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 DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Wednesday
Aug262015

Be aware when research and prep become a crutch. At some point, you need to actually start WRITING.

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Tuesday
Aug252015

A Reminder To Aspiring Writers and Illustrators

Monday
Aug242015

Three Questions For Josh Funk: Advice For Young Writers, Scott Pilgrim and LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST

Josh Funk lives in New England with his wife and kids. He is the author of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (launches Sept 1st from Sterling) and the upcoming Dear Dragon (Viking/Penguin, 2016), Pirasaurs! (Scholastic, 2017), and more. Find out more info about Josh at his website, Twitter, Facebook.

Me, Josh (on rock) and Jess Keating at Nerd Camp. Photo: Justin Keating.

I met Josh at Nerd Camp earlier this year. Such a fun and funny guy, and so supportive of his fellow kidlit authors and illustrators!

Synopsis of LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST (written by Josh Funk, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, published by Sterling)

"The race is on … Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are the best of friends until word gets out that there’s ONLY ONE DROP OF SYRUP left. Only one of them can enjoy the sweet, sweet taste of victory. Is their friendship toast?"

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

I don’t actually have an office. I pretty much do all of my writing from a laptop while sitting in bed (as I am right now). And I often throw on a movie I’m comfortable with in the background, something I know well enough so I won’t get distracted from the writing, but maybe it’ll inspire me. And my favorite movie to throw on is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (it’s on right now). So here’s the ‘not yet worn out’ disc:

This movie has everything: humor (Michael Cera, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Schwartzman), music (songs by Beck), action (actors who played Superman, The Punisher, & Captain America on the big screen), video games (fighting, music, skating), romance (love story with a pink/blue/green-haired girl), vegans, fantastic cast (at least one Oscar nominated actress), special effects (see: action), based on a graphic novel (KaPow!), one of the best directors out there (Edgar Wright can do no wrong), and it takes place in Canada (who doesn’t love ketchup chips?). It may not be for everybody, but if I were to make a movie, this would be it. And it’s been on in the background while I’ve written many a manuscript.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

I’m not a teacher. But I’ll tell you why I write, and I think it applies to any human: I write to entertain myself.

So write something you find fun.

Write what you’d want to read.

Write something to make your family and friends laugh.

Write a play you and your siblings can act out at the next family reunion.

Write a song!

And if it’s a writing assignment for school, put your own twist on it. Only you can write like you. So put a little of yourself into everything you write.

Obviously there are times when writing assignments have to be taken seriously, but there’s usually a way to make writing enjoyable.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I’m really excited about graphic novels, as you might have guessed from my Scott Pilgrim obsession. But here I’m referring to those for children (and adults like me). There are so many amazing choices out there that we’ve devoured over the last few years. Lunch Lady, El Deafo, Squish, Babymouse, The Flying Beaver Brothers, Ricky Ricotta, Rutabaga the Adventure Chef, Comics Squad, Astronaut Academy, Sidekicks, Smile, Sisters, Drama, Rollergirl, Amulet, The Chronicles of Claudette, and more.

I have personally seen children learn to read (and learn to love to read) by way of the GN. The combination of art and writing makes for an amazing storytelling (and story consuming) experience. The abundance of talent developing graphic novels today is mind blowing. And I don’t see it slowing down any time soon!

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

Sunday
Aug232015

A survey: Do YOU dog-ear pages in books?

After posting the found object doodle below on FB, a flurry of comments (turns out I'm not the only one who has a strong emotional reaction to dog-eared pages in books :-)) prompted me to post this anonymous 1-question survey:

How do you feel about dog-earing pages? After you answer my anonymous 1-question poll, you'll see what others have said.

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Curious about my other publishing industry surveys? Feel free to browse current and past Inkygirl Surveys online.

Saturday
Aug152015

Am going to try hard NOT to be like these writers while I'm on vacation

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday
Aug142015

Survey Results: "How Did You Find Your Agent?" "What Resources Did You Find Useful In Researching Agents?"

In my recent survey, I asked those of you working with agents to answer a few questions about how you got your agent. Here's what you said...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Aug142015

Three Questions For Alice Ratterree: Advice For Young Illustrators, Office Pencil Shavings and LILLIPUT

Children's book illustrator Alice Ratterree answers Three Questions for me on Inkygirl today! Read more for Alice's advice for young writers and illustrators, her opera singing, what she's excited about now...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Aug132015

Pernille Ripp's Reading Myth #1: "This is a girl/boy book"

I was so inspired by Pernille Ripp's talk at Nerd Camp earlier this year and just discovered (duh, why didn't I look for this earlier?) that she has a blog! I was inspired to illustrate a quote from her recent piece, "Stop Feeding The Beast - The Reading Myths We Pass On As Truth."

You can find out mroe about Pernille at PernilleSRipp.com, on Twitter at @pernilleripp and on Facebook at Passionate Learners.

Wednesday
Aug122015

Quickie anonymous poll for those of you with agents

I've been getting more people asking me for advice about how to get an agent, so in addition to updating my FAQ post about "Any advice on how to get an agent? How did YOU get your agent?", I've also posted a new survey.

If you're a children's/YA author or illustrator currently working with an agent, I'd very much appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to answer this quickie (multiple choice) anonymous poll about how you got your agent.

Results will be included in a future Inkygirl post.

Tuesday
Aug112015

Updated: Will Write For Chocolate

Monday
Aug102015

Three Questions For Arree Chung: Advice For Young Writers and Illustrators, Gonzo and HOW TO PEE

Arree Chung wrote and illustrated the picture book “NINJA!” and is also a founding member of Live in a Story, which offers wall decals created by children's book illustrators and designers. When he's not creating, you can find Arree riding his bike around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Where to find Arree: Website - Facebook - Twitter - Instagram.

Synopsis of How To Pee: Potty Training For Boys (written by Todd Spector, illustrated by Arree Chung, published by MacMillan):

"Out with the old and in with the new! Family physician Dr. Todd Spector presents a fresh and outrageously fun way to encourage little boys to give up their diapers. They can try it freestyle (in the backyard!), or give the potty a try with the help of a few props and plenty of imagination. Peeing in the potty is a lot more fun if you do it rocket style, cowboy style, or superhero style!"

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


This is one of my favorite toys. Gonzo. This doll is probably older than I am! This doll is special, because Jerry Houle, my licensing mentor gifted this to me. Jerry spent years working with Jim Henson in building a licensing program for the muppets. I am a huge muppets fan and have always admired Jim for his storytelling and the art he has put in the world. Jim changed the way people looked at puppets.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers and illustrators?

As a creative person, the thing I love doing the most is creating something new out of thin air. It maybe a story that becomes a book, a doodle that becomes a painting or an idea that becomes a business.

Making something new can be hard but I find that there are two really hard points: starting and finishing. Here are some tips on how to make it.

GET Excited.

Start right away.

Attack it.

Do it NOW. Get it down.

Scribble. Let yourself go. There is no wrong.

Don’t listen to your inner critic. Listen to your gut instincts. Work fast and intuitively.

Get your first draft done.

Accept that it’s a process. It’s okay that it’s not perfect. You’re making building blocks and you don’t know what pieces you need yet.

Look at the work again. You’ll probably see things you want to change about it. Change it.

Keep working on it. Identify what the heart of your idea is. It should be specific and feel honest.

Now reduce.

Keep reducing until you’re left with just the essentials.

Sketches for FIX-IT MAN (Author: Susan Hood, Publisher: HarperCollins).

Q. What are you excited about right now?

So many things!

Books! I love storytelling. I have three books coming out next year.

I’m excited about so many things right now. I have three books coming out next year. NINJA! Attack of the Clan (publisher: MacMillan) which is a sequel to my first book, NINJA! I'm illustrating a book called FIX-IT MAN (author: Susan Hood, publisher: HarperCollins), which is about being helpful and inventive. It has a very fun collage style to it. My third book out next year, is HOW TO PEE: Potty Training for Girls (author: Todd Spector, publisher: MacMillan) - which is a sequel to the potty training for boys book I illustrated. I'm really excited about all of the books.

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

Sunday
Aug092015

#BookADay: NINJA BUNNY by Jennifer Gray Olson (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children's)

#BookADay: NINJA BUNNY by Jennifer Gray Olson (Alfred A. Knopf Books For Young Readers). Such a fun picture book with adorable and eye-catching illustrations. Also love the underlying positive message about collaboration and friendship. A great read for little ninjas everywhere!

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

Saturday
Aug082015

Bad-Poem-A-Day, Where Are My Books?, Sherlock Holmes, Music and the Brilliance Of Kari Maaren

I've been a fan of YA writer Kari Maaren fan ever since I heard her perform Kids These Days, a song from the viewpoint of a traditional vampire complaining about the Twilight generation of vampires.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug042015

For those of you who said my previous image should have had to cat lying ON the writer's papers, not beside :-)

Posting this comic for my friend Joanne Levy and others who just told me that the image at the top of my previous post should have had the cat lying on TOP of the writer's papers, not beside. You cat people! ;-)

Monday
Aug032015

Back Burner Writing, Essential Apps and How I'm Squeezing In Extra Writing Every Day

Morning writer.

A bit about my writing background, time management thoughts, how I'm squeezing in extra writing time every morning, apps I've found essential in helping me get into the daily writing habit.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Aug022015

#BookADay: CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley (Dial Books For Young Readers)


‪#‎BookADay‬: CIRCUS MIRANDUS written by Cassie Beasley and illustrated by Diana Sudyka ( Dial Books for Young Readers, June 2015). Finished this middle grade book on the weekend. It was one of those experiences where I was enjoying the book soooo much that I began reading slower when I got to the last few chapters because I DIDN'T WANT IT TO END....

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Aug022015

Tip for writers/illustrators: Intelligent perseverance will get you far. Take a break if needed but then try again!

To aspiring book authors and illustrators out there: Intelligent perseverance will get you far. Take a break if needed but then try again!

If you like my found object doodles, you can browse more on Instagram at @inkygirl.

Friday
Jul312015

#BookADay: HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED by Jess Keating (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

#BookADay: HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED by Jess Keating ( Sourcebooks Jabberwocky). If you or your tween is looking for a fun summer read, I strongly recommend this book.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul282015

A Reminder: Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on enjoying your OWN journey

Writers and illustrators: Resist constantly comparing yourself to others. Instead, focus on appreciating and enjoying your OWN journey.

(I've been gradually working my way through the panels in my own career, so figured it was about time I repost this comic :-))

 

Tuesday
Jul282015

Tips for SCBWI-LA conference newbies, second-timers, plus a CHALLENGE for the many-timers

(Updated version of a post I made earlier this year before the SCBWI-NYC conference)

I'm leaving this week for the SCBWI Summer Conference! If you haven't yet registered, you're out of luck....the conference is sold out. However, you can follow along virtually via the #LA15SCBWI hashtag on Twitter as well as the SCBWI conference blog.

Here's my updated SCBWI Conference Advice post for first-timers (as well as a challenge for the many-timers):

If you're a conference newbie who is nervous, I encourage you to browse my SCBWI Conference Newbie comics. I created these when I was a nervous newbie as well! So many people think I'm an extrovert, but I'm actually very much an introvert and was terrified (to the point of sweating palms, pounding heart, hating the idea of having go up and introduce myself over and over) about attending my first regular SCBWI conference back in 2009.

(Edit re: above comic: I did end up meeting Jay at the conference and he was really nice! And he didn't mention his Amazon ranking EVEN ONCE! Heh.)

I've posted advice for first-timers before and will post it again at the end of this piece, but now that I've attended other SCBWI annual conferences (and had my career jumpstarted because of the 2010 SCBWI-LA Conference), here is some additional advice I have for those who have attended more than once:

Don't get offended or disheartened if people you've met before don't remember you.

This is something I've learned from both sides. As a 2nd- and 3rd-timer (and so on), I've sometimes gone up to a person or group I've met and had my confidence deflated when it becomes clear they don't remember me at ALL from the previous year. My inner reactions ranged from embarrassment, humiliation, irritation, frustration and even brief anger ("I guess I'm just NOT IMPORTANT enough for xxx to remember!! Hmph.").

Having attended many times now, I've learned the following:

- I'm terrible at remembering people unless I've had multiple conversations or interactions with the same person.

- Even then, especially if I'm tired or am in a noisy crowd (remember what I said earlier about being an introvert?) or have met many new people in a row just before, I may still forget having met someone before.

I still accidentally re-introduce myself to people whom I've met before, sometimes whom I've met EARLIER IN THE CONVENTION. I'm always horribly embarrassed when this happens. 

Make sure your name badge is easily visible.

As Lee Wind points out in his helpful SCBWI blog post, having your name badge visible even at dinner or drinks afterward is an obvious visual clue to others that you're part of the tribe, and helps them remember your name as well. You can stash a few business cards in the back so they're handy.

Also, when I approach someone whom I've met before but with whom I don't have constant contact, I usually try saying something that will help remind them of our mutual context, or remind them of having met at xxx. Until I'm sure they actually do remember me, I try very hard NOT to put them on the spot (e.g. I don't say, "So, what did you think of my most recent post?" etc.).

When someone does this to me (subtly or unsubtly :-) setting the context and helping me remember), I immediately feel more at ease with them and am more likely to want to chat with them in the future.

Another tip: if someone DOES remember you, never assume that they're up-to-date on all your exciting news. I've had the occasional person react badly when they realize I'm not aware of their new book ("?? But I posted it all over Facebook!") I never assume anyone reads all my posts or keeps up with all my news. People have busy lives and different priorities.

Something else I've learned: even so-called Big Name authors, illustrators, editors, art directors and agents can be insecure. I am faaaar from being a Big Name, but having had a bit more experience at conference-going now, I also realize how some of the Big Name types who seemed standoffish to me actually weren't.

Be gracious, be forgiving and try very hard to assume the best about a person rather than the worst.

And I apologize ahead of time if I don't remember your name or re-introduce myself. :-\

And here some tips for first-timers who feel nervous about attending for the first time, or are normally very shy or introverted and dread the idea of having to meet a lot of new people:

1. Be brave and make the first move. You'd be surprised at how many other attendees feel exactly the same way as you do. Introduce yourself to people you sit beside, stand in line with, notice standing alone.

2. TAKE BUSINESS CARDS. Yes, even if you aren't published yet. We're all going to meet a lot of people over the weekend, and taking away a business card from an encounter or introduction will help the people you meet remember you. If you're an illustrator, take postcards to hand out or make sure a sample of illustration style is on your business card. When you receive a business card for someone, try to take a few moments after to write a few words to help remind you of the context.

3. Be sociable. Don't just attend the keynotes and scheduled workshops. Check out the informal activities listed in your program, like Yoga with Lori Snyder, the LGBTQ Q&A, the Illustrator Social, Nonfiction Social, International Member Social, Peer Group Critiques with Jim Averbeck, and Saturday night "Sparkle & Shine" gala. Also keep an eye on conference Twitter chat, where some meetup planning might happen ("Hey, who wants to chat? I'm in the lobby").

4. Have realistic expectations. Don't expect to be "discovered" at the conference. Instead, set achievable goals. These can be as specific as "I'm going to introduce myself to agent xxxx sometime during the weekend" or as vague as "I'm looking for inspiration to get back on track with my book" or even just "To try having some fun at the conference and then see what happens." I think of this type of event as an opportunity for planting seeds. There's no guaranteed outcome, but you never know what might come out of all those seeds you're planting as you meet people, attend talks, watching and listening and chatting. 

My own conference seeds have blossomed, directly or indirectly, into: friendships, inspiration for new projects, invitations to speak at events, book contracts, publishing industry info that helped guide my career decisions, learning about new techniques and tools, helping others get published, and SO much more. I continue to plant seeds, because I want to keep growing as a writer and illustrator, plus I'm also well aware how quickly the industry can change.

5. In my experience, you're much more likely to meet new people if you're alone. If you're always chatting and hanging out with the same person or people, you're not as approachable. I'm not saying that you SHOULDN'T hang out with people you like, of course! Just keep in mind that as a group, you're probably not going to meet as many new people as someone who is by themselves.

6. If you're on Twitter, write your Twitter handle on your name badge somewhere.

But most of all: TRY TO HAVE FUN. 

***** A CHALLENGE TO THE "MANY-TIMERS" OUT THERE ****

Try to remember what it was like when you attended your very first event, or how insecure you felt in the beginning. Then make it a personal challenge to find at least one lost-looking or nervous conference newbie who is sitting or standing alone. Introduce yourself, chat with them, find out what they're working on, perhaps (if appropriate) offer some advice.

Give good karma and it WILL come back to you.

RELATED POSTS AND RESOURCES:

Are You Entering The SCBWI-LA Illustration Portfolio Showcase? Here Are Tips For Before And During The Conference: my post on KidLitArtists.com last month

On SCBWI, Advice For Authors and Illustrators: from art director, Giuseppe Castellano.

Your Conference THRIVE-al Guide: A Dozen Tips For Four Days Made Of Awesome: by Lee Wind, on the SCBWI blog. 

Tips For Attending A Writing Conference: from YA writer, Valerie Lawson.

SCBWI Conference Tips For Newbies: from children's book illustrator, Heather Powers

Surviving Your First SCBWI Conference - by A.J. Cosmo

Tips For First-Time Conference-Goers: Children's Writers Edition: from McIntosh and Otis agent, Christa Heschke.