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


Something Amazing

Thanks to my friend Therese Walsh for the great caption! You can find out more about Therese at and on Twitter at @ThereseWalsh.



An iPad made of trees

Thanks to Goodreads for tweeting the comic I did with Paul Carroll today!


Children's Book Finger Puppets: tips for children's book creators, teachers and parents

I've added some free print-ready templates for creating finger puppets related to I'M BORED and WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? You can preview the I'm Bored puppets here and download here. You can get the Where Are My Books? puppets here: Spencer & Mom preview/download, Sis and Dad preview/download and Squirrel/Narwhal/Book preview/download. For all my free, print-ready material, see my Print-Ready Archives.

Click to read more ...


Kathryn Stockett's THE HELP was rejected 60 times


According to a Time interview with Kathryn Stockett, The Help was rejected 60 times by agents before being picked up by Susan Ramer at Don Congdon.

The book was Kathryn's debut as a novelist and took her five years to complete. Since it came out in 2009, The Help has been published in 35 countries and three languages.


Late Bloomers: William Steig


More proof that it's never too late to start.



Three Questions For Barney Saltzberg: Advice For Young Writers, Pencil Sharpener Inspiration and INSIDE THIS BOOK (ARE THREE BOOKS)

Barney Saltzberg is the author and illustrator of close to 50 books for children, including Beautiful Oops!, Arlo Needs Glasses, Andrew Drew and Drew, and the bestselling Touch and Feel Kisses series with over one million copies in print. Not only that, but he's also recorded four albums of music for young people (!). See the children's concert clip later in this post.

I was lucky enough to meet Barney at ALA earlier this year and more recently discovered his BEAUTIFUL OOPS!...I can't believe I missed this wonderful book before! Those of you who've seen my found object art demos can guess why I fell in love with this book.

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Free print-ready poster: Tim Federle quote about books

I've added a new print-ready poster to my For The Love Of Reading page:

You can download the poster here.

For more free print-ready literacy posters, activity sheets, bookmarks and more, see For The Love Of Reading. You can also browse my full Print-Ready Archive for teachers, librarians and young readers.


Comic: Picture Book Restaurant

"Picture books create readers from ground up. Don't rush children out of them." - Jarrett J. Krosoczka.


SIX by M.M. Vaughan

I cannot resist a middle grade novel with unique/cool technology as a hook, so was intrigued by the basic synopsis of SIX by M. M. Vaughan (Margaret K. McElderry, 2015): Parker and his sister Emma, with the help of secret advanced technology, can communicate between themselves through their thoughts. When their father is kidnapped a few years after their mom's death, Parker and his sister are determined to find him.

Loved the mystery and action in SIX, the unexpected plots twists, and especially liked Parker's sister Emma. While Emma's deafness plays a role in their mystery-solving (she's very good at lipreading, for instance), it's not an Issue. Also loved the humor.

I'd like a SEQUEL, please!

You can find M.M. Vaughan (a.k.a. Monica Meira Vaughan) at, on Facebook and on Twitter at @NoSleepNeeded.

Monica shared some excellent advice in Chuck Sambuchino's "7 Things I've Learned So Far" blog series, including:

No news means...absolutely nothing.

Don't send your manuscript out to every agent at once.

Use your time well while you're waiting to hear back. Read the article to find out more.


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


Don’t wait for your Muse. Be there every day & eventually she'll start showing up.


I love what Stephen King said about not waiting for one's Muse to show up.

“Don't wait for the muse. As I've said, he's a hardheaded guy who's not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn't the Ouija board or the spirit-world we're talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you're going to be every day from nine 'til noon. or seven 'til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he'll start showing up.”

- Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

The comic above is also available as an Unhappy Muse greeting card in my online card shop.


Golden Marmot Award: Chuck Wendig's "If you like a book" tweet


 It's been a while since I've awarded the Incredibly Prestigious and Exquisitely Ephemeral Golden Marmot Award, but this week it NEEDS to go to Chuck Wendig for this wonderful tweet.

In addition to following @ChuckWendig on Twitter, I encourage you to read his Terribleminds blog. (*** To those offended by strong language: be warned that Chuck embraces it. :-)) While his focus is not specifically on children's books, many of his posts contain nuggets of wisdom useful to writers all genres.


Three Questions For Christian Trimmer: Advice For Young Writers, Ben Clanton and SIMON'S NEW BED

Christian Trimmer photo credit: Walker Brockington.

In addition to being a debut picture book author, Christian Trimmer is an editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. I love his enthusiasm for kidlit/YA on his Twitter feed, plus he's edited some pretty amazing books. Like THE DEATH AND LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH by Daniel Kraus (here's what I posted about the book), which comes out from S&S BFYR this October. Thanks to Christian for answering Three Questions for me today....

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Font Nerd Table comic, thoughts on font faces and my favorite Comic Sans song ever

For those interested, the Font Nerd Table comic above is now available as a greeting card in my card shop.

I do admit that I over-used Comic Sans and Papyrus when they first came out. Fontfaces are so much like fashion, aren't they? You have the basic fontfaces which never seem to go out of style, like Helvetica and Times Roman. But then there are the trendy fonts which are massively popular for a short period of time but then fall by the wayside.

Like Comic Sans. And speaking of Comic Sans, here's my favorite Comic Sans music video ever:

Insider kidlit trivia: Andrew Huang, who makes a guest appearance as a rapper in the video above, is also the voice in Greg Pincus's book trailer for The 14 Fibs Of Gregory K.


Three Questions with Patricia Newman: Advice For Young Writers, Penguin Paintings and her new EBOLA book


Patricia Newman is the author of fiction and nonfiction titles, and magazine articles for children. She writes what she wants to know and has covered topics as diverse as ocean plastic, trains, fighter pilots, and Ebola. Although many of her books have received critical acclaim, she writes for the kid she was to hook the next generation of readers. She is a frequent speaker at schools, libraries, and conferences.

You can find more info about Patricia Newman on her website - Facebook - Twitter and Pinterest.

Synopsis of EBOLA: FEARS AND FACTS (Millbrook Press, Oct. 1, 2015):

"From 1976 to 2013, the virus killed about 1,500 people. So why in 2014 did it kill nearly seven times that number? Ebola: Fears and Facts takes kids behind the sensational headlines to address their questions and concerns about the virus. What are the symptoms? Can we catch the virus? How does it spread? Find out how the 2014 epidemic compares to past Ebola outbreaks, and outbreaks of other infectious diseases. Ebola: Fears and Facts will help kids better understand this most-feared disease."

Ebola: Fears and Facts Book Trailer from Jim Bentley @Curiosity_Films on Vimeo.


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

I love this picture! You might think it's a finger painting from my kids' preschool days, but it's not. My daughter is a zookeeper, and one day, she "asked" her penguins to paint me a picture. They walked across the canvas as an enrichment activity-can you see their footprints?-because they would do anything for my daughter. They loved her (as do I!). So, their artistic efforts hang in a place of pride. Her penguins even inspired a picture book that I'm currently revising.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

When I was a kid, it was hard to get excited about writing prompts. I never felt like I had good ideas, or perhaps I was too afraid to commit them to paper. So even though I was a good student, I guess you could call me a reluctant writer. Now, I love to write because I'm writing about the things that matter to me.

I know several schools encourage students to keep journals in which they write a few lines every day. If kids don't know what to put in their journals, I suggest making a list of things they love, and then choose something from the list to write about--even if the grammar and the spelling aren't perfect. Every day, go a little deeper into the topic. For example, ice cream would be on my list of things I love. On day one, I might write whether I like cups or cones (wafer vs. sugar vs. waffle) and why. On day two, I might write about the flavors I like. On day three, I might explain how I eat an ice cream cone, i.e. whether I eat the point off first or lick all the ice cream off the top and how I control drips. It doesn't matter what you write about, but you do have to be interested in it.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I love writing about the natural world because whenever I take a close look, something fascinating is happening. Currently, I'm hard at work on two books about different aspects of the ocean. One of the books will feature epic photos from PLASTIC, AHOY! photographer Annie Crawley.


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.


Poll Results: Do You Dog-Ear Pages In Books?

Thanks to those who answered my dog-earing survey! Exactly 100 people responded. Here's what you said...

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Free print-ready poster: "Be A Reading Ninja!"


I've added a new print-ready poster to my For The Love Of Reading page: "Be A Reading Ninja!" It prints on an 8.5 x 11" sheet of paper.

Download it here. This is also now available as a "Be A Reading Ninja!" greeting card.

You can find ALL my free, print-ready bonus material in my print-ready archives.



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



A Reminder To Aspiring Writers and Illustrators


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!


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.


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.


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