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

Saturday
Mar142015

Three Questions For Jodi Moore: Advice for young writers and illustrators, soul-nourishing notes and WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAI

Jodi Moore is author of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN (illustrator: Howard McWilliam, published by Flashlight Press), the upcoming sequel WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN (launching Sept/2015) and GOOD NEWS NELSON (illustrated by Brendan Flannelly-King, published by Story Pie Press). The proud mother of two grown sons, she lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and an ever-changing bunch of characters in her head. You can find out more about Jodi and her work at WriterJodiMoore.com, her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

I love Jodi's cheer and enthusiasm in person as well as online, and she's always been so supportive of her fellow children's/YA book writers. Thanks to Jodi for answering my Three Questions today!

Trailer for WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN:

Synopsis of WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN:

If you build a perfect castle, a dragon will move in, followed by... a baby?! Hilarity ensues as the trio bonds, until the baby charms the dragon away. Is there room in the castle for three? Decide for yourself WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN, sequel to the award-winning WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN.

THREE QUESTIONS FOR JODI MOORE:

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

Okay, truth? My office looks like something out of the Hoarders reality show. It’s piled high with books, papers, printed-out manuscripts, pictures of my kids, stuffed animals and other assorted knick-knacks, plaques with motivational quotes, a chocolate bar (or three)…and, oh, yeah – somewhere amidst all of my “inspiration”, there’s a desk with a computer on it.

Each thing inspires, grounds or nourishes me in some way. Picking one has proven to be an impossible task…so with your kind permission, may I offer a few?

You see, while it’s hard for me to choose that “something”, choosing the “someone”s is not. I would be nowhere without the support and encouragement of my family. And while I always broaden that to include my extended family, creative friends, crit partners, booksellers, teachers, librarians, readers and the entire kidlit community, I would never have had the courage or belief in myself to take that first step in pursuing my dream had it not been for my husband and two sons.

I thought about sharing their pictures – or gifts they’ve purchased to help motivate me – but I realized nothing touches my heart more than what comes from theirs:

These notes from my husband are the first things I read every morning. Knowing he believes in me helps me to believe in myself. Larry not only loves and supports me, he “gets” me. (Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out, Lady & the Tramp was the first movie he took me to. Thirty-five years later, we still refer to each other as such.) The witch? A little token from him as well. When I was a child, the Wicked Witch of the West scared the heck out of me. I was fortunate to play the role in community theatre years ago, allowing me to conquer those fears. Now the witch and I are buds.

The middle picture is a painting our son Steven created when he was about eight years old. I once read a book where the author alleged that if you ask a very young child to describe heaven and the “all-mighty” spirit (whichever religion or belief system you choose), they can and will. Their memories are still fresh, she proposed, although sadly fade with time. Even as a toddler, “Stevie” was always introspective and deep – seemingly an “old soul”. This picture has always given me chills, offering reassurance that we are never alone; that there is some superior being, holding our hands and guiding us as we face, and embark upon, our dreams.

Finally, how heart-squishy and soul-nourishing is a love note from your child? This message from our other son, Alex, sits on my bookshelf where I can look at it every day.

And this is only a small sample of the support they provide. Just take a look at my books, my trailer, my website, my school visit materials and you’ll see their names written all over them.

They will “all weese” have my love!

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

Read everything you can. Go to museums. Concerts. Shows. Explore nature. Keep a journal. Then play. Dabble. Draw. Paint. Write.

While it’s imperative to learn and refine your craft, it’s just as important to find your own unique voice; to celebrate and share your own vision and heart.

Challenge yourself.

Celebrate and enjoy the process.

Create honestly and bravely.

Don’t listen to the “no”-it-alls. Only you can tell your own story. And the world needs to hear it.

3. What are you excited about right now?

At this moment? Why, being featured on Inkygirl’s blog, of course! Seriously, thank you so much for hosting me. I am honored and grateful to be here. *Tigger dances*

I’m also tremendously excited – and thankful! – to be a part of the kidlit community, to do what I love to do and to hopefully inspire and nourish young minds with my words.

I’m ecstatic to be welcoming my newest baby WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN AGAIN (the sequel to WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN) to the world and am intensely grateful to my fantastic editor at Flashlight Press, Shari Dash Greenspan, and my brilliant illustrator Howard McWilliam, for once again breathing life into my dragon and my dream. *pinches self*

Finally, I could not be more excited to be moving forward, and growing, as an author and an artist…walking toward that sun, with so much love and support but a fingertip’s touch away, as I continue on this amazing journey.

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

Friday
Mar132015

A Fine Line

Saturday
Mar072015

Keiko: Wild Rumpus

For more Keiko, see my Keiko comic archives.

Friday
Mar062015

Three Questions with Kate Parkinson: advice for young illustrators, 1950's kitsch and debut picture book GRACE

 

Today, I'm delighted to fire Three Questions at my friend Kate Parkinson. Kate's an illustrator, designer and author and a member of SCBWI and Canscaip. She is a graduate of OCAD University, the University of Guelph and is currently working towards an MFA in Illustration from the University of Hartford.

Kate's first children’s book, GRACE, was published by Holiday House Books For Young People in January 2015 (it was originally developed for her grad school thesis!) and she is currently hard at work on new book ideas. You can find Kate at KateParkinson.com, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Synopsis of GRACE:

Grace's name may be a bit of a misnomer, for graceful she is not. She wants to be a ballerina, but dancing is not her forte. "Give it up, Grace," the other girls tell her. Saddened, Grace turns to drawing—and when she does, she starts to feel better. Grace is good at drawing and the other girls love her artwork. Grace finds a way to be part of the ballet using her true talent—she paints the sets! But the indefatigable Grace also keeps dancing in this easy reader that encourages youngsters to celebrate their own special gifts.

1. Pick a random object in your studio and tell me about it.


Over the years I have collected 1950’s kitsch (my place has a retro décor) and some cookie jars have migrated into my studio and are filled with brushes and pens.

Most of my 50’s stuff has faces, whether ceramic anthropomorphic vegetables or the seriously tacky chalk art hanging on my wall. I like to surround myself with whimsical things that make me smile.

2. What advice do you have for aspiring children's book illustrators?

Draw, draw, draw! Carry a sketchbook with you wherever you go. Learn from other artists, connect with them and support them, they are your tribe, and the friendships you develop with others in the field are very special. Explore various media and pursue your own unique voice and path. Get your work out there, don’t worry about rejection, just keep working and moving forward.

And when you finally get that first children’s book to illustrate, remember to have fun!

3. What are you excited about these days?

Grace came out just last month and since then I had my first book signing (OLA conference) and I just attended my first SCBWI conference in New York City.

I want to read all the fabulous kid’s books I heard about at the SCBWI conference (there are many including Kwame Alexander’s “The Crossover”). I came back very inspired to get working on my next two book ideas and starting on some character studies (I have lots of ideas so now I need to get them into paper!).

I also work fulltime and I am in grad school (MFA, University of Hartford) and I graduate in July. I’m busy putting together a body of work for my thesis show that includes “Grace,” (the book was originally developed to be part of my thesis) and the other book ideas that I am currently developing. I'm excited about bringing the ideas I have to life.

Life is hectic but wonderful also!!!

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

Thursday
Mar052015

KEIKO: The First Time

Anyone else purposely slow down near the end of a really, really good book?

Also see my previous Keiko comics.

Tuesday
Mar032015

Advice For Young Writers/Illustrators, WISH and SPECIAL DELIVERY: Three Questions With Matthew Cordell

Matthew Cordell is the illustrator of over 25 books for children including picture books, novels, and works of poetry. Several of which he has also written, including New York Times Notable picture book, HELLO! HELLO!. Matthew lives in a suburb of Chicago with his wife, author Julie Halpern, and their two children. Visit him online at matthewcordell.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Matthew's two newest books are SPECIAL DELIVERY, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Matthew (Roaring Brook Press), and WISH, written and illustrated by Matthew (Disney-Hyperion).

SPECIAL DELIVERY synopsis: Sadie is determined to deliver an elephant to her Great-Aunt Josephine, who lives completely alone and can really use the company. With the help of some interesting characters, she tries mailing the elephant, flying it over, hopping a train, and even an alligator boat ride. This eccentric and hilarious story will surprise and entertain from beginning to end.

WISH synopsis: As an elephant couple embark on a life together, thoughts of children are far away-at first. But as the desire for a child grows, so do unexpected challenges. And it's only after thwarted plans and bitter disappointment that their deepest wish miraculously comes true.

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

This is a corkboard that hangs in an awkward spot on the wall--kind of hard to reach--between my computer desk and my drawing table. At one point or another over the years, I've tacked up bits of stuff I was working on at the time, images by favorite artists to inspire, and personal photos. Most of the things on the board are ridiculously out of date (I should really put up some photos of my two beautiful children!), but I am rather proud of myself for having the motivation to hang the thing on the wall in the first place.

Q: What advice do you have for young writers and/or illustrators?

I'm not sure how original this is, but I think it's good advice and I wish I had followed it much earlier in my career. Which is this: figure out what makes you unique, interesting, weird, and you. Think about the things that sculpted you in your life, past and present that made you the individual that you are today--your interests, passions, personality quirks, etc. And use this as much as you can in your writing, art, etc. Do not be afraid to let this stuff come out. It's what makes you you and not look like and read like other books that are already in print. It's incredibly hard not to be overly influenced by authors and illustrators from all times (and you will be influenced, and you should embrace that) but you can use that and manipulate it to your advantage too.

Q: What are you excited about right now?

My wife (YA author, Julie Halpern) loves to plan family vacations. I love taking her planned family vacations because she does exhaustive research, plans things out full tilt, and does such an incredible job to insure we get the most of out these trips. We are taking our kids (our daughter's 6 and the boy's 20 months) to Disneyworld this coming fall. Julie updates us everyday on all the stuff we can do together there, how we'll make things work with a toddler, scoring the best deals on stuff, etc. Really looking forward to it. I love books and I love art intensely. But time away with the family is what I really enjoy the most in life.

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

Monday
Mar022015

Three Questions with Henry Herz: Office Sushi, Advice For Aspiring Writers/Illustrators, and Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes


Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction for children with his two sons, and his first traditionally published picture book, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes, launched from Pelican Publishing earlier this year. He is a SCBWI member and hosts a kidlit blog. You can find out more about Henry and his books: Birchtreepub.com - Blog - Kidlit Creature Week -Facebook - Twitter

Synopsis of Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes: Enter an enchanted land of mythical creatures where manticores reign and ogres roar. With a unique twist on traditional rhymes, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes presents a darker approach to these childhood classics, and yet the sing-song nature of the poems renders them playful and jovial at the same time.

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell me about it?

I have a shelf in my office on which I display an assortment of toys and other creatively inspiring objects. In this picture, we see some two sets of O-no-sushi - darkly hilarious vinyl toys. Behind them are two empty soda cans: Stewie's Domination Serum and Whoop Ass energy drink (who doesn't occasionally need a can of whoop-ass?). Lastly, the small pebble is from the Waldon Pond made famous by Henry David Thoreau.

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

The following advice applies equally to authors and illustrators, young and old (I started my writing career after age 50).

Be tenacious!

1. Never stop honing your craft. Read lots of books. Just as a lion is the product of all the zebras it eats, an author or illustrator is the product of all the books he or she has read.

2. Never stop querying. Now, by that, I don't mean query continuously. What I mean is that even the best authors and illustrators get rejected. So don't let rejection demoralize you. Keep in mind that the publishing world is, in one sense, like dating. What appeals to one person doesn't work for another. Just as you don't stop dating because someone says "no", you don't stop querying because an editor or agent says "no". Remember, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter was repeatedly rejected. That's like someone turning down a date from George Clooney or Angelina Jolie! The only way you can be stopped is if you give up. Keep on writing/illustrating and keep on querying!

Q. What are you excited about right now?

That's easy! My picture book, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes, came out in February from Pelican. It's exactly what it sounds like - fractured nursery rhymes with human characters replaced by monsters. The artwork by Abigail Larson is stunning. And the book has garnered some lovely praise from kidlit luminaries like Drew Daywalt, Molly Idle, and Dan Yaccarino.

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For more tips and interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives.

Monday
Feb232015

Comic: Taking Punctuation Personally

Wednesday
Feb182015

Comic: Snowman Writer

Friday
Feb132015

Three Questions with Henry Herz: Office Sushi, Advice For Aspiring Writers and Illustrators, and Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes

Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction for children with his two sons, and his first traditionally published picture book, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes, launched from Pelican Publishing earlier this year. He is a SCBWI member and hosts a kidlit blog. You can find out more about Henry and his books: Birchtreepub.com - Blog - Kidlit Creature Week - Facebook - Twitter

Synopsis of Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes: Enter an enchanted land of mythical creatures where manticores reign and ogres roar. With a unique twist on traditional rhymes, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes presents a darker approach to these childhood classics, and yet the sing-song nature of the poems renders them playful and jovial at the same time.

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell me about it?

I have a shelf in my office on which I display an assortment of toys and other creatively inspiring objects. In this picture, we see some two sets of O-no-sushi - darkly hilarious vinyl toys. Behind them are two empty soda cans: Stewie's Domination Serum and Whoop Ass energy drink (who doesn't occasionally need a can of whoop-ass?). Lastly, the small pebble is from the Waldon Pond made famous by Henry David Thoreau.

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

The following advice applies equally to authors and illustrators, young and old (I started my writing career after age 50).

Be tenacious!

1. Never stop honing your craft. Read lots of books. Just as a lion is the product of all the zebras it eats, an author or illustrator is the product of all the books he or she has read.

2. Never stop querying. Now, by that, I don't mean query continuously. What I mean is that even the best authors and illustrators get rejected. So don't let rejection demoralize you. Keep in mind that the publishing world is, in one sense, like dating. What appeals to one person doesn't work for another. Just as you don't stop dating because someone says "no", you don't stop querying because an editor or agent says "no". Remember, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter was repeatedly rejected. That's like someone turning down a date from George Clooney or Angelina Jolie! The only way you can be stopped is if you give up. Keep on writing/illustrating and keep on querying!

Q. What are you excited about right now?

That's easy! My picture book, Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes, came out in February from Pelican. It's exactly what it sounds like - fractured nursery rhymes with human characters replaced by monsters. The artwork by Abigail Larson is stunning. And the book has garnered some lovely praise from kidlit luminaries like Drew Daywalt, Molly Idle, and Dan Yaccarino.

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 For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

Friday
Feb132015

Photos from my NYC trip (includes #NY15SCBWI pics)

Simon & Schuster meeting about my illustrations in SEA MONKEY AND BOB (author: Aaron Reynolds)

I had SUCH AN AMAZING TIME IN NEW YORK! Huge thanks to the SCBWI Winter Conference organizers, volunteers and faculty for a fantastic event.

Eventually, when I get more free time (hahahah), I hope to post some highlights. The next couple of weeks are going to be superbusy for me so for now, I'm sharing some of the photos I took with my iPhone during my trip. Please don't ask me to send you individual photos; I lack the time right now -- I've posted the highest res versions I have on Flickr.

Feel free to share or repost any of my photos. Photo credit would be much appreciated (or tagging me). Here are some of the photos from my adventures in NYC, including after the SCBWI conference:

On Facebook:
Part 1: SCBWI-NYC - Part 2: SCBWI-NYC (cont’d)Part 3: Curtis BrownPart 4: Random House Children’s - Part 5: Simon & Schuster Children’s 

On Flickr:
Part 1: SCBWI-NYCPart 2: SCBWI-NYC (cont’d)Part 3: Curtis BrownPart 4: Random House Children’s 
- Part 5: Simon & Schuster Children’s 

Wednesday
Feb042015

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

I'm leaving tomorrow for the SCBWI Winter 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 #NY15SCBWI 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.

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 and illustrators 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 or make sure a sample of illustration style is on your business card.

3. Have realistic expectations. Don't expect to be "discovered" at the conference.

4. 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.

5. 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.

p.s. If you see my friend Kate, do say hi! :-)

Saturday
Jan312015

Comic: First Step Is Admitting You Have A Problem

Wednesday
Jan282015

What do Minion Peeps, THE YETI FILES: MEET THE BIGFEET, Aya Kakeda and Joyce Wan have in common?

LOOK WHAT JUST ARRIVED. Huge thanks to Teresa Kietlinski!!

So here's the story....

Three weeks ago, I saw this photo in Teresa's Instagram feed. I was all excited because I'm a big Minions fan and also am curious about Peeps (have never had one). I asked Teresa where she got them and during the ensuing conversation, it became clear that I probably would not be able to find any in Canada at that point. I was sad. Teresa took pity on me and offered to mail me some.

The package above arrived today and not only did it have Minion Peeps but also (!) a copy of Kevin Sherry's THE YET FILES: MEET THE BIGFEET (Scholastic), a YOU ARE MY CUPCAKE sticker from Joyce Wan, and a lovely postcard showing illustrations by Aya Kakeda. Do check out Aya's website; her illustrations are so gorgeous and wonderfully odd and intriguing!

I'm also a Joyce Wan fan already and am looking forward to seeing her in NYC in a couple of weeks at SCBWI-NYC! So looking forward to getting my copy of THE WHALE IN MY SWIMMING POOL, which is coming out from FSG/Macmillan this April (and is a Junior Library Guild Selection!).

And I'm excited to read THE YETI FILES: MEET THE BIGFEET by Kevin Sherry. I've seen mention of this series online and been very curious, but hadn't yet gotten around to looking for a copy to browse. The illustrations look like so much fun, and I can't wait to read this soon.

By the way, I had already eaten a Minion Peep by the time I got this far in my post. :-) Talk about a SUGAR RUSH, WOW. About to eat the second one, so I can't blame him for looking worried:

THANK YOU SO MUCH, TERESA!!!!

You can find out more about Teresa Kietlinski and the other literary agents at Prospect Agency on the Prospect website. Teresa reads five picture books a day (no exceptions). You should follow her (@teresakie) on Twitter as well as her blog.

Back to my Peeps now....

Tuesday
Jan272015

Three Questions For Rob Sanders, Children's Book Author: Advice For Young Writers, Desk Shrines & OUTER SPACE, BEDTIME RACE

Continued from Part 1 of my celebration of today's OUTER SPACE, BEDTIME RACE launch...

Happy book birthday to OUTER SPACE, BEDTIME RACE, a new picture book written by my friends Rob Sanders and Brian Won, launched today from Random House Children's!

Thanks to both Brian and Rob for answering three questions for me today. In my previous post, OUTER SPACE illustrator Brian Won answered Three Questions. Now it's Rob's turn. :-) I first encountered Rob online through his great Picture This! blog for children's book writers. I've since met Rob in person at a SCBWI-LA conference and am also illustrating his new RUBY ROSE picture book series. Super-nice guy and I love his enthusiasm for children's books.

You can find out more about Rob at his website, blog, Twitter and Facebook.

Question #1: Could you please send me a photo of a random object in your office and tell me about it?

Since I’m bad at following instructions, and since one is never enough—my picture is not of one thing in my office, but my Shrine of the Weird and Wonderful.

This cubby on my desk (just above my computer) houses mementos, well wishes, inspiration, and things that just make me smile. There are religious icons given by friends, a skeleton that reminds me to stick to the basics, a vintage light bulb that reminds me that new ideas are everywhere, a Mickey Mouse magnet—since Mickey was the first iconic American character for kids (in my opinion), fortunes, a frog with a golden crown (just like you have to kiss a lot frogs to find your prince, you have to write a lot of manuscripts to find a story), a small mug of marbles from my childhood (because children are at the center of what I do as a writer), a cowboy Christmas ornament in honor of my first picture book, and more.

Nothing comes out of the Shrine, things can only be added. This little cubby has become my shrine to creativity, to writing, to hopes and dreams.

Q: What advice do you have for young writers?

1. Write. I think most of us spend a lot more time talking, blogging, social media-ing, and thinking about writing than we actually spend writing. Flip that around and you’ll find success. Writing is hard, lonely work—but it can also be fun and invigorating.

2. Explore. Try different styles, genres, and voices. Find what works for you. It’s the old throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks kind of thing. And what ends up working for you might be more than one thing. Don’t limit your writing style or your writing opportunitie

3. Read. Know what picture books are out there, which are winning awards, which are breaking new ground. Read classics to know our history. Read current books to know what kids are reading today.

4. Enlarge your circle. Stay in touch with your writing buddies, make new writing friends, meet editors and agents at conferences, friend fellow writing tribe members on Facebook. Get to know people and let them get to know you.

Q: What are you excited about these days?

I am a picture book writer through and through, but I’m really excited these days about a middle grade novel I’m working on. I am working with twenty-three fourth grade students who are critiquing my manuscript chapter-by-chapter—one chapter a day. These insightful kids are exploring character development, pointing out what’s not working in the plot, asking tough questions about motives and logic, pointing out word choices that work and ones that don’t, and spinning the plot in new directions I never imagined.

Many nights I come home from school, revise the chapter we just critiqued, and type up a new chapter. These kids are inspiring me (“I never thought that was going to happen!”), humbling me (“That doesn’t sound like what a kid would say.”), and encouraging me to keep writing (“You only brought one chapter today?”). I’m excited to write for this small group of kids, my own focus group, my own critique group in residence.

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

Tuesday
Jan272015

Three Questions For Brian Won, illustrator of OUTER SPACE, BEDTIME RACE

Happy book birthday to OUTER SPACE, BEDTIME RACE, a new picture book written by Rob Sanders and Brian Won, launched today from Random House Children's. Thanks to both Brian and Rob for answering three questions for me today. You can also read Rob Sanders's answers to my Three Questions.

Brian is not only the illustrator of OUTER SPACE, BEDTIME RACE but also the author/illustrator of HOORAY FOR HAT!, which came out last year from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I met Brian through the SCBWI Illustrator Mentorship program. You can find Brian at BrianWon.com, @bwon1 on Twitter, BrianOneADay on Tumblr, bwon1 on Instagram, and Brian Won Illustration on Facebook.

About OUTER SPACE, BEDTIME RACE:

"Aaaaaand they’re off . . . to bed! Aliens from every planet rocket through their out-of-this-world bedtime routines—they sink into steamy crater bubble baths and shimmy into deep-sleep suits, just like you (almost)! Brian Won’s glowing graphic art pops off the page, and Rob Sanders’s goofy rhymes will have kids racing to snuggle under the covers and blast off to dreamland." For more about the book, please see the publisher book page.

Thanks to Brian for answering my Three Questions today!

Q. Could you please take a photo of a random object in your office and tell me about it?

This is one of those projects my kid brought home from pre-school. The colors are all over the place but I think its a masterpiece.

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

My advice for young illustrators and writers is to check out stacks of children's books from your local library. Old books, new books… read them all and study the pacing. There is a heartbeat and rhythm that great books share despite when they were created.

Q. What are you excited about these days?

I'm excited (and deathly afraid) of putting on my writing cap. I have nuggets of ideas for picture book stories I want to tackle. Fingers crossed.

Debbie's book birthday celebration for OUTER SPACE, BEDTIME RACE continues in Rob Sanders's Three Questions post.

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

Monday
Jan262015

One of my favorite Neil Gaiman quotes about writing

Sunday
Jan252015

Three Questions for Children's Book Author, Samantha Berger: SNOOZEFEST, advice for young writers and mystery fruit

I love children's book author Samantha Berger's enthusiasm and creativity. Have you seen her #ePUNymousPortraitSeries? In addition to writing wonderful picture books like CRANKENSTEIN (illustrated by Dan Santat) and A CRANKENSTEIN VALENTINE (sequel). Samantha has written cartoons and promos for Nickelodeon, comic books and commercials, movie trailers, theme songs, poetry, magazine articles. Not only that, but she's also a voiceover artist!

Samantha's newest picture book is SNOOZEFEST, a hilarious and endearing bedtime story written by Samantha and illustrated by Kristyna Litten, just out from Dial Books For Young Readers. It's perfect for anyone who loves sloths, music festivals and/or the joy of SLEEPING. If you're on FB, check out her hilarious #Snoozefest Countdown pics.

You can find Samantha at her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Q: Could you please take a photo of a random object in her office and tell us about it?

 Yes indeed I can. I took a picture of this lovely grapefruit, that grew right in the back yard! I am working in a California office for a few weeks, and the owner of the house where I'm staying gave it to me. The idea of fruit growing on trees has always been MAAAAGICAL to me, and I may have missed my calling as a migrant worker. And I really want to eat this one, but I have one reservation.

The yard where it grew contains five dogs, using that tree as a bathroom. This grapefruit reminds me to ask the important question: Am I such a germ phobe I won't eat this grapefruit? Or is that grapefruit some kind of dog poo/citrus hybrid. A "pisstrus" fruit, if you will. Stay tuned.

Q: What advice do you have for young writers?

*I would say, if you wanna write, WRITE. WRITE ALL THE TIME, EVERY DAY. WRITE like a passionate discipline, like something you HAVE to do. No excuses. Write.

*Blather, blurt, and blab. Just keep writing. Do not write and edit at the same time. Write, write, write, then go back and read/edit, at a completely different time.

*Make your decisions, all of them, for a REASON. Make no choices arbitrarily. From dedication to author photo, every choice must be made with intent. That is what separates great writing from mediocre. Be prepared to defend every single word.

*Find your best way (pantomime wall building, pretending to erase, meditation) to block out any negators and nay-sayers. There will always be critics, opinions you don't agree with, and close minded haters. Don't engage, always ignore, keep being you, move on.

*Always find time to PLAY and HAVE FUN when you write. Pretend you're not writing for an audience, a paycheck, a critic, a career, a review, an award, an assignment, or whatever, just WRITING FOR THE SAKE OF WRITING, and go create. For the joy of it!

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

*Don't dumb down words or ideas. Respect language. It's incredible.

*All writers, whether it's your first manuscript ever, or you're Judy "Prolifika" Blume, go through a perpetual pendulum swing, between excitedly exclaiming I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS CAME OUT OF MY BRAIN and a depressed disappointed "i can't believe this came out of my brain." There are days where we all feel like untalented hacks. All of us. And it's really important to remember this. If you didn't, you probably wouldn't be a writer. So cut yourself a break, go do something that makes you happy, such as a hot tub, a hot sake, or hot stones.

Photo credit: Leo MoretonQ: What are you excited about these days?

I'm excited for these spectacular Pacific Ocean sunsets every single night! I'm excited to read Kay Yeh's book THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE! I'm excited to be writing on two new preschool animated originals. I'm excited for karaoke, wigs and sunglasses, glitter-toes, oysters, using the word "smidge" more, and sea-frolicking with my dog Polly Pocket.

I'm excited my book Snoozefest came out this week, and that it has an anthem performed by Chubb Rock, and for the Pajama Party Snoozefest Boozefest I intend on throwing to celebrate. I'm excited about a new 2 book co-author deal with the amazing Martha Brockenbrough and the legendary Arthur Levine. I'm excited to see/conference with/laugh with/write with/ and dance with all my beloved book people and SCBWI-ers again, and for all the incredible books everyone has coming out right now (including YOU, Debbie! Cannot wait for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS!).

Thanks so much for asking me these questions 3 on inkygirl.

Book birthday doodle I did in celebration of the Snoozefest launch

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

Friday
Jan232015

Comic: Another Advantage Of Print Books

I do most of my reading on my iPad and my Kindle; it's easier for traveling, especially since I always have multiple books on the go and angst too much about which one to take with me.

However, I still strongly prefer print when it comes to picture books.

Thursday
Jan222015

Comic: Font Nerds

And yes, I'm a font nerd. And here's my favorite Comic Sans song ever: