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 Writer's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, #BookADay, writing/publishing industry surveysWriting & Illustrating a Picture Book For Simon & Schuster BFYR post series and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives,  and comics for writers (including 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

Tuesday
Nov252014

Comic: Being Thankful

 

I've decided that the girl's name is Keiko.  Haven't come up with a name for the baby yet, though.

Tuesday
Nov252014

My First Author/Illustrator Skype Visit: What I Learned, What I'd Do Differently Next Time

Skyping with 115 first-graders at A. Blair McPherson School in Edmonton, Alberta

Although I've used Skype before, I resisted doing Skype classroom visits until recently because I wasn't confident about the technology working properly. Since I first tried Skype, however, broadband services have improved and more schools are starting to do Skype visits with authors and illustrators.

Other reasons I decided to explore visiting schools via Skype:

- I lack the time and finances to visit schools outside of the Toronto area. I also don't drive, which makes transportation more of a hassle and time-consuming.

- I had so much fun talking to young readers during my NAKED! book tour (thanks, Simon & Schuster!) that I want to do this more often than I have in the past, but am limited by the reasons mentioned above.

- Although I know they can't replace in-person visits, virtual school visits enable me to use more props in my presentations, a wider range of art supplies, show students around my home office, be able to pull out musical instruments (I have many) on whim.

- I know some schools can't afford a full school visit, so I decided to offer a 15-20 minute visit for free. Those who want a longer visit can pay my regular fee. I'm also relatively new to school visits, so this also gives schools an idea of what I'm like in person. When I do my next book tour, whether sponsored by one of my publishers or funded on my own, hopefully some of these schools will be interested in having me visit.

What I did before my first Skype visit:

- I researched a TON, searching online for blog posts by children's book authors and illustrators who have done Skype visits, as well as posts by teachers and librarians about Skype visits. I was especially interested in posts by children's book illustrators, since we have the advantage of being able to do drawing demos. :-)

- I talked to my friend Lee Wardlaw, who was also my first children's book writing mentor. Lee has a huge amount of experience presenting at schools and bookstores in person as well as via Skype. Do check out her Presentations page as well as her Secrets To A Successful Skype Visit for educators.

- I worked with teacher-librarian Arlene Lipkewich and A. Blair McPherson for my very first school Skype visit; their first-graders voted I'M BORED as their favourite book last year in their "YouDecide!" program. I started with a Skype test call with Arlene and another teacher, then a Skype call with Mrs. Brooke's second grade class. Arlene gave me useful feedback which I used to tweak my setup and presentation before I Skyped with five classes (115 students) of first-graders the following week. Thanks you, Arlene and A. Blair McPherson!

- I collected some of the useful resources I've found on my Skype School Visit Page for teachers and librarians as well as children's book authors and illustrators.

What I did during my 15-20 minute Skype visit:

- I read I'M BORED (for the second visit, I also read NAKED!). By the second visit, I was better able to monitor what I was showing the kids, so would zoom in on the Potato, for instance, when it was the kids' turn to yell "I'm BOOOOORED!" But I also tried to pull back sometimes, so they could see me as well.

- After the reading, I showed the students a sketch or two from the process.

- I pulled out my guitar and had students help me co-write a very short I'M BORED song. 

- I did a drawing demo. The first time, I used my Derwent Inktense blocks to draw something and then used water to show the kids how the line turned into watercolor. I had the camera zoomed in close and later Arlene said that while this was great to see, it would have been great to see me as well. For my second Skypevisit, I decided to go with a big marker and watercolor paints instead, interacting with the students for suggestions on what to draw. It was fun but very messy on my end :-D -- I'll have to rethink this for my next Skypevisit.

- At the end, I did a Q&A. I loved hearing the types of questions asked by the kids. Some just came up to the laptop and didn't say anything, just smiled shyly or said (after a long pause): "I like your drawing!" One asked why the Potato in I'M BORED liked flamingos so much. I promised I'd ask Michael Ian Black, and he responded by email very quickly; I passed this answer onto the teacher afterward.

What I learned and what I'd do differently next time:

- It's sooooooo much more fun than I expected!

- I strongly recommend doing a Skype test call in advance of each Skype visit as well as just before the visit itself. I found this a great way of identifying potential problems and fixing them.

- Make sure you leave time for a Q&A, and coordinate with the teacher ahead of time so that he/she is able to have students prepare questions in advance.

- Figure out how to make my own screen bigger so I can see what the kids are seeing. Try to place this screen behind the webcam so I'm looking at the camera, not away.

- If I do painting, I will NOT set the paint cups on my desk where it's way too easy for me to knock them over in the middle of the Skype session (fortunately I didn't have much liquid in each)!

- Figure out how to mute the audio on my computer so I just hear it on my headphones. I found the echo a bit confusing, and was also worried about the echo leaking through into my microphone.

- I'm also going to investigate ways of sharing my screen, so I can show kids how I draw digitally. I think it will depend on partly on whether the school's Skype is able to do this, which makes a tech test in advance even more necessary.

Some useful resources (if you know of others, feel free to share below):

Please do check out the resource list I've compiled for teachers/librarians and authors/illustrators to my Skype page; I'll be gradually updating it.

Interested in having me do a Skypevisit with your school or library? Please see the info on DebbieOhi.com/skype. Hope to visit with you soon!

 

Next week, I'm Skyping (simultaneously) with third-graders in St. Paul and Boston, MN schools about I'M BORED. Can't wait. :-)

Monday
Nov242014

Comic: A Quality Picture Book

A comic in celebration of Picture Book Month. Do check PictureBookMonth.com, where you can find daily inspirational essays by children's book authors and illustrators about the importance of picture books.

If you like my book-ish comics, I also post on my Facebook Pro Page and Pinterest.

Thursday
Nov132014

Comic: An Honest Critique?

Thursday
Nov132014

Book I read: THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B by Teresa Toten

Just finished Teresa Toten's THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B. Wow, loved this book so much; it was one of those stories that made me laugh and cry at the same time. Wonderful voice. I also learned a lot about OCD. Highly recommended! I was also lucky enough to hear Teresa's inspiring opening keynote at CANSCAIP's Packaging Your Imagination and chat with her a bit afterward. SUCH a nice person!

Info: More about TeresaMore about the book (including an excerpt).

Thursday
Nov132014

A Happy Birthday (and THANK YOU) to my Simon & Schuster Children's editor, Justin Chanda, who helped me find my books


My dedication at the front of my VERY FIRST solo picture book, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? (comes out from Simon & Schuster Children's in May 2015)

Since Justin Chanda "discovered" me at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles (and after many, many years of rejections), my children's book career has taken off. Every so often I still pause in the middle of whatever I'm doing and think to myself OH MY GOSH I'M ACTUALLY MAKING A LIVING WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING CHILDREN'S BOOKS and hyperventilate a bit but then calm down because I have upcoming deadlines and need to get back to work.

For you, @inkygirl!! (Also for me, because, well, it's @judyblume!)

A photo posted by Jpchanda (@jpchanda) on Jun 6, 2014 at 4:37pm PDT

This past year has been especially crazygood, with my illustrations appearing in JUDY BLUME reissues from Atheneum (JUDY BLUUUUUUUUUME!!!!!!) as well as NAKED!, a second picture book with Michael Ian Black and Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. And then S&S sent me on my very first book tour!

 

So @michaelianblack and @inkygirl popped by to celebrate #Naked!!

A photo posted by Jpchanda (@jpchanda) on Apr 4, 2014 at 1:24pm PDT

Do you see that wand that Justin is holding in one of the photos above? A while back, I was posting about the Judy Blume illustration project as well as NAKED! coming out in 2014, and someone asked me if I had a fairy godmother. Yes, I told them, and my fairy godmother's name is JUSTIN CHANDA. I presented Justin with a labelled Fairy Godmother wand at the Simon & Schuster Children's meet & greeting with Michael Ian Black and me. Here's a photo that my husband Jeff took, just after I gave Justin the wand and was about to give him a big hug:

Photo: Jeff Ridpath.

Apparently Justin has taken the Wand to several Simon & Schuster Children's meetings since. :-)

And just recently, I got to see the color proofs for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, which is going to be my very first solo children's book. I think it really didn't hit me that I'm actually going to be a children's book AUTHOR as well as illustrator until I saw those proofs. The book comes out from Simon & Schuster in May 2015, woohoo!

Now that I've been working with Justin for four years, I feel even more lucky. He's a brilliant editor. I'm learning so much from him about the craft and business of making children's books. Justin has the ability to bring out the best in those who work with him, pushing them hard but also trusting their creative instincts.

I'm grateful to SO many people who have encouraged me along the way and could not be where I am now without them. Justin Chanda was the first editor to give me my Big Break, to believe in me enough to offer me that first book contract, and mere words cannot express how much I appreciate what he did and continues to do for my career.

Happy birthday, Justin, and THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME FIND MY BOOKS!

 Also see my Thank You To Justin Chanda and Simon & Schuster Children's.

Me hanging with the incomparable @inkygirl at #la14scbwi

A photo posted by Jpchanda (@jpchanda) on Aug 8, 2014 at 10:33pm PDT

Wednesday
Nov122014

Comic: Another Reason You Should Always Make Backups

Tuesday
Nov112014

Comic: Pseudo-Productivity Tip for Writers, especially those doing #NaNoWriMo

If you're doing NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to check out my friend Errol Elumir's daily NaNoToons!

Tuesday
Nov112014

Will Write For Chocolate comic: "You're never too old for picture books"

Just posted a new Will Write For Chocolate strip, inspired by Ame Dyckman's wonderful Picture Book Month post today. More at Will Write For Chocolate (and don't forget to "Like" my Will Write For Chocolate Facebook page!).

Tuesday
Nov112014

To those doing #NaNoWriMo: Good luck! (and here's a comic for you)

Also check out my friend Errol Elumir's daily NaNoToons, if you're looking for distraction. :-)

Sunday
Nov092014

Comic: There's More To A Girl Than Just Her Word Count (a #NaNoWriMo Breakup)

Friday
Nov072014

Comic: Obsessive Compulsive Editing Disorder

To writers out there: so 'fess up. How many of you out there can identify?

Friday
Nov072014

Comic: It Was A Dark And #NaNoWriMo Night...

If you're doing NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to check out my friend Errol Elumir's daily NaNoToons!

Thursday
Nov062014

Wordcount Envy Clinic (a #NaNoWriMo comic)

If you're doing NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to check out my friend Errol Elumir's daily NaNoToons!

Wednesday
Nov052014

NaNoWriMo comic: The Word Pusher

If you're doing NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to check out my friend Errol Elumir's daily NaNoToons!

Tuesday
Nov042014

A comic for picture book writers

Revamped this comic for use in Part 2 of my "How WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? was created" series. The post also includes a free, downloadable 32-page picture book thumbnail sketch template.

Saturday
Nov012014

November is Picture Book Month! (and PiBoIdMo, NaNoWriMo)

November is Picture Book Month! Each day, you can find an inspirational essay by a children's book writer or illustrator about the importance of picture books. ALSO, teachers and librarians can find curriculum connections compiled by educational consultant and children's book author, Marcie Colleen (Marcie did the Teacher's Guides for I'M BORED and NAKED!).

Anyway, the first essay is by Aaron Becker, and you can read it here.

 

If you're a picture book writer, I also advise you to check out Tara Lazar's Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdmo), in which participants are challenged to come up with 30 picture book ideas in a month.

And of course, November is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where the challenge is to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.

Saturday
Nov012014

Winning Halloween comic caption: Megan Maynor

Congrats to my Halloween comic caption winner, Megan Maynor. Megan's first picture book, ELLA AND PENGUIN STICK TOGETHER, comes out from HarperCollins in 2016. You can see Megan signing her contract in her "Wait, It Took HOW Long To Sell A Book?" post on Word Disco.

Here's Megan's winning caption:



Runners-up:

"Trick or tweet!" - Alecia Miller, on Twitter

"AND she doesn't even broompool." - Kevin Sylvester, on FB

"She spends far too much time on her newfangled iOfNewt." - Greg Pincus, on FB

"Young witches these days. Always flying and hex-ting..." - Arlene Graziano, on Twitter

"Does GPS even work up here?" - Joey Shoji, on FB

"The last witch that texted while flying, got hit by Dorothy's house." - Devin Melanson, on FB

You can see other caption entries on Twitter and on Facebook.

Megan wins my most recent #inktober doodle:

 

Last #inktober doodle, which is also a prize in my Halloween caption challenge (see my @inkyelbows Twitter acct).

A photo posted by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (@inkygirl) on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:32am PDT

Friday
Oct312014

Comic: Personal Muse

And speaking of inspiration, don't forget to check out the previous post from Paper Lantern Lit and former HarperCollins/Razorbill editor Lexa Hillyer about how to establish the right wants and needs of your characters.

Friday
Oct312014

Guest Post from Paper Lantern Lit Co-Founder Lexa Hillyer: Character WANTS and NEEDS

 

From Debbie: Thanks to Paper Lantern Lit for letting Inkygirl premiere their new series of GET LIT videos. In this video, YA author Lexa Hillyer talks about how to establish the right WANTS and NEEDS for your characters:

Hello from Paper Lantern Lit, the "story architects!" We're so excited to premiere our new video series, Get Lit, on InkyGirl. Each Get Lit video will explore the blueprints to each of PLL's secrets of the storytelling trade.

http://www.paperlanternlit.com/

In this video, watch PLL Co-Founder (and author of PROOF OF FOREVER, out June 2015!) Lexa Hillyer talk about the Wants and Needs of characters, and how they form the essential basis on which to build your story. We hope these videos will be helpful to aspiring writers– especially all of you prepping for NaNoWriMo tomorrow!

If you missed the introduction to Get Lit featuring PLL Co-Founder and New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver (The Delirium Trilogy, Panic, The Spindlers) click here.

You can subscribe to the Get Lit videos here, and never miss an update.

If you want more content like Get Lit, check out PLL's Blog! We post lots of info for writers in our Toolbox series, which breaks down different parts of the storytelling craft.

On Monday November 3rd, check out Fic Fare for the next Get Lit video, and become the architect of your BEST story!