An interview with author-illustrators Katherine Battersby, Peggy Collins, and Christine Tripp. Chris has illustrated more than 50 children’s books for educational publishers; Peggy has illustrated over a dozen books and she’s the author-illustrator of several. Katherine Battersby has illustrated 12 books, 7 of which she authored herself. Hear about their delight in touching young readers’ hearts, their early days of drawing and writing stories, and their disciplined ways of carving out time for their heavy workloads. 20 minutes.
Read the full transcript:
[1:40] Interview with Katherine Battersby, Peggy Collins, and Christine Tripp
CA: Did all of you start drawing when you were young?
CT: I did, yeah. Mostly I stayed in my room and I just drew pictures for myself. That was probably as long as I can remember. Definitely five and six years old. …I was not very academically inclined. But the teachers always enjoyed my drawings….
[2:45] CA: And what about you, Peggy? Did you start as a child?
PC: Yes. I wrote and illustrated my first book in grade one and told my teacher that this was what I was going to do…. You listen to guidance counselors briefly and they’re like, ‘Yeah, you’re good at science; you should do something meaningful with your life.’ And then, then you realize, No, this is better. …
[3:30] CA: And Katherine, did you start young as well?
KB: Yeah, I sure did. … So as soon as I could hold a pencil I was creating stories. … I was sort of creating funny little cut-outs and things that you could flip through or that you could unfold or they were always kind of interactive and upside down. Yeah, I’ve always been obsessed with words and images and the way they work together…
[4:30] CA: Is there someone who mind taking thirty seconds to say the process of illustrating a picture book?
PC: Sure. I thumbnail like crazy … I start really small and I think about my composition and my pacing and what … absolutely needs to go on the page. And then my art director can’t understand what those are usually. And so then I have to develop them a little bit further so I work a little bit bigger. … I do most of my thumbs on paper, because I can do them while I’m watching TV with my kids. And then I move into digital.
CA: Okay. So you storyboard while watching TV?
PC: Yes. … So right now, with the three books I’m working on, the series that’s almost always on is Sons of Anarchy…
[5:35] CA: And do you have a regular practice?
KB: Yes I do. I am very diligent with keeping working hours. …Creative work can really sneak into everything … So I have gotten very very strict with myself in keeping business hours… Often my most creative time is in the morning because that’s where my energy is. …. I often put Mondays aside-ish for business-type things like invoicing and emails … And then I always try to finish up half an hour before the family gets home. …
[7:45] CA: And Chris, I know you’re not working on a book right now but when you are working on a book, do you have a certain practice?
CT: I did more early on. I would get up and … get dressed and do even make-up to almost psych yourself into thinking you’re going to work. … And then I would take breaks just like as if I were on a job, and then come back and work, take lunch, back to work. Then there were times when I would end up working all night …But mostly I would not work weekends … I need to be alone. …But you definitely have to be disciplined… It just doesn’t work otherwise.
[9:30] CA: And Peggy, you juggle teaching and your books. So how do you find a practice, like simply hours, timewise?
PC: I struggle with it. … I teach at two different colleges. … The week that my kids are not here I work, I work a lot. And I try and manage all of the things when they’re not around so that when they are here, I am full-on Mom. …. A lot of times I’ll get up at 5:00 a.m. and do my work early. And then I have two shifts for driving in the morning… I teach from 9 until 3:00 every day. And then I go back and pick everyone up. And then it starts all over again. So in terms of balance, I don’t think I have it. … I am working on three big projects. … all of these things were delayed, so I am struggling. … But it’ll happen. It’ll get done.
[11:50] CA: What is the best thing about doing this? Like what do you love most about doing this? It’s a lot of work. Why do you do it?
PC: …I get to draw, all the time, whether I like it or not. In the days that are the worst, where I feel like I’m really struggling, I remember the days where I cleaned toilets for the summer… and I thank everything that I’m not wiping someone’s bum or something as a job. … my worst day is when I can’t work out a character or I might not have enough time to finish something.
CA: That is the message: Being an artist is better than wiping someone’s bum.
[12:50] CA: What’s the best thing about being an illustrator, Chris?
CT: …I’ve just always drawn and I can’t imagine doing anything else. … I just love to draw. And thankfully I’m good at it. …. It’s just I love to draw so I couldn’t do anything else. That’s all I could do….
[13:45] CA: And what about you, Katherine? What’s the best thing about it?
KC: …Before I put pen to paper is when an idea, it could be anything and it could be everything. And it feels like it might be the best, most exciting thing I’ve stumbled across yet. So that brings me the most joy. … And then the complete opposite end of the spectrum, when the book is done and… it’s out in the world and I’m no longer terrified because it’s been out for a while, and then I start hearing from kids. And I hear little ways that my book has made a difference in little individuals’ lives. And that, oh, it really makes me emotional….
[15:35] CT: I had that happen once and I know what you’re feeling. A woman called me… about the first trade book I did….Her daughters had read it and they said to her, “That girl looks like me.” And the mother said it was the first time that her children… had ever seen a book with a black parent, a white parent, and biracial children. She just wanted to thank me. … But it just never dawned on me when I was doing it that I was doing anything other than drawing. …
[16:50] PC: It is something. …It’s the kids, right? … kids go to the library and they pick out books, and when they pick out your books to bring home, that’s something pretty special. …The best part about it is that connection. I got to go to Saint Lucia for a book festival, and there were like 2000 kids chanting the title of a book I had illustrated. And I just like bawled, like the whole time. … Those are those epic moments that keep you going when you think you’re done for….
[18:30] CA: All right. It’s really nice to talk to you all.
[19:25] Peggy Collins introduces herself
PC: My name is Peggy Collins. I am an author and illustrator of books for kids. I’m also a teacher, learning to teach on the online format, which has been interesting. I have two kids. They’re all big now, 15 and 10. And I had a bit of a hiatus in my career, and things are starting to pick up again finally, so the direction is a good one. And I’m just sending off a new contract for a new book today. So that’s exciting. Yeah.
[20:05] Christine Tripp introduces herself
My name is Christine Tripp. I’m an illustrator. And I have 4 kids who are not kids — they’re all going to be 40. It’s just insane. And I’m not working on anything right now. This summer has been nice and calm and slow. But it’s a good thing because in January I broke my shoulder, so I wouldn’t have been able to do anything anyway. Every time I moved it hurt. So it was just as well that I’m not too busy. I’m just sitting in here with my Covid, with my masks, and learning a whole new life.
[20:45] Katherine Battersby introduces herself
My name is Katherine Battersby. And I am an author and an illustrator, primarily of picture books. I have all sorts of different picture books coming out and a bunch more coming out still. I’ve had one just released called Perfect Pigeons and another one coming up called Trouble, and I’ve got my first graphic novel series coming out end of next year called Cranky Chicken, which has been a blast to work on. If you can tell from my accent, I’m not originally from here. I’m half British, half Australian. I grew up by the beach in Australia. And I now live here in Ottawa, with my husband who is a poet and my little girl who is obsessed with books. And she’s a lot of fun. And that’s me.
[21:30] Find out more about Katherine Battersby, Peggy Collins, and Christine Tripp
You can hear more creative writing and illustrating advice from Katherine Battersby, Peggy Collins, and Christine Tripp on Cabin Tales Special Episode X, “Picture a Story,” featuring Interviews with 5 illustrators and author-illustrators. You can find out more about Christine Tripp on her public profile on the website of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, at scbwi.org. You can find out more about Peggy Collins and her books from her website at PeggysIllustration.com. And you can find out more about Katherine Battersby and her books from her website at KatherineBattersby.com.
[22:40] Thanks and coming up on the podcast
I’ll be back next week with leftovers from my interview with the author-illustrator Chris Jones, creator of comic books and graphic novels and illustrator of more than 20 books for young readers.
Thanks for listening.
Host: Catherine Austen writes books for children, short stories for adults, and reports for corporate clients. Visit her at www.catherineausten.com.
Visit the Cabin Tales home page.
Katherine Battersby is the critically acclaimed author and illustrator of twelve picture books, including Perfect Pigeons and the popular Squish Rabbit series. Her debut graphic novel series, Cranky Chicken, was published in 2021. Katherine currently divides her time between Brisbane, Australia, and Ottawa, Canada, with her husband, daughter, and their mischievous puppy. Find her online at www.KatherineBattersby.com.
Peggy Collins is a mother, a storyteller, an artist, a teacher, and a lover of books, technology, and learning. She lives in Ontario, where she teaches concept art and character design development. She is the illustrator and author-illustrator of more than a dozen picture books. Find her online at www.PeggysIllustration.com.
Christine Tripp has worked in animation, magazine and newspaper Illustration, gag cartooning, and comic strips, but eventually she found her real passion… illustrating children’s books. Over the past 20 years, she has illustrated over 50 books for publishers such as Scholastic USA, Scholastic Canada, and Pearson Canada. She lives in Stittsville, Ontario, with her husband and their dogs, Kevin and Bob.