Three Questions For Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

Welcome to Inkygirl: Reading, Writing and Illustrating Children's Books (archive list here) which includes my Creating Picture Books series, Writer's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, my poetry for young readers, #BookADay, writing/publishing industry surveys, and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives,  and comics for writers (including Keiko and Will Write For Chocolate).

I tweet about the craft and business of writing and illustrating at @inkyelbows. If you're interested in my art or other projects, please do visit Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi


Reading Journal: ROLLER GIRL by Victoria Jamieson


A comic for those about to dive into NaNoWriMo or another writing challenge


Here's a headstart for those of you doing NaNoWriMo this year

Just a few more weeks until NaNoWriMo!


Writers' Block Biscotti


Three Questions With Megan Crewe: Advice For Young Writers, Office Dragons and A SKY UNBROKEN

Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives with her family in Toronto, she tutors teens with special needs, and she can't look at the night sky without speculating about who else might be out there.

I met Megan through the Toronto Area MG/YA Author Group, and I've appreciated her support and advice over the years!

Where you can find Megan: Website - Twitter - Facebook - Tumblr - Instagram

Synopsis of A SKY UNBROKEN:

In the riveting conclusion to the Earth & Sky trilogy, Skylar and Win must risk their lives and freedom to save what remains of Earth. But neither are prepared to uncover a conspiracy that could push the uncertain future they're fighting for completely out of reach.

Join Megan in her A SKY UNBROKEN online launch party on October 13th, 2015!

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

I bought this dragon-guarded pen holder in Britain more than a decade ago, on my first solo trip overseas. It's been a fixture on my desk ever since. It reminds me to keep the magic in my writing and to strike out on new ground. And it conveniently holds the wide variety of pens I like to have on hand: blue ballpoint for mundane tasks, green gel for signing books, red for line edits, and black and silver Sharpies for signing bookplates and bookmarks.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

Read lots. Read widely. Read the sorts of books you'd like to write so you know what's already been done and what new ideas you can contribute. Read the sorts of books you don't expect to write to expand your understanding of storytelling. Many of my YA novels have been inspired by books from completely different genres.

Write lots. Write widely. Like any skill, developing your writing craft takes practice, and the more you practice, the more honed those skills will become. I find I learn the most by stretching myself, tackling new perspectives, formats, and plot elements--such as writing in journal entries in THE WAY WE FALL and giving time travel a spin in EARTH & SKY--always reaching farther or at least someplace different than I did the last time.

Rewrite. Get feedback from other people and rewrite again. Pretty much no one writes a story the best it can possibly be told the first time around. Don't be afraid to take out characters, add new ones, rearrange events, and other sweeping changes. I don't think I have any book where even the outline of the first draft fits the final version of the story.

And finally, be patient. Most people's first novels are not the first novel they sell. Often their second and third novels aren't either. I wrote ten books before I had one that was ready to be submitted to publishers. There's no shame in that. See above re: practice.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I'm very excited to be sharing the end of the Earth & Sky trilogy with readers so soon and to be doing several events in the next couple months during which I hope to meet many of those readers. Talking with teens who love books is pretty much the best thing ever!


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.


On Picture Book Translation Rights: An Interview with Curtis Brown's Jonathan Lyons and Sarah Perillo

I'm thrilled that my books have been translated into French, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese, and am grateful to the Curtis Brown Translation Rights department for all their help. Jonathan Lyons and Sarah Perillo have kindly agreed to answer a few questions for me about the picture book translation rights process at Curtis Brown.

Jonathan Lyons represents a select list of authors of biographies, history, science, pop culture, sports, general narrative non-fiction, mysteries, thrillers, science fiction and fantasy, and young adult fiction, in addition to serving as subagent in the United States for several agencies in the UK. Having previously run translation rights at McIntosh & Otis and Folio Literary Management, Jonathan currently oversees Curtis Brown’s translation rights department. Jonathan is also a licensed publishing attorney, a member of The Authors Guild, and an adjunct professor at New York University’s Master of Science in Publishing Program, where he teaches a course on contract negotiation.

Sarah Perillo has worked in Curtis Brown's translation rights department since May 2013. She also assists Jonathan and runs the agency's social media accounts. She studied English and Spanish literature at George Washington University and now lives in Manhattan. In addition to her continued work in translation rights, Sarah is building her own list. She hopes to connect with writers from a variety of genres, including adult literary and commercial fiction, speculative fiction, horror, mysteries, and select thrillers and YA—and in all of those, she looks for an engaging, layered protagonist and a strong command of narrative voice. In non-fiction she’s interested in history, politics, social issues, and natural history, with a particular fondness for anything involving animals or food.

Photo: Ginger Knowlton (my awesome literary agent)

Q. When you've sold translation rights for a picture book, is it usually because you've taken the book to an event like Bologna or because publishers have approached you?

We most often secure deals by pitching our clients’ works to foreign publishers, whether directly or through our co-agents in each territory. These pitches primarily take place in meetings we have with publishers in our office or at book fairs like Bologna and Frankfurt, or over email or by phone. However, some sales are secured through publishers approaching us, typically because their scout has recommended the title to them.

Q. Do you hire translators or does the foreign publisher handle the actual translation?

The foreign publisher will hire a translator.

Q. What are some challenges you encounter when selling translation rights to picture books?

Both the subject matter and the overall look must be something that matches with the culture of the market in which we are trying to sell the work in order to have success. As you might imagine, there are many wonderful picture books on the market in the United States that discuss uniquely American experiences that will have little resonance abroad. Too, some markets prefer a more classic look when it comes to illustrations, while others prefer a more modern styling. And even when the tone and look of a picture book could work abroad, we still face the challenge of securing a deal in a highly competitive marketplace, especially in Europe where there is often a strong preference for works from resident authors and illustrators.

Q. What are the strongest picture book markets in translation at the moment?

The Korean market has historically been the most vibrant market for translated picture books, and this continues to be the case today. However, the Chinese market has grown significantly, and the Japanese market is quite strong as well. We also often have success in Western Europe, Brazil and Mexico, depending on the specific picture book title.

Q. What exactly happens at book fairs like Bologna and Frankfurt?

We spend the week meeting with editors from around the world, hearing about what kinds of projects they’re seeking and pitching the books on our list that we think might be a good fit. We also meet with our co-agents from each territory to discuss general market trends and some particulars of our collaboration. Fairs are often the only times we get to meet face-to-face with the people we work closely with over email during the rest of the year. It’s the best chance to build relationships with overseas colleagues and really convey our passion, in person, for the titles we represent.

But there’s a huge amount of work that happens before we even arrive at the fairs. Publishers and scouts start reaching out with meeting requests between three and four months in advance, and there’s always a bit of a scramble for free slots as word gets out that other people have started scheduling already. This year we received our first Frankfurt meeting request in mid-June, and about a week into July our schedule was booked solid (we have 132 appointments over six days planned at the moment, barring any last-minute requests or cancellations.)

While that’s going on, we also have to start pulling our rights lists together. These are lists of all the books, either recently published or coming out in the next year or so, for which we’re handling translation rights. The lists are split up by age group—we have one list for adult fiction and nonfiction, one for YA and middle grade, and a third for picture books. Also, because Curtis Brown is 101 years old, we bring a separate list for many of our backlist tiles. For each book on the lists we need a summary, an author bio, cover art, and any good publicity the book has received, such as reviews, award nominations, and other subsidiary rights sales, like film or television rights. Finally, we list translation rights sales we’ve made for each book, as well as sales for previous titles by the author. This lets publishers know which of our books are available in their territory, as well as the possibility of there being an option on the new work.

Of course, in order to pitch them we read all the books on our lists! That is the most fun part.

In the last month before the fair, we take meetings with scouts at our office here in New York. It gives everyone an early idea of what some of the biggest upcoming titles will be, and it gives us a chance to build buzz for our books and fine-tune our pitches.


Thanks to Jonathan and Sarah for answering my questions!

You can find out more about Curtis Brown at


The Freedom To Read: Free, print-ready poster of one of my favorite Judy Blume quotes #BannedBooksWeek



In honor of Banned Books Week, I've illustrated one of my favorite Judy Blume quotes:

"Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me."

I was lucky that way, too. My father used to take the whole family to our local public library every week, and we kids could choose whatever books we wanted. My parents never questioned my choices, and I will always be grateful to them for that trust.

You can download a free, print-ready poster here.

Also see my Print-Ready Archives as well as my Illustrating Judy Blume resource.


Five Literary Agents Looking For Picture Book Submissions NOW: Guest Post by Chuck Sambuchino

Guest post by Chuck Sambuchino

I once joked that debut picture books are the one of the most difficult things to get published—perhaps second only to gay Amish novellas. While that was an exaggeration for humor’s sake, the truth remains that compiling a large list of literary agents who actively seek picture books has never been an easy task.

As the editor of the 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, it’s my job to compile oodles of markets for kidlit writers and illustrators. But the truth is that not every market listed everywhere is 100% open—it’s not that simple. Sometimes a few agents at any agency are open to signing new writers, whereas others are not. Sometimes a publisher or agent closes themselves down to submissions for a while. With all these ins and outs, what’s a writer to do?

It’s with all this in mind that I wanted to spotlight 5 literary agents who are actively seeking picture book submissions now. Their e-mails are below. Query away. All of these agents listed below personally confirmed to me that they are seeking clients and open to submissions as of October 2015. Their e-mails are below. Query away.

Feel free to do research to get to know a little bit more about each one, if you like. But the important thing is you can query these agents now. And if an agent is not clear on what to send or how to send it, e-query them with your query letter first, and then the picture book text pasted below the query letter. Some agents welcome art attachments whereas others do not, so if you have illustrations, upload them online and then send the agent a URL/website so they can click through.

Notes: It’s wise to only query one project at a time; do not send 19 picture books to an agent. Also, with this list below, I tried (though I may not be perfect on this) to only include agents who are open to both writers and writer-illustrators.

Good luck querying! If you want to see many, many more markets for writers of all children’s books, seek out the new & updated 2016 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market.

1. Michelle Witte

Mansion Street Management


2. Jessica Sinsheimer

 Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency


3. Julie Stevenson

Waxman Leavell Literary Agency


4. Eve Porinchak

Jill Corcoran Literary


5. Jodell Sadler

Sadler Children's Literary



Chuck Sambuchino (@chucksambuchino) of Writer's Digest Books edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'S WRITER'S & ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing. His 2010 humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, was optioned by Sony Pictures. His latest humor book, WHEN CLOWNS ATTACK: A SURVIVAL GUIDE (Sept. 29 2015), will protect people everywhere from malicious bozos and jokers who haunt our lives. His books have been mentioned in Reader’s Digest, USA Today, the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Variety, New York Magazine, and more.


CRUSH. CANDY. CORPSE. by Sylvia McNicholl (Lorimer)

For more info about Sylvia McNicoll, see


MY LIFE IS A ZOO series by Jess Keating (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

If you're looking for funny, smart middle grade books and lots of entertaining animal facts, you need to check out Jess Keating's "My Life Is A Zoo" series. I met Jess through Torkidlit and Nerd Camp. The third book in her series, HOW TO OUTFOX YOUR FRIENDS WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE A CLUE, comes out from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on October 6th.

Click to read more ...


Happy National Punctuation Day!

Happy National Punctuation Day! Be kind to a comma today, and beware of misplaced apostrophe's.


AWKWARD by Svetlana Chmakova needs to be in every school library

Just finished AWKWARD, an absolutely wonderful middle grade graphic novel by Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press/Hachette, 2015). Omigosh, this needs to be in every school library. Why? Because it Svetlana does SUCH a great job at capturing the awkwardness of middle school personal interactions, especially for the insecure and shy. I wish this book had been around when I was that age, because it would have inspired me to take more risks, to not be so afraid of making mistakes when it came to social situations.

Click to read more ...


Don't stress about getting everything perfect the first time

I love this quote by Robert Cormier so much that I've made it available as a free, print-ready poster.

Download the poster here. (after opening the image, right-click for PC, ctrl-click and hold for Mac)

Also see my free, print-ready Archives.


A Cautionary Comic For Writers


Don't count on elves to finish your stories

One of my favourite Neil Gaiman quotes: "Just write. Many writers have a vague hope that elves will come in the night and finish any stories for you for you. They won’t." You can see the original video in which he offers advice for young writers:



Just finished THE KIDNEY HYPOTHETICAL: OR HOW TO RUIN YOUR LIFE IN SEVEN DAYS by Lisa Yee​ (Arthur Levine Books, Mar/2015). I've been a fan of Lisa's since MILLICENT MIN, and I thoroughly enjoyed her new YA. What I love about all of Lisa's books, including this one: the wry sense of humor, flawed and appealing characters, how the relationships develop throughout the story. And who could NOT love a character named Higgs Boson Bing? :-)

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Reminder: Every person's journey is different.

Every journey to publication is different. Don't compare yourself to others. Find your OWN path, at your own pace.


Free, print-ready poster: "Reading Lets Your Imagination Soar"

Added to my For The Love Of Reading resource for teachers, librarians, booksellers and young readers: a free, print-ready "Reading Lets Your Imagination Soar" poster. For all my free, print-ready material, please see Debbie's Print-Ready Archive.

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Booktweet: BONE GAP by Laura Ruby

What I just tweeted:

Just heard that BONE GAP made the 2015 National Book Award Longlist!


Power Thesaurus: Free Crowd-Sourced Online Thesaurus

There are already a bunch of online thesaurus sites out there, like, Merriam-Webster's ThesaurusCollins Thesaurus, Visual Thesaurus and others, but Power Thesaurus was the first crowd-sourced online thesaurus I've come across.

Click to read more ...