The great thing about being an author and artist is that on any given day, you don’t know where you might find yourself. Sometimes you’ll be surveying creatures of the Australian Outback or up in the Arctic figuring out what a penguin might want for Christmas - in your mind at least!
A typical day for me starts with a run or a long walk. I like to get my body moving to get my mind moving. It’s a meditation for me as I get some of my best ideas when I’m out in nature, breaking a sweat.
I always try and do my thinking and writing in the morning. I feel that my brain is more cued up and less distracted before midday. If I apply any discipline to my writing ‘schedule’, it’s just to resist distractions like checking emails before I tackle a story.
I’ll begin scribbling, tip-tapping away on a new book or developing one with my editor. When I wrote The Koala Who Could, the ideas came out in a flurry and it was a case of shaping all these thoughts into something beautiful. That takes time and insightful editorial guidance. No matter how hard you try, you can’t get far enough outside something you’ve created to see how it could be improved. A book is true collaboration.
I think a happy work environment is very important. Currently, my writing desk is in a spare room in my house, but we are renovating a new studio space in an old barn on the farm where we live, which will be a dream come true. As soon as it’s finished, this will be where I’ll do all my printmaking, writing and ideas-hatching.
I often don’t break for lunch, as once I’ve started on something I find it hard to stop. In the afternoon I might have the pleasure of looking through some book proofs which my publisher will send. I’ll never forget the moment Jim (Field)’s first set of almost finished spreads for The Koala Who Could, unfurled from the envelope. I remember my face hurting because I was smiling so much.
As I am also an illustrator and had previously almost exclusively illustrated my own texts, I wasn’t sure how it would feel when I first saw somebody else illustrating my story. But I needn’t have worried. When I saw the synchronicity between my words and Jim’s art, I was blown away.
I used to work long into the night and although that still sometimes happens, I now have the absolute joy of being a parent to my 2 and a half year old daughter, River. My time with her is utterly precious and something I look forward to more than anything, so I’ll usually stop around 5 to hang out, cook and all the usual things family life affords.
After River is in bed, I’ll often use the quiet time to do more work but I make it a personal rule nowadays to be in bed by midnight as I love sleep! I never remember my dreams, but perhaps that’s because I spend so much time running around my head during the day that it needs a break a night…
Life is constantly changing and I know the next day will bring something I wasn’t expecting in one way or another but, like
Kevin in The Koala Who Could, I try to remind myself that change isn’t really so scary when you’re on the other side looking back. It often brings with it all manner of unexpected treasures– so embracing it is always the best policy.
Rachel Bright has been nominated for the Oscar’s Book Prize shortlist for her work The Koala Who Could. The award is supported by the London Evening Standard, Amazon and the National Literacy Trust and was set up in memory of Oscar Ashton a boy who passed away at the age of 3 from an undetected heart condition, looks to honour the best in early-years literature. The winner will be announced in May, with the £5,000 price awarded by Princess Beatrice at a ceremony in London.