Posts Tagged 'Writing picture books'

New Year, New Adventure

2014 has brought some big changes. Big, but exciting.
The short story is … I’m going to be dividing my time between Australia and Canada. But that’s a bit too short.
2014-01-20

Our snowy house

The long story is this: The only regret I’ve ever carried in life is that I’ve never lived overseas. Growing up, my head was filled with travel tales told by my mum, who shifted around the globe through her 20s and 30s. My parents met in Africa, travelled across Europe, got married in England and I was conceived in Oman, all before they settled in Australia to raise my brother and I. As a family we did many overseas trips to visit relatives and friends. When I left home I always intended to move overseas after uni, but life kind of got in the way. Fifteen years later and, well, it’s about time.
I was considering England when the opportunity to spend some time in Canada came up. I spent all of December over there, having myself a white Christmas and exploring Ottawa and the surrounds (which is where I’ll be based). There’s much to love about Canada – so much about the country and the people that have stolen my heart. It’s already left an imprint on my creative mind: I’m currently working on a new picture book about a big brown bear and a small wild girl. Plus I have a sudden urge to end my sentences in ‘eh?’ and I’m getting insatiable cravings for maple syrup.
While I’m hoping to spend more time over there than not (starting early March), I’ll actually continue to divide my time between Canada and Australia. It’s really important to me to keep in touch with my Australian readership and to continue to develop links with local schools and festivals (not to mention visiting family and friends!). I’ll be back in Australia over July and August for a packed two months of speaking engagements, however I still have days free in both months so contact my speaker’s agents if you’re interested in a visit from me or Squish Rabbit (links on the right).

Based on the photos, I keep getting told I look as though I was born in Canada. I think it’s the fair skin and pale eyes. I’m really excited about the change and love the idea of being closer to all sorts of other unique travel experiences. We already have two trips planned, first to Cuba and then in summer to the Moraine Lake Lodge in the Rocky Mountains. But instead of trying to convince you as to why I’m setting out on this adventure, how about some photos so you can see for yourself?
Ottawa city and its frozen canal (perfect for iceskating)

Ottawa city and its frozen canal (perfect for iceskating)

Amazing museums and art galleries (I love this sculpture by Bill Reid)

Amazing museums and art galleries (I love this sculpture in the Museum of Civilisation by Bill Reid)

Lots of time to read and eat French pastries (in the inner city industrial style cafe 'Art Is In')

Weekends reading and eating French pastries (in the inner city industrial style cafe ‘Art Is In’)

Writing by the fire

Writing by the fire

Gorgeous outdoor installations (this lonely wolf haunts my dreams)

Outdoor art installations (this lonely wolf still haunts my dreams)

And another, this time in Montreal (called 'Light Therapy')

And another, this time in Montreal (called ‘Light Therapy’)

Did I mention the food?

Did I mention the food?

And the salmon (I could live on smoked atlantic salmon)

And the salmon (I could live on smoked atlantic salmon)

Loving the graffiti art (snow makes the bunnies a little mad)

Loving the graffiti art (turns out snow makes the bunnies kinda crazy)

An Aussie style barbecue (clearly)

An Aussie style barbecue (clearly)

Icicles taller than me

Icicles taller than me

REAL christmas trees (and all decorations I collected locally)

REAL christmas trees (and all decorations I collected locally)

Christmas morning sunrise from a cabin in the woods

Christmas morning sunrise from a cabin in the woods

Finally, I was lured to Ottawa with the promise of divine hot chocolate. And they didn't disappoint...

Finally, I was lured to Ottawa with the promise of divine hot chocolate. And they didn’t disappoint…

Writing to Contract

In late 2009 I signed a two book deal with Viking, Penguin, and I honestly felt like the luckiest little rabbit in the writerly stratosphere. It was the kind of thing I hadn’t even let myself dream about, especially in the years prior where I’d experienced the slew of rejections all writers do. Yet even as I signed the contract I had a nagging voice in the back of my mind wondering about book two – the book they’d contracted based on Squish Rabbit. An undefined book I hadn’t even written yet. But of course this thought was quickly overtaken by everything involved in getting Squish out into the world. And all the excitement. And maybe the champagne.

Flick forward to early this year. Squish Rabbit was but months away from appearing on bookshelves and suddenly my publisher was asking about book two. They wondered whether maybe I’d considered doing another Squish book? Now I had tried to prepare for this moment. I had certainly considered other Squish stories, as he’s so alive to me and I know much about his little life. I had some notes about other possible stories and even some very basic drafts. But nothing I had done really prepared me for my first experience of writing to contract. Cue dramatic music…

Before that point, every story I’d created I had written for myself. Sure, I’d hoped to get published and I certainly had readers in mind, but in real terms I was following my own whims and ideas. No matter how determined or focussed I was in my writing, ultimately I was just chasing around my own muse. And besides the whole ‘not knowing whether I’d ever get published or not’, it was really quite glorious.

Writing to contract was completely different. My first book had a sell-in to bookstores that was encouraging enough for my publisher to ask for a second Squish story. Suddenly I had an editor with hopes and expectations. In fact I had a whole team I’d worked with. What if they didn’t like anything I sent them? If the chances of getting one picture book accepted were so rare, what was the possibility of me writing two they’d love? What if I only had one publishable book in me? What if they began to regret signing me up for two books? Would I have to give back the money? Oh horror of horrors … every iota of self-doubt I’d ever experienced kicked up into a dust storm inside me. So instead of ambling through the creative fields of my mind, I was paralysed. I couldn’t write a word.

Self-doubt always settles in me eventually. And with time, I realised a number of things that helped me push through this:

  1. Always write for yourself first: No matter where the story is going, no matter who it is for, always begin by writing something for yourself. Something that moves you, that pulls at the strings of your mind, that calls to that secret little place where your inner child hides. I honestly believe that if you write something you love, you’re much more likely to write something someone else will too. And besides, editing can come later…
  2. No story is brilliant from the beginning: You have to write crap before your story can get better. I’m sure this is a rule, written somewhere in the vast and dusty annals of ‘The Craft of Writing Awesome’. We can’t help but compare ourselves to all the amazing writers out there, and yet their picture books and novels that we read have often been through years of rewriting. Nothing we write on day dot will ever come close to it. It. Takes. Time
  3. Your publisher is not all seeing: I had this weird and creepy feeling that my editor could see everything I wrote. Every time I tried to write something down, my mind would conjure up how she would respond to it. My poor delightful editor (sorry Tracy!) turned into the voice of my inner writing critic. It was actually a revelation to me that she couldn’t see my first draft! Once I realised this, it freed me up to play again – to try out all sorts of different story options and to toil through many drafts
So I released the pressure valve, took a month or two out to play with story ideas, and finally sent off a manuscript and storyboard to my editor. And the end to this story? She took it to their editorial meeting and the team responded with a delightful ‘We fell in love all over again’ :) Squish’s second story should be on bookshelves late 2012.

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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