Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and reading resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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(Last updated December 4, 2018)

In most interviews for Inkygirl as well as for my interviews with authors of books I illustrate, I ask the interviewee if they have any advice for young writers and illustrators. The following are some excerpts from their advice; click the name beside the advice to read the full interview. Big thanks to all who have been generous enough to offer advice for up-and-coming writers and illustrators!

(still in progress -- I'm working my way back through the archives)


Never stop reading picture books. Picture books enable us (as writers) to study the craft of writing at an essential level. - Frank Murphy

Work at it. Just write or draw...or both! And don't be afraid of being awful. - Sarah McGuire

Have an abundance of discipline and imagination. Once you learn the tried and true way of doing things, you start to see little crinkles of opportunity along the straight and narrow. - Fred Koehler

Don't be afraid to ask questions. One question can make all the difference. - Nancy Tupper Ling

Read good books! Read good books that are like the kind of books you want to make. Then draw or write as much as you can. It all comes down to absorbing good stories, good art, and then practicing your own writing and drawing. - Jen Betton

Write. All the time. The more you write, the better you will get. Don't expect your work to be good - no one's beginner work is much good. But what can you perfect if you have nothing on the page to revise? - Helaine Becker

Don't be afraid to be weird. - Kari Maaren

If you are just getting started, practice by drawing anything you like! Experiment with all different types of media. You don’t necessarily know what your style is until you’ve teased it out by drawing all you can, and your work is recognizable. - Dow Phumiruk

Seek out kind, caring people with similar interests and share your work with them. - Jarrett Lerner

Personal connections in the industry are important. Nurture them. - Andrea Offermann

Read like crazy! Nothing fills you up with ideas like reading books. - Aaron Reynolds

My advice for young writers: read a lot, write a lot, and live a lot. - Lauren McLaughlin

Stretch yourself, push yourself, and above all....write. - Rob Sanders

Read big and write. - Danielle Younge-Ullmann.

READ. I read as much as, if not more than, I write. Encountering other people’s ideas is a surefire way of getting your imagination searching for ideas of its own, and books are an amazing place to find other people’s ideas – typically people fill books with their very best. - Jarrett Lerner

Don't hold onto a project too long. Sometimes, it's time to move on. - Kate Blair

Be patient, define success by your growth, and enjoy the journey. Remember that you are making the world a more beautiful place with your art! - Dow Phumiruk

Keep learning. Write. Read. Take classes. Find a critique group. No matter how good of a writer you are, there will always be more to learn. - Melanie Florence.

Meet other authors. No matter how shy you are, it's worth getting out there and interacting with the kidlit community. - Heather Camlot

Don't just focus on one story. Keep writing! - Jackie Azua Kramer

Immerse yourself in picture books if you want to learn how to write and illustrate them. - Maral Sassouni

Play and have as much fun as you can with your art. Experiment and search outside your comfort zone. - Ana Aranda.

If you don’t know what to write about, write about your socks. Keep going. You’ll find out what you wanted to write about. - Megan Maynor

Write anything and everything....submit all kinds of writing to all types of publishers. Sure, it's good to hone your craft, but don't limit yourself to one genre and style. - Nancy Tupper Ling

If you love writing, WRITE. Not a day goes by when I don't write. It might just be a few scribbles in my notebook or a letter, but it's still writing. - Vijaya Bodach

Get comfortable making creative mistakes, and then to go out and make a whole bunch of them. - Jarrett Lerner

Never be afraid to seek advice or ask questions. It's how we learn. It's how we succeed. - Marcie Colleen

Enjoy the process. Play with words and paint. Tell that story or draw that illustration that only you can do, and share it with others. - Sylvia Liu

Don't worry about coming up with the most original idea in the world. As long as you write from your own experiences and from the heart, your story will be different enough. - Dorian Cirrone.

Even if you don't think you want to be a writer, aim to write well. Writing is all about communicating and the more effectively we're able to make ourselves understood, the more successful we are in relating to other people. - Ruth Spiro

Get to know people in your field and show them the best of YOU. - Andrea Zuill

If thinking about stories and writing them down makes your inner self go ‘squee!’ then that’s all you need. So ignore those who say you can't. Charge forth and just have fun; it’s where you’re meant to be. - Nicole Winters

Carefully study your favorite artists & writers, see how they do what they do. - Kevin Sylvester

Every writer needs to take some basic business and sales courses. As a writer, you're the sole proprietor of a business. - Helaine Becker

Experiment with different types of art and writing. Have an art/writing smörgasboard! you never know what sort of art or writing style you will love and shine in until you try it. - Jaime Temairik

To really make it in this business of writing, it takes more than talent. It takes a determination that overcomes all those feelings of failure. - Christina Farley

Research is paramount. Our facts need to be as accurate as possible - kids will carry the information you give them for the rest of their lives. - Helaine Becker, on writing nonfiction.

Dare to dream, especially when life throws curveballs. - Ann Marie Meyers

Don't get hung up on rewriting one story over and over. You've got to write, and write a LOT. - Rob Sanders

If you get stuck while writing, write ANYWAY, even if it means writing about how stuck you are. Just write whatever comes to mind. - Kat Yeh

While it's important to learn and refine your craft, it's just as important to find your own unique voice. - Jodi Moore

Make your decisions, all of them, for a REASON. - Samantha Berger

Be open to the vision others have for your book. - Vijaya Bodach

For non-fiction writers: Fact-check everything. Not only do mistakes undermine a story, but they misinform rather than educate the reader. - Heather Camlot

Learn how to see the first solution but then set it aside until you've had a chance to explore other possible solutions. Tthen pick the best option and run with it. - Molly Idle

Let everything else go and write with great joy...and a pen. A pen definitely helps. - Donna Gephart

Go to the library and check out stacks of children's books, study the pacing. There is a heartbeat and rhythm that great books share, no matter when they were published. - Brian Won

Writing is hard work - but so is everything else. If you're willing to work at it - and throw out whatever doesn't fit, a hundred times in a row if need be, eventually you will create something of value. Be brave. BE determined. And at all times, be close to chocolate. - Helaine Becker

Everyone has her or his own path. - Christian Trimmer

Don't believe your reviews -- either good or bad. - Jane Yolen

Seek a balance in your creative work and daily life that's not only sustaining, but life-giving. - Eliza Wheeler

It's really about discovering who you are, and what stories you want to tell. - Patricia Storms

Try different styles, genres and voices. Find what works for you. - Rob Sanders

Figure out what makes you unique, interesting, weird, and you. Use as much of this as you can in your writing and art. - Matthew Cordell

Learn from other artists, connect with them and support them. They are your tribe. - Kate Parkinson

The First Rule Of Writing is: Butt In Chair. This is the rule from which all careers stem. - Kevin Sands

Explore! Drum! Skate! You never know where your interests will lead you! - Trisha Speed Shaskan

Create honestly and bravely. - Jodi Moore

Persevere. Pat Zietlow Miller received 126 rejections before she sold her first book. 

Pay attention to everyone you already know. They will show up in your writing. - Lauren McLaughlin

Five letters, sound like "light"...WRITE! Do it every day. Do it for fun. - Christopher Cheng

Be an immovable force. My middle-grade novel Bog took ten years from conception to published book. I lost my way and doubted my story many times, but I never stopped trying. - Karen Krossing

Write about or draw the things you feel most deeply about. - Lee Wardlaw

Learning about writing is good but in the end, you have to WRITE. - Rob Sanders

Making progress isn't about achieving instant perfection in one fell swoop. It's about daily baby steps and planting a small seed that grows gradually. - Eliza Wheeler

Read a much as you can, for pleasure and for craft. - Cheryl Rainfield

Don't start out trying to be totally unique and breaking all the rules. Sure, it might have worked for someone else but it's a tough row to hoe just starting out. Give yourself a break and take it slow. - Andrea Zuill

Always find time to PLAY and HAVE FUN when you write. - Samantha Berger

Picture book writers & illustrators: look at foreign picture books. If you don't know the language of the text, all that much better; you'll experience the book the way a small child would. - Maral Sassouni

Write something every day. - Jane Yolen

Keep a sketchbook or notebook with you at all times to jot down all your ideas. No ideas are too silly or simple. - Joyce Wan

Invest in your writing career. Take classes, buy the books you need, join or form a critique group, and never forget to give thanks for having a writing life. - Vijaya Bodach

Own your truth, speak your truth, and become brave enough to write about the things that terrify you the most to talk about. - Samantha Berger

You never know when and from where an idea for a story will pop up. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open at all times for those ideas. And write them down because ideas are slippery little buggers. - Heidi Stemple

Challenge yourself. - Jodi Moore

Share your stories with a few people or join a critique group. The fresh eyes and ears can help you find problem areas in your writing, and act as a great support network when the self doubt and fear start creeping in. - Russ Cox

Heart on the page. - Jane Yolen

Don't just study writing. Go out in the world and work, travel, meet people. When you find yourself having to earn a living doing something other than writing, embrace it. Learn from it. - Lauren McLaughlin

Don't compare yourself to others. Simple focus on YOU: what you have to say and how you want to say it. - Lee Wardlaw

Young children are born naturals at noticing and observing. As writers, we need to nurture that skill. Our job is to go beneath the surface, beyond labels and first impressions. - Tricia Springstubb

Set regular, realistic deadlines for yourself. - Joyce Wan

Write every day. Revise your work. Be patient. Don't give up. - Laura Boldin-Fournier

Don't dumb down words or ideas. Respect language. It's incredible. - Samantha Berger

Get out there and meet other writers and creators. The camaraderie and support of a network of peers is invaluable. - Lisa Dalrymple

Embrace rejection. It is okay to hear “no thank you”. It helps light that creative fire and you learn from it. Not everyone is going to love your story. - Russ Cox

Learn from the masters, but then respectfully ask them to leave your studio. - Alice Ratterree

Know that books are not just written, but rewritten. - Jane Yolen

Write what you'd want to read. - Josh Funk

All you can do, and all you must do, is to write the stories only you can tell. - Lauren McLaughlin

Get honest feedback from other writers. - Cheryl Rainfield

Go outside. Inspiration comes out "out there" more often than not. - Maral Sassouni

Rejection is part of the job. It's one reason I have a picture of a ballerina on my office wall. It motivates me to remember how much hard work is required to be a professional. - Kate Dopirak

Try not to be too obsessed with what is selling in 'the market.' - Patricia Storms

You never know unless you try to write. - Timothy Young

Do your best, and then relax. Let this process loop and loop. Enjoy the journey. Because, really, why else are we doing this? - Maple Lam

Write about things that matter to you. - Patricia Newman

Write the emotional truth of what you want to know. - Donna Gephart

Turn off the modern world and go outside. There are stories outside your house and studio waiting to be heard and told. - Russ Cox

Readers need to be able to care about the subject of the book. Always put yourself in a reader's chair and ask yourself the questions that a reader might ask. Then answer them. - Helaine Becker

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. - Arree Chung

If you're going to be a writer, you gotta write. - Greg Pincus

I think creative people often feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by self-doubt and the emptiness of a blank page. THINK BIG, ACT SMALL, but ACT nonetheless-ONE STEP AT A TIME towards your goals. - Joyce Wan

Join a critique group that provides a safe environment in which to share new ideas, ask those silly questions, and learn about the industry. - Susan Del Rizzo

There are days where we all feel like untalented hacks. All of us. And it's really important to remember this.. - Samantha Berger

Don't listen to the "no"-it-alls. Only you can tell your own story. And the world needs to hear it. - Jodi Moore.

No matter how unfair and just-plain-wrong the comments from your critique partner/agent/ editor seem to be—there is usually truth in every critique. It’s your job to pull out the ‘why’ of their reactions. - - Hélène Boudreau

Never stop honing your craft. - Henry Herz

Find your voice ... how do you do that? By drawing and learning and imitating and seeking critique and then finally becoming unconscious of your style. Then you have found your illustration voice. - Hazel Mitchell

Read widely and wildly. Never condescend. - William Alexander

You positively, absolutely have to be a reader to be a writer. - Claire M. Caterer.

Let people critique your work (and I don't just mean your mom). - Chelsea Pitcher.

Write with emotional honesty, hope and respect. - Stephanie Burgis

Get through English class but know that the real world just wants a good story, and isn't as worried about brilliantly placed semi-colons and properly argued theses. - Tim Federle

Don't get too hung up on what you think is your first truly viable/sell-able manuscript. - Audrey Vernick

Stop wondering what they want. Stop looking at other people's work. Make the art that is YOU. The art that you were born to make. - Kelly Light

No matter how good you think your idea is—the next one could be better. - Hélène Boudreau