Interview with
Kate Westerlund
These questions are taken from two sources; an interview for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI Germany/Austria) and from a book reading for Kindergarten and elementary school children.

Kate, could you tell us a little about yourself? How did you discover your passion for writing stories?

I was one of those kids who liked doing lots of things. I loved books and music. I liked dancing and theater. As I got older I had to start making choices, more dance lessons or more voice lessons. I always felt as one does standing in front of the ice cream shop with 57 different flavors; how is it possible to decide. I was the strongest in singing and so that took up most of my time. Writing was always a “someday dream”. Finally, I wised–up and realized that someday was already here.

The Message of the Birds is a Christmas story, can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired you to write it?

An old owl tells the Christmas story to the community of birds as he has done so many times before, but when he tells of the special message from the Baby Jesus, a little bird questions why they no longer sing the message. “People no longer listen,” is the sad realization. The birds decide to share the message once more, but this time to the children of the world. And what unfolds is surely a Christmas wonder. (book blurb)

I have always enjoyed the story of the flea from Karl Heinrich Waggerl and the idea that things were actually happening in the stable. That started the thought process. I also wanted to add a universal message.

I’ve noticed that you write under a pseudonym, why did you choose a different name for your writing and how did you choose this name?

It was for a couple of reasons. I was still busy with other types of projects that were unrelated to writing. It was a way to compartmentalize these different aspects of my life. The other reason -- after a bit of research, I found there were other Kathryn Bishops in the writing world. I didn’t want to be confused with someone else. Kate was my nickname at university and Westerlund was my grandmother’s maiden name. It seemed like a good combination.

You have published a number of books with minedition, How did that come about and what makes it so special to work with them?

I got lucky! I had a friend that was minedition author/translator. We were in the same critique group. Once when she was in a bind, I helped her out with a translation. I was curious to see if I could do it. I liked it. Later, she convinced Michael Neugebauer to give me a chance on a last-minute project. It worked out well, and I started translating on a more regular basis. Once in a while I submitted a story myself. It took a while before one of my stories was accepted. In the meantime, I had the extraordinary good luck to learn a lot about stories, picture books, and publishing from Mr. Michael Neugebauer. I would never have had that chance in the US or anywhere else for that matter.

I saw that some of your other books were illustrated by the fantastic Eve Tharlet. How is it for a writer to see what an artist makes of your words and story?

It is fascinating to watch an illustrator bring the story to life. Someone with Eve’s expertise adds phenomenal depth to the story. It is also interesting to watch how her style changed for the various books, gentle and sweet in one and more playful in one of the others. The movement of the snowman in Mr. Snow, for example, was amazing.

Can you share with us your writing routine and what you do to overcome writer’s blocks or where you turn to for inspiration?

As I was trained as a singer, I developed “a bit” of discipline that way. The best thing for me to do is plant myself in front of my computer every day and write, just like planting myself at the piano to practice. The more consistent I am, the more creative I feel. I also think setting a daily or weekly word count/goal is helpful.

I hurt my back this summer and was uncomfortable at the computer, but I had a stack of index cards by my bed. I filled them with thoughts, ideas, titles, first lines whatever came to mind, and I have been busy lately transferring them to the computer lists. If I feel blocked, I review my lists. Then I keep writing no matter how appalling the result.
As to inspiration---I have a shelf full of helpful writing books, Lee Wyndham, Anne Lamott, and Sol Stein. Also, books of fairy tales and folk tales are tremendously helpful in putting my imagination in the right place.

Why do you write?

Mostly, because it is fun! There are so many stories in my head, places I can go, interesting people and creatures I can meet, all in my imagination. In my imagination, I can do what I want, I can go where I want, and I can stay out as long as I want.

Then it is a matter of sharing. Writing things so that others can come along, meet the people and creatures and experience the things we do.

Why do you write so many stories with animals?

That’s a great question. I like animals and sometimes I let the animals be like people. When I was a little girl I met a real deer (there is a picture on my website), and I thought how great it would be if the deer could talk. Maybe that’s why in my first picture book there was a little deer named Clara.

What do want to be when you grow up?

I have always liked doing lots of different things, so I have been a singer, an actress, a teacher, even a shop girl but when I started writing I found out I could do everything and anything I wanted…in my stories. So maybe I’ll just keep writing and never grow up!


Interview with
Father Christmas
John and Juliette Atkinson
Father Christmas -All about me, is a charming and wonderfully informative book by and about Father Christmas compiled by the creative team of John and Juliette Atkinson. I was very fortunate that this close before Christmas I was able to interview not only the Atkinsons, but Father Christmas himself.

Father Christmas what inspired you or prompted you to write the book All about me?
Well, writing the journal was actually the idea of a very good friend of mine from Austria. He really thought it would be fun and do you know; he was quite right.  I can't tell you how surprised I was at all the things I'd forgotten - so many good friends I've made and so many new innovations which I rather like to think I might have had some influence on!

How were you able to convince J & J to take on such a project?
Meeting J&J was rather good stroke of luck really. Bumping into John as I was walking along the beach was quite unnerving - he really does look a little like me (although not quite as statuesque of course!) and after we'd all had a restorative ice-cream or two, we found that we had so many interests in common. Then Mrs Christmas invited them to pop up to stay and the rest is history as they say!

What did you enjoy the most about working on this book.
The memories of course, and the laughter - some of those cracker jokes I found when they fell out of my diary are very funny. Do you know, writing the journal has made me look around and realize what a lucky chap I've been, doing this wonderful job for over 600 years! And then of course, Mrs Christmas and I had to try quite a lot of different Christmas foods and gingerbread and pudding and mince pies ...

John and Juliette, what part of this project did the two of you enjoy the most?
We loved working together on all aspects of the project but the stories Father Christmas shared with us were amazing.
I enjoyed the writing and the research (on the odd occasion when I needed to check and Father Christmas's memory was completely accurate!)
I loved working on the illustrations, although capturing the elves was particularly challenging.

Did Father Christmas actually sit for you in your studio?
Yes, he did and the studio was full of his Christmas costumes and bits and pieces. There were quite a few trips to the North as well, once the project was under way.
We also went on lots of trips together just so we could get the true feeling of Father Christmas - it was a hard task, but someone really had to do it...

How long did it take you to accumulate all the history, the facts and the insider information?
As we had Father Christmas’s diaries to work from, we had all the raw material we needed, but we've been working on the project for about 2 years altogether, and we are still working as we have Volume 2 to be published next.

John, you bear a striking resemblance to Father Christmas, have there been mix ups?
It's funny that you should ask that, yes, children often do mistake me for Father Christmas, which is very sweet. Children seem to have a rather equivocal relationship to him, they aren't sure whether to be nervous because he knows all about them and whether they've been good or not, but they also are excited because they all love Christmas and particularly, Christmas morning and stockings!

After the holidays what are some of your upcoming projects?
Rather like Father Christmas, we love what we do, so we don't really take holidays... John is convinced that every day is already a holiday! Of course we will be relaxing over the Christmas period with our family and after that; we will be straight on with research and illustration for All About Me volume II. We are also putting some thought into the second book which would follow I'm Sorry. Rolo, the hero of our first book, who learns about apologizing, has volunteered to learn about all sorts of things for the next one!

Father Christmas this book is all about you but I am sure you have some insider tips about J&J, I mean you’ve know them since they were children. Is there something you might be willing to share or perhaps something in particular that made you proud?
Of course, meeting one's doppelganger was a great surprise, but it does warm the heart to find someone who enjoys similar things in life. John has a great sense of humour and imagination and I know that Mrs Christmas is secretly pleased that Juliette enjoys her recipes and has tried them all out. Of course, when I first visited John as a little boy, he didn't look at all like me, and in fact my first delivery to him was in Canada and I think, having checked my diaries, I gave him a cowboy's outfit (fortunately he didn't take it up as a career!). If you look carefully in the book, you'll see a photograph of him sitting on my knee.

A special thanks to Father Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful and successful Christmas season and a very Merry Christmas to John and Juliette Atkinson.
Respectfully submitted by a minedition Christmas elf.


Congratulations Lisbeth Zwerger!

Our heartfelt congratulations go to Lisbeth Zwerger who has been awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Prize 2011.The Hans Christian Andersen Prize is presented annually in Odense, Denmark on April 2nd, Andersen's birthday. It is the aim of The Hans Christian Andersen Award Committee to promote the knowledge of the works of H.C. Andersen and so present awards to individuals and organizations, who promote, interpret and/or tell about H.C. Andersen and his work.
The Austrian Culture Minister Claudia Schmied:
“A lucky day for Austrian art”

“With her gorgeous and delicate images, full of brightness, her wonderful characters, animals, landscapes and spaces, Lisbeth Zwerger puts us, book by book into a different world. With her exceptional artistic talent she has given the classics of children's literature a fresh new face. I congratulate the great Austrian artist for this beautiful award,” said Culture Minister Claudia Schmied.

From the Jury

Lisbeth Zwerger succeeds with her illustrations in creating a place of fantasy and Art, in which the work of Hans Christian Andersen can most strongly be expressed. For these many wonderful contributions to publications of Hans Christian Andersen, Lisbeth Zwerger has been awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Prize 2011.



minedition may be celebrating only its fifth year of existence   but add up the years of experience and success that belong to Michael Neugebauer, his team of associates and the wonderfully diverse group of internationally recognized authors and illustrators and well…let’s say it is something really worth celebrating!

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair seemed to be the perfect place to kick off the anniversary celebration. Friends of Michael Neugebauer and his work, joined from all over the world and all corners of the publishing industry to take part in the celebration.

But Bologna marked only the beginning. Michael’s enthusiasm is contagious and in a time when publishing is going through an incredible change, it is wonderful that there is much to look forward to.

It is almost easier to get a book published than to corner Michael for an interview, but when I promised there were only six questions he acquiesced.

KB: What brought you to publishing, the world of children’s literature and picture books in particular?

MN: My father. Typeface, book design, layout were all things that I grew up with and of course his high standards.
I studied and then worked as a graphic artist, which led to work in children’s publishing.

KB: What was the original thought behind minedition?

MN: I was encouraged by the authors and illustrators I worked with to establish and develop my own publishing entity. I wanted to create something where their creativity could develop, flourish and the books could be something very special. Michael Neugebauer Edition may read mine edition but it was and is really our edition.

KB: Has your vision changed?

MN: Perhaps not changed but broadened. Adapting to the changing times is necessary but we strive to do this without sacrificing our standards. That is very important.

KB: With all the technological advances and globalization bringing us all closer together and expanding the horizon’s of children, where do you see minedition in the future?

MN: I think it will be all about creating content. We are already moving in that direction, actually. The art will find its way into other media and work to ensure that our young audience will continue to experience quality, whatever the platform.

KB: Will the picture books survive?

MN: I think so. I certainly hope so.

KB: What makes minedition different and unique in the marketplace?

MN: I have been told our books are a bit more up-market, not mainstream. But more than anything I think it is the originality of the authors and artists that make us unique and, of course, a dedicated team that makes it all come together.

KB: What keeps you motivated during this upheaval and time of change in publishing?

MN: It’s the product. Watching it evolve and develop from the imaginative idea to a beautiful finished work.

Those were my six questions and Michael was off to his next meeting. His answers and his enthusiasm made me believe despite these difficult times there is hope for exceptional picture books and exciting content for developing new media.

Make sure you stop by the minedition stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair and find out for yourself why minedition is still celebrating.

K. Bishop