DoubleDay Publishing USA

My USA editor. I arrived good and early for my meeting at Random House, so that I could sit down to fidget. It turned out to be a most wonderful place to wait for an appointment.   The bookshelves flanking the foyer are set into the walls, crammed with original copies of many classics. It created an odd atmosphere when I walked up to the shelves and looked at the books through the glass. There was that immediate impulse and shock of recognition, ‘Hey, that’s my old book!’ … set in a space so modern and sparse, impressive and very public. I found myself pointing animatedly at cover images I had not seen since childhood. It was eerie, like seeing items from your household in a museum; strange and out of context. The memory attached to books is so personal after all. I was however here to meet Frances Gilbert the editor of ‘Rose and the wish thing’. Soon I was sitting in her office – Random House New York. My book was sitting on top of her desk which I am certain she positioned as a courtesy, but I wanted to pretend it lived there … if only for this meeting. We talked at length about industry stuff; paper stock, Bologna Book Fair and so forth. How much would you have to pay for such an audience I thought. I sat there asking questions and trying to sound knowledgeable (and not get caught out) when Frances invited me to draw on the illustrator’s wall. Now this is my element … drawing on office walls.   As for Frances, I’ll quote from her Facebook Page, because it is both eloquent and flattering. – you are a unique talent. Caroline Magerl Two years ago at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair I was shown a picture book unlike anything I’d ever seen. A book full of beautiful, achingly plaintive watercolors and a story written in a cadence and tone that felt entirely unique. “Rose the the Wish Thing” is a story of longing – and of how we make connections. It’s one of those rare picture books that can be enjoyed by young children and grown-ups alike, each of whom will come away a different person. I’m so proud to be publishing it today at Doubleday. Congratulations,  After I was done doodling, we spent a couple of hours in conversation about books, and the telling of stories. The one that sticks in my mind was of our shared experience, migrant childhood. There I stood, illustrating among works of some of the great illustrators and me taking up as much New York real estate as I could manage.    

Chris Beetles Gallery – London UK

Back in London, I ventured to the Chris Beetles gallery. The current exhibition was Michael Forman. His extraordinary career was on show in a floor to ceiling display. It could all be taken in by standing in the middle of the gallery and spinning around on your heel, and then spinning around again. Which of course I did a number of times. It was quite a jaw dropping show, as I do love his work. Sadly, I missed the opening night which Michael Morpugo opened. I would have loved to meet with him after seeing a substantial portion of his work at Seven Stories, though most likely it would have been a short chat at best, as I have since gathered the gallery was packed. They always seems to draw a hefty crowd. I was fortunate to get a sneak preview of the show as a perk of meeting with Chris (Beetles). I now say this with an air of casualness, but my first meeting with him was very different indeed. A couple of years ago I was in London and decided to simply drop in to his St James gallery, casually of course, and by coincidence with my folio in hand. Chris Beetles is a private gallery. A bell on the door beckons staff up a spiral staircase from the gallery’s engine room below, in order to usher one in. On that day I had tentatively approached the large glass entrance and was loitering in the hope the door would open, when by some minor miracle it did. A woman with a purposeful walk strode past me and I was carried inside, spinning behind her like a paper boat in an eddy. A split second later I spotted an Arthur Rackham illustration gently propped among many other treasures. I warn that you can quickly lose all sense of time in this gallery. While I went about open mouthed, taking in the sheer number of world class works on the walls, I unexpectedly found myself face to face with Mr Beetles. Uninvited, underprepared and quite frankly undone, I pulled myself together and showed Chris the picture book drawings that I was working on at the time. He viewed them judiciously, and asked a few questions about the work. Happily this was how the originals from my picture book Hasel and Rose came to be exhibited at the gallery. I returned to London for the opening night of that show and remember standing at the lights waiting to cross St James Street on my way to the gallery. Christmas lights glimmered in the sharpish evening air…. I was genuinely elated to be there, a happy stupor. It took a double-decker bus stopping in the way to break my concentration. But then I noticed the bus driver was looking at me questioningly with half a smile on his face…..it seemed I had been beaming like an idiot. I smiled back, a little sheepishly, he laughed and drove off.
   

Children’s Writer’s Guild

Children’s Writer’s Guild The Children’s Writer’s Guild was brought to my attention by a friend. One thing led to another and now I am extremely pleased to say that I am an irregular contributor for their website. For this, I must thank Shelia Wright and Joshua Wright of CWG. Their site features some wonderful writing and illustration and is well worth looking at – link here. From the Children’s Writer’s Guild website   I created this image specifically for my Picture Book. The book’s plot surrounds a family having recently relocated and the child, Rose, wishing for something that will help her to regain her sense of place in the world. Anyone with children would know this feeling … be it fever, nightmares, lost toys or most likely, all of these at once. There will come a time when everyone in the house is awake and staring out the window, at a complete loss. Your four year old is in the pit of despair and all you can do is join them. It is a leveler. That was what I drew on, to illustrate the moment in the story when an impasse is reached. Rose’s problem is now everyone’s problem … and on another level is simply voicing a shared unease, loss and displacement. I used a line and wash technique, as I find it to be the most direct, expressive and simple illustrative style for the type of story I write. Caroline Magerl

Bologna Book Fair – Italy

My trip to Bologna and most importantly the Bologna Book Fair. A Bologna local assured me that, “It will happen when Galvani turns the page”.

She was of course referencing the stone statue in the middle of town, however I long felt this way about ever getting to see the famous children’s book fair. However I did make it to Bologna and found myself arriving late and tired in a city unlike any I have visited… this was in fact my first visit to Italy. I was feeling a little overwhelmed in this different world until I established that Franca, our apartment host, had once taught English only a few miles from home. After a good night’s sleep, I sauntered forth with the assurance that it really is a small world. However this feeling blew away as I arrived at the Bologna Book Fair. ___________________________________________________ My oblique view of the Bologna Book Fair.

(Bologna Book Fair Entrance at a quieter moment)

A children’s book fair is no place for children.

(The illustrator’s exhibition)

It is quite confronting to enter the gates of the world’s biggest children’s book industry fair. My immediate thought was how very far away all this in front of me is, from the quiet little corner where I usually live and work.

I contemplated the physical and mental space from which a book is created to eventually … hopefully … sit among this throng of people and the thousands of other books now on display here. One very big advantage of going to the fair is that you are likely to meet friends and acquaintances from the publishing world.

(Leigh Hobbs – Australian Children’s Laureate)

(Bruce Whatley and Rosie Smith)

My hub for tracking down folks is the Hello from Australia stand. After checking in with industry stalwarts Ann James and Ann Haddon( who organize the stand and do the heavy lifting every year at the fair), I stopped in a couple times every day to see some familiar faces.

(Meetings in a publisher’s stand which was repeated throughout the halls).

As I wandered around the many stalls, I noticed the business types who were all sitting upright in their temporary offices; dressed in nice suits, crisp shirts and shiny shoes. They were in stark contrast to the creative types; that stalked up and down the halls draped in organic cotton with felt shoes and leggings that were doodled on that morning while waiting for the bus.

(A line up of illustrators waiting for a folio viewing).

Many publishers offer illustrator folio viewings and I could see long queues of these snaking around the stalls while they waited to have their art reviewed.

(The shrinkage effect of waiting to be reviewed)

 I freely admit that participating in such things used to frighten me out of my Alice in Wonderland tights. The biggest problem with waiting alongside other (most probably) brilliant illustrators, in these long lines, is the resulting personal shrinkage.

(Some editors even chose camouflage among the books for sanctuary).

I went about my daily business attending appointments and even joined one illustrator queue. All the while I watched the business of the fair unfold, when a curious thing happened to this Alice. Towards the end of one meeting I sat there trying to politely drink a coffee that had long since cooled when the publisher mentioned how she gets teary at a certain point in each fair. She suggested other publishers have admitted feeling the same.

(The other side of the table)

While I sat across the table and listened to this highly successful publisher it dawned on me that the fair is an exhausting and emotional experience at times; for me to put forward my best work all … in hope. However it is obviously also exhausting from the other side of the table as well.

(My illustrating demonstration at the ‘Hello from Australia’ stand).

But that is exactly why coming to a place where all the elements of the children’s literature industry meet and mingle is such an edifying experience. What happens here on a large scale is of course intimately connected to what we as writers and illustrators and publishers do on a daily basis.

(Looking at the IBBY stand).

Having such a large gathering displays the diverse choice of great books in this thriving industry. It also gives a platform and voice to worthy bodies such asIBBY for instance, who highlighted during their press conference, the need for good books for children who currently can’t access them.

Amidst the noise and business, it is often a challenge to remember that we are all working toward that one goal at the end of the day …  a child with a beautiful book in his or her hands.

An understory

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An understory   Under the slanting light of an early Brisbane morning, a small girl stood on a wicker chair. Her face was pressed close to a cushion and all the while her index finger traced the fabric’s detail with a curious intensity.    At that moment, I ceased my clatter and simply watched Jen standing there, dressed in her red coat. This memory of my daughter from eighteen years ago has stuck with me. It is an image that remains in my mind just so and with it, a sense of awe that I was seeing the world as she did.     There is oddity and a charmingly weird rationale to how a child sees the world; not only by the nature of that perception but the meaning that they derive from it. I have carried my own such perceptions, childish or otherwise, around for nearly a lifetime; this collected imagery. These are the things whose value you only realize after the fact … but the fact that you remember them tells you all you need to know. A thought expressed in picture form which reaches you via the window, the cat-flap or the skylight, rather than the front door.     Poetry often enters through the window of irrelevancy (M.C.Richards).