me and Rebecca Belfield Kennedy

The next two days were chock full of workshops, whiteboards, pens, pencils and school uniforms. The first day was for secondary students (where myself and a few other picture book writers were stolen away to a local junior school for some talks) and the second day was for primary students. Other authors were also involved in late night panels, adult writer workshops and a further day of touring around libraries across the hinterlands. Unfortunately I was only just recovering from a cold as I set out for the festival, so by the last 10 minutes of my final workshop I had absolutely no voice left (I believe I was emitting a hight pitched tone heard only by local dogs). The kids were very kind and quiet for me, and as an illustrator I could luckily rely on drawing rather than talking.

On the final afternoon David and I headed to the beach for some super juices to try to recoup

After it was all over we had one day before we had to return to Brisbane, so checked out some local markets (and spent some of our hard earned dollars – I might just be wearing a new dress below).

Eumundi markets: Me arguing with a sign over some name calling ... he started it

Next post I’ll break down the workshops I ran at the festival, including some funny Squishy pictures the kids and I drew and wacky monsters we created…


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.


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).


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.


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…

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.


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)

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!


Developing a Brand

Rabbit - psychicHow drab does that sound?  Certainly not the most exciting part of the publishing industry, yet one of the most important when aiming for longevity.  The idea is that authors in today’s market needs to develop a ‘brand’ or recognisable identity, in order for readers to know what to expect from their next book.  Agents and publishers tend to encourage authors (at least initially) to write consistently within one genre in order to develop such a following.  Rachelle Gardner, an American literary agent, has been speaking about this concept over on her blog.  She says the following:

This is a marketing issue, first and foremost. If you want to publish books, attract a loyal readership, and have long-term success as an author, then you’ll need to pick a genre, do it well, and keep doing it over and over. Simple as that. All the arguing in the world and all the talent in the world is not going to change this reality.

This sounds easy enough, unless you’re like me (as I know many are).  My reading interests vary widely between humour and quite dark tales, and likewise, so does my writing.  Branding is something I’m going to have to consider very carefully if I get to the publication stage, choosing between fantasy, humour or straight fiction.  However illustration (in Australia) seems to be the opposite.  I’ve been advised that because it’s such a small market, in order to develop a career you need to be a jack-of-all-trades.  In other words – be able to illustrate anything from non-fiction to fiction and have multiple styles to draw from.

Of course, as with any good rule there are always exceptions.  As soon as an author becomes successful or wins a coveted award they can play around more within genres and age ranges, as Michael Bauer does.  Illustrators seem to go the opposite way – when they’re in demand they can develop a strong style that then becomes their brand, such as Pamela Allen.  If I could develop an illustration brand, it would certainly be ink, collage and watercolour.

So, what’s you brand?


Rabbit - lookTo write or illustrate, you need two kinds of space.  Head space and physical space.

Way back when I first decided to pursue writing and illustrating seriously, my partner and I sat down to figure out how to make me some physical space for it.  Some might think this isn’t as important – that it should be something you can do anywhere.  But I’m a big believer in having a dedicated space.  Somewhere you have that feels creative.  Somewhere to create a writing / illustrating rhythm around.  Yes, I’m all about routine.  When I’m in my office, I know it’s time to write, and I think this is important when we’re creatures of many different lives.  We all have many roles to move in and out of each day – writing is just one of them – and my dedicated space helps me to quickly get into my writing / illustrating mode.

I’ve been thinking about this recently after reading what some other writers have to say about their writing space.  Michael Bauer has posted on Inside a Dog about his office (I’m in love with a big curved wooden desk he found), and Sheryl Gywther has also been talking over on her blog about the music people listen to while writing.

So, my space?  I’m lucky enough to have room for both an art desk and a desk for my computer (which is essentially my writing desk).  At my writing desk I have a quote from Hemmingway (which helps me on bad days to fight the writing critic that sits on my shoulder).  I also have a cork board, which I use to pin up notes on whatever novel I’m working on at any one time – this helps me to move in and out of that world on a daily basis.  I’m also a big subscriber to sticky notes and coloured pens, for keeping track of different characters and plot points.  My most treasured writing companion is my mac.  He’s my ‘other’ man (I spend so much time with him).  I also have a big window with lots of greenery outside (great for people watching and procrastination).  And unlike Sheryl, I can’t listen to music while writing because the words of a song intrude too much, but I often listen to music while drawing.  For illustrating I also have lots of reference books close to hand on my shelf – favourite illustrated books and whatnot.

So, do others have a dedicated space?  Or a space that you’ve taken over?

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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