Birthday prettiness

Warning - This is not about books and is a completely self indulgent post - Just a quick bit of prettiness on our table for a spontaneous late afternoon get together with a handful of cherished to celebrate my birthday. Do love me a cupcake. And you can't go past bubbles in teacups - new favourite thing!


Katsumi Komagata

Mark has just got back from a busy trip visiting and sharing our work in Tokyo schools. On this occasion, it worked out best for Mark to go on his own while Linden and I stayed back and held the Dreamboat helm. So as I couldn't be there, Mark did one of the things on my list of ‘things I'd love to do in Japan’ for me. On his day off he tracked down and met with Japanese author and designer Katsumi Komagata, who is a huge inspiration to my work - cooooool!

I stumbled accross Katsumi's work a couple of years ago and fell in love with it immediately. I've even mentioned how his work was an inspiration in the design of 'Two Little Bugs' here. And even more recently, the beauty and poetic elegance of Katsumi's book ‘Little Tree’ was never far from my thoughts when I was working on our new book, ‘The Boy and the Cherry Tree’. So it was a real honour that Mark got to spend some time with him and his daughter sharing our work - and I was there in spirit!

With a bit of luck, I will get to met him in person at the next Bologna Book fair, but for now I get to treasure my edition of ‘A Cloud’ that Mark brought home for me when they swaped books - and my inner child, inspired by the master, is well content in the knowledge that he liked my work, particually ‘The Boy and the Cherry Tree’ - Happy dance!


New book on the way!

So exciting to receive printers proofs of our new book, The Boy and the Cherry Tree! This story first came to mind in 1999 and my earliest draft played a big part in bringing Rowan and I together. 14 years on and Rowan has turned it into something more beautiful than I ever imagined. Released Nov 25th!


I Love Lemonade paperback!

I Love Lemonade (the sequel to Baa Baa Smart Sheep) is now out in paperback and available from all good bookstores. Signed copies are also available from our online shop. If you haven’t read I Love Lemonade yet click here to read online! Like all good lemonade, it comes with a twist!


We had a PARTY!

“What would you like for your Birthday darling”... “I'D LOVE A PARTY!”... “What a fabulous idea, I've been busting to have a party and this will be your first one - YAY!” So we had a super shindig with lots of colour, bubbles to blow, bubbles to drink, sherbert, crowns and lawn games in the sunshine.

A bit of a DIY throw together in the week before -  it was a busy week as I was in the midst of finishing the artwork for our German translation editions, but Mark and I had the day before off and spent it in a whirlwind of crafting; including our recycled paper bunting, sparkly crowns and 'wild things horns'.

Linden designed the menu himself; all his favourite foods - lots of cupcakes, melon sticks, chicken sticks, prawn sticks (he likes food on sticks in general really), popcorn, homemade cookies, lollies, chocolate raisins (watch out Quirky Turkey), cups of vege sticks with gaucomole and mini burgers. Plus of course the 40 mini jellytips in the freezer that I forgot to serve (which we polished off by ourselves over the following few days - yipes!).

and a special thanks to our friend Mike who got everyone fizzed up with his awesome 'Sir Bert Sherbert'

Crowns and 'Wild Things' horns for everyone....

Fun in the sun - games in the garden....

Such a fun day, I'm hanging out to do it all again. Parties rock! I could feel Linden's appreciation buzzing from him, he had such a blast spending it with so many who he loves. Towards the end of the day when we gathered for him to blow out the candles he was asked if he would like to say anything to the crowd - He simply said "Thank you".


Two Little Bugs land in Australia

It's only been a month since HarperCollinsAustralia introduced ‘Two Little Bugs’ to Aussie readers, but Little Bug Red and Little Bug Blue have been making so many new friends and recieving some incredibly cool reviews. Mark and I are totally chuffed with the warm welcome across the ditch, even Little Bug Blue is doing a happy dance!

Tasman Anderson of the Gold Coast Bulletin, Australia recently interviewed Mark for an article about 'Two Little Bugs'. She had some great questions so I thought I'd share Mark's answers here ... 

What made you decide to create a picture book focusing on bugs?
It wasn’t so much bugs I wanted to focus on but the idea of two characters seeing the world from opposite perspectives. The bugs just popped into my head when I realised a leaf provides the perfect environment for such a story with a brighter upside and a darker downside. I remember as a kid being fascinated by bugs too so it all came together pretty neatly.

What message are you trying to convey to your readers through your book?
I really don’t try to convey any messages in my books – sometimes I’m as surprised as the next reader by what I’ve written! I just have an idea I like and the rest often happens quite unconsciously. On the few occasions that I have tried to deliver a message in a story the writing somehow hasn’t been as good and usually ends up being put aside when a new idea comes along.

Two Little Bugs has a similar feel to Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, are you a fan of the book?
I admire Eric Carle’s artwork and know his Very Hungry Caterpillar book well – I’m sure I was read it a lot when I was little! (Hasn’t everyone?)

Which bug do you best identify with and why?
What a great question! I identify with both bugs very well as I have lived with the attitude and outlook of each of them at different times throughout my life. I have come to realise though that life is much more fulfilling and fun with an attitude like Bug Red! I have also come to believe that the best way to help other people starts by being honest with yourself, so that’s the character I most associate myself with these days.

What is it that you think readers love about “Two Little Bugs”?
Well based on feedback from my school visits and what other people have told me adults and kids love the book for pretty much the same reasons – they just use different words to describe it! Little kids say they love the bugs and the holes and that Bug Blue finally “sees the sun” then flies away happily with his new friend. Older readers have told me they really like the design and minimalist illustration of the book, the clever ending and the messages about perception, choice, and “coming out from under your leaf”.  So they are kind of the same but just explained in a different way.

What do you think is your favourite part of Two Little Bugs? 
My favourite part of the book is when Bug Blue finally sees the light. What I like most about this part is that Bug Red, while empathising with Bug Blue, never leaves the upside to join Bug Blue in the dark and cold. Bug Red is helpful and kind but at the same time stays true to it’s own calling (eating leaves is a noble cause for a caterpillar!). It is by being true to itself that Bug Red ultimately creates an opportunity for Bug Blue to find it’s own wings.

What are you hoping to achieve with this book?
I already achieved it! Having heaps of fun working with Rowan to create a book we feel really happy with and then sharing it with others. It is great that other people like it too and are happy to buy it, so I can buy a new pair of sneakers and have peanut butter on my toast.

How did you discover writing/illustrating as a passion?
I guess I have loved writing ever since I could string a sentence together! I have stories my mum kept from when I was 8 years old about time travelling sausage dogs, or cats who get lost in the woods while collecting butterflies! But it wasn’t until around my 30th birthday when I wrote my first story as a grown up that I realised I wanted to write books for a living.

Rowan had always wanted to draw picture books since she was young but didn’t think she would be good enough! She became an award-winning graphic designer but had never drawn a picture professionally (she used her computer for everything!). Then when we got together she discovered she could draw and she really loved doing it so, with a bit of time and practice she discovered her passion too!

If you could tell aspiring writers one thing, what would it be?
Rowan wanted to answer this – she says always appreciate and love your illustrator! (haha). But seriously, if you want to be a writer everyone’s going to have advice to offer you - whether they are writers or not! So, for what it is worth, my advice is this: don’t listen too much to advice! Listen to your heart. I reckon it’s only when you can’t hear what your heart is telling you that you should get some advice! 

And here's a couple of those recent Aussie reviews....

“You happily get more than you bargain for with this crafty little book. It skillfully uses the text and illustrations to provide the reader with two simultaneous stories. Mark’s sweet text tells a story of two bugs who share a leaf. Rowan’s simple illustrations and die-cut pages depict the life cycle of a caterpillar. Each nibble of the leaf sees a hole in the pages grow larger and larger until only a chrysalis hangs from a stalk (This is a wonderful feature that will delight children with each turn of a page). Two Little Bugs cleverly and beautifully shares two points of view and amalgamates the life cycle of a caterpillar with the story of taking risks with a friend by your side. Together with cleverly designed pages, the themes of friendship, anxiety and life cycles will ensure that Two Little Bugs is a hit with children and families.” Jackie Small - 

“From the creators of the hilarious Baa Baa Smart Sheep and I Love Lemonade, comes this adorable little book about two little bugs and their little conundrum. Clever, insightful, delightfully subtle on the morals - something both kids and adults warmly appreciate - this book is so charmingly illustrated, it hurts your eyes. I simply adore its holey, chewed-upon and leaf-shaped pages, its beautiful colouring and the luscious paper used for its pages. Buggishly brilliant. Next please, Sommersets!” Tania McCartney - 

You can read more ballyhoo about ‘Two Little Bugs” here ...

Taiwan TIBE Fellowship

Recently I was invited as part of a fellowship program to attend the Taipei International Book Exhibition. What a thrill! As one of seven publishers/agents from around the world I got to meet with other Chinese/Taiwanese publishers - share ideas, drink beers (and chinese tea!) and talk about all things book-like. I had to do a presentation to around 150 industry professionals, mostly from Taiwan and mainland China, about creating and publishing children's books and some of the benefits of working as a small team.  

Rubbing shoulders with Taiwan's best-known author/illustrator, Jimmy Liao

Highlights of the trip (in addition to meeting everyone including the wonderful Yuching Liu who cared so well for us fellows during our stay) included a trip to the Wysteria Japanese Tea House for lunch, a visit to the awesome Huashan 1914 Creative Park founded by the charismatic, witty (and sparkly-eyed!) Yuan-Liou, standing under Taipei 101 (one of the tallest buildings in the world), and dinner with our new agent - Gray Tan - his colleagues and the other fellows at a fantastic, back-street restaurant filled with live seafood and local families.

Our new agents Gray Tan and Anna Holmbrook and TIBE fellowship organiser, Yuching Liu

With my new fellowship friends from the Kalem agency in Turkey I even found myself onstage, guitar in hand, at a local pub's open mic night - free beer for my efforts! The headache is gone but the memories remain ... 

For a bit more about my time at the Taipei Book Fair with my ‘publishers hat’ on, check here for an article I wrote for PANZ (Publishers Association of New Zealand).


and the winner is.....

CONGRATULATIONS! ..... Alisha KP is the lucky winner of a signed set of our books - YAY! 

Missed out this time? Don't worry - giving away books is such a blast, we're gonna be GIVING AWAY HEAPS MORE in 2013! Merry Christmas to you and yours and everybody. xxx