Welcome to Inkygirl: Reading, Writing and Illustrating Children's Books (archive list here) which includes my Creating Picture Books series, Advice For Young Writers and IllustratorsWriter's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, my poetry for young readers, #BookADay archives, 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). Also check out my Print-Ready Archives for Teachers, Librarians, Booksellers and Young Readers.

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


Happy Mother's Day! (Also, why you should always read your email one last time before hitting SEND)


#BookADay: BREAKOUT by Kate Messner, illustrated by Ellen Lindner

Although I've been embracing Donalyn Miller's #BookADay challenge year-round, I don't always have a chance to post about what I'm reading. You can see my archive of my #BookADay and book recommendation posts here.

One of my #BookADay reads: BREAKOUT by Kate Messner, illustrated by Ellen Lindner (Bloomsbury).



More info: Donalyn Miller's #BookADay Challenge - My #BookADay Archives (also see my visual #BookADay archive on Padlet, Flickr and Pinterest).


Don't let fear of writing poorly stop you from writing. That's why we revise. - Cindy Pon

For more info about Cindy Pon, the author who said "Don't let fear of writing poorly stop you from writing. That's why we revise....", see CindyPon.com.


#BookADay: THE VERY LAST CASTLE by Travis Jonker and Mark Pett (Abrams)

THE VERY LAST CASTLE is written by Travis Jonker and illustrated by Mark Pett, and I adore the main character, Ibb! This picture book came out from Abrams Books For Young Readers last October. Read the *starred review* in Kirkus!

Click to read more ...


#BookADay: EMBRACE THE CHICKEN by Mahtab Narsimhan (Orca Currents)

Reading any of Mahtab Narsimhan's books always make me hungry for Indian food!

Click to read more ...


“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” - StephenKing

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” - Stephen King

Related: How To Find Time To Read More Books In 2019.


ME, as I work on my middle grade novel.


No guarantee that my middle grade novel will ever be published; that's out of my control.

I'm trying to focus on what I can control:

(1) Writing the best book I possibly can, and

(2) FINISHING the book.


Three Questions With Debut Picture Book Author June Smalls (ODD ANIMAL ABC'S illustrated by Claire Sedovic, Blue Manatee Press)

June Smalls is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and a lover of literature. She resides in Northern Virginia with her hubby, The Kid, and an ever-growing assortment of animals. I so enjoyed meeting June at Highlights last year, and am excited about the April 16th launch of her first picture book, illustrated by Claire Sedovic.

You can find out more about June and her work on her website and Twitter.

Book title: ODD ANIMAL ABC'S
Author: June Smalls
Illustrator: Claire Sedovic
Publisher: Blue Manatee Press


A is for Alligator, B is for Bear, and so on, right? Not in this book. The odd animals are taking over! It's time to meet Aye-Aye, Fossa, Numbat, Xenops and more curious, yet real animals that are ready for their spotlight.

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

Here are two photos. One is my plant George. I grew him from a trimming, stuck him in a paper cup for two weeks until he grew roots, then I got him a fancy pot of his own with all the soil he wanted. I don’t even know what kind of plant George is, but he is the only plant I’ve ever kept alive. George is just over one year old.

The second picture is my own broken crayon art. I always say I’m not an illustrator but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with pictures. Debbie Ohi hosted a class at the Highlights Foundation, and this was one of our activities. It sits on my Shelf of Beloved Objects with my turtles, a tibbit (tiger/rabbit), and other odds and ends that make me happy.

Sample spread for ODD ANIMALS ABCs (click on image to view bigger version)

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

The job of a writer is not to tell kids what to think. It isn’t to tell them what to do or what lesson to learn. Our job is to point them forward. We don’t tell them how to get somewhere, we just tell them that they CAN get somewhere, as long as they keep going.

Writers have to keep moving forward too.

I had hundreds of rejections on roughly one dozen books, picture books through middle grade. It took about five to six years to go from “I’m serious about writing for the traditional market” to “I have books being traditionally published. There are no secret formulas, magic beans, or fairy godmothers to make it happen overnight. But if you keep working, keep learning, and keep growing, you can make things happen. I now have an agent, two trade picture books sold, as well as two work-for-hire books sold for the school market. I have a number of other works on submission.

Keep writing.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I’m excited about creating more books! SHE LEADS: THE ELEPHANT MATRIARCH is due out in spring of 2020 with Familius and I have a number of picture books, novelty books, and chapter books ready or already on submission. I am excited for kids to read my work and say, “This made me happy/laugh/curious about the world/think.”

I’m also excited about chocolate… but I’m always excited about chocolate…

Related posts:

Learn the ABC's With June Smalls And Her Odd Animals - on the Blue Manatee Press blog.

Exclusive Cover Reveal on Matthew Winner's blog - plus June Small finishes Matthew's sentences.


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.


Comic: Font Sommelier



Comic: Cinderella Writer, Revamped (and Happy International Women's Day!)


Comic: The Angst Of Reading A Good Book


Three Questions With Debut YA Author Nikki Barthelmess (THE QUIET YOU CARRY, launches March 5th)

Nikki Barthelmess is a journalist and author of young adult books. She entered foster care in Nevada at twelve and spent the next six years living in six different towns. During this time, Nikki found solace in books, her journal, and teachers who encouraged her as a writer. The Quiet You Carry is her first novel. You can find out more about Nikki at her website, on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.

Click to read more ...


Quickie tip: There are no shortcuts. You need to do the work.


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

Only a few days until the annual SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC! You can follow the action via the #NY19SCBWI hashtag and (once the conference begins) the SCBWI Conference Blog. I'll be there - if you see me, please do say hi!

The following is a slightly updated version of my annual post; I hope some of you find it useful. 

This comic applies just as much to SCBWI-NYC as SCBWI-LA

To those attending an SCBWI conference for the first time: I'M EXCITED FOR YOU! As some of you already know, my career got jumpstarted at an SCBWI conference. Even if you're unable to attend this year, you can follow along virtually via the #NY17SCBWI hashtag on Twitter as well as the SCBWI conference blog.

In addition to an updated version of my SCBWI newbie tips, I've also added a list of other people's tips; the list of links is at the end of this post. 

Click to read more ...


Don’t wait for your Muse. Avoid precious rituals. Get into the daily habit of doing the work.


Comic: New Year Writer


How To Find Time To Read More Books In 2019

Now that my eyes are fixed (woohoo!), I have started reading print books again, in addition to other formats. I'm also reevaluating my reading habits. I love to read but sometimes I find that reading gets put on the back burner more often while other activities take priority. Sometimes these activities, especially family-related and work-related, NEED to take priority, but I find there are still ways to find more time to read.

I've updated my post below in case one or more tips might help others. You might also want to check out what parents suggested in my "Finding Time To Write (Even If You Have Kids)" survey.

1. I have multiple print books on the go, and keep them around the house. I usually have print books that I'm in the midst of reading in our bedroom, my office, living room, dining room, etc. Print books have the advantage over ebooks here in that just SEEING them reminds me to read them.

2. I read books on my iPhone. Yes, the screen is small but I enlarge the text to make reading comfortable. This is super-handy for reading when I may only have a few minutes, like when I'm in a line-up or waiting for someone. Or when I'm in a super-crowded subway train and am holding onto a support pole with one hand....but I can easily reach into my purse, pull out my iPhone and flip through pages with my other hand.

3. I read books on my iPad. I have an iPad Pro and find it a bit too heavy to hold for reading unless it's propped up somehow, but I find that using a pillow or my knees works fine. I prefer print books for the esthetic experience (turning print pages, feel of of a physical book etc.) but I do find that the backlit screen on my iPad enables me to read even in places with dim lighting. Some are ebooks I've bought, some are borrowed from the Toronto Public Library.

4. I read books on my Kindle. Because the Kindle is lightweight and loaded up with a lot of my ebooks, I can avoid angsting over what book to take on out-of-town trips ("I'm 3/4 of way through this book so if I finish it on the plane, what do I read next? Should I bring an extra just in case? But I'm trying to travel with just carry-on augh" etc.), I just take my Kindle and I have access to many books-on-the-go.

5. I listen to audiobooks. I remember avoiding audiobooks in the beginning because I never considered it REAL reading, plus I didn't think I could really enjoy a book by just listening to it. Then my husband played an audiobook (I can't remember the title...something about divers and scavenging in deep waters) on a long car trip and I was surprised to find it an immersive reading experience. The narration is important, though -- a bad narrator will totally turn me off a book, so I make it a habit of always listening to a sample first. I have an Audible subscription but I also borrow audiobooks from the Toronto Public Library. Whenever I'm at certain stages in book illustration, I listening to audiobooks as I draw.


As long as the story is good, I am willing to read it in any format. I do make a point of buying books from indie bookstores but I have found that my appetite for reading makes it impractical (from a budget standpoint) to buy all my reading material. The Toronto Public Library is a wonderful resource, with print and ebook and audiobooks available.

Also, I squeeze in reading whenever I can. While I'd love to save my reading stints for when I have an entire afternoon to curl up on the couch with a good book, reality is that if I always waited for The Perfect Reading Day, I wouldn't be reading nearly as many books as I do now. Before my recent eye surgery, I also found it a challenge to read a regular print book.

And as summer approaches, consider participating in Donalyn Miller's #BookADay Challenge!


11 Ways Busy People Make Time To Read - by Eva Lantsoght on Lifehack.org

How To Read Even More In 2019 by Strand bookstore

5 Ways To Find More Time To Read - by Kristin Wong on Mentalfloss.com

25 Expert Tips To Reading WAY More Books This Year - by John Rampton on Inc.com



Comic: A Resolution Not To Make New Year's Resolutions


New Year's Resolutions For Writers


Free, print-ready template: Insert for iPhone XS Max case with clear back

I recently started printing out and/or drawing on custom inserts for my iPhone XS Max case; I'm currently using an Otterbox Traction Series case with a clear back. In case anyone else wants to experiment with these as well, here's a free, print-ready template (3 per page). ***I strongly advise printing out a test on cheap paper first and doing a test cutout to see how the template fits your case. You will also need to do a bit of trimming here and there.

Ideas for authors and illustrators: design an insert with characters from your upcoming book, or book covers. For a recent event, I printed out an insert with my name, Twitter and Instagram accounts - that way whenever I took a photo of people at the event, they could see who I am (if they didn't know already) as well as where they could find my livetweets/posts.

Idea for illustrators: print out the template on nice paper and then fill the paper with art. Make sure you don't draw with anything that might leave marks on the back of your iPhone! And again, do a test printout/cutout with cheap paper before starting to draw, to see how the template will fit your case.

You can find more free, print-ready templates and activities at DebbieOhi.com/printready. I've collected so many templates, posters, activity sheets etc. that this coming year, my plan is to reorganize into different pages to make my Free, Print-Ready Archive easier to navigate. I'll be posting updates as well as special bonus offers in my email newsletter (which I also plan to update more regularly :-)).