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, Advice For Young Writers and IllustratorsWriter'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). 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 Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi


NaNoToons, NaNoWriMo & why I'm a NaNoRebel this year

Starting today and throughout November, Errol and I are collaborating on daily comics about NaNoWriMo at You can also follow the comics on our NaNoToons Facebook Page.

Errol's doing NaNoWriMo, of course. I won't be participating in NaNo this year except as a NaNoRebel. If I had finished my outline for my novel, I would be so doing NaNoWriMo. And I -have- done NaNo without an outline before.

This year, however, I just have too much going on and also will be away for a chunk of November.

In the past, I've found NaNoWriMo a great motivational challenge in terms of getting me writing. Nowadays, though, I find I already HAVE that motivation -- my main challenge is more efficient time management. I still believe that NaNoWriMo can be a fun and useful event for aspiring writers as well as experienced writers, given the right mindset and situation.


Source: via Debbie on Pinterest


For aspiring writers, NaNoWriMo can be a much-needed motivational kick in the pants, and a chance to prove themselves that they can write a novel-length manuscript. I've heard several pro writers who say that NaNo helped get them to finish their first novel. The key, I think, is to remember that the 50,000 words you write in November is a FIRST DRAFT. Don't make the mistake of thinking you've written a finished manuscript and DO NOT immediately send it off to agents and editors.

You will be doing yourself a great disservice by sending out a mss that you have bashed out in 30 days for the following reasons:

1. Your novel is not nearly polished enough for submission, no matter how pumped up you are about finishing it.

2. Editors and agents are likely already being inundated with naive NaNoNewbie novel submissions in the months just after NaNoWriMo.

3. If you are an unpublished writer sending out your first draft of a NaNoWriMo novel, there is a 99.99% chance (ok, I can't prove that but I still am confident that my stats are accurate) that you will be rejected.

My advice for NaNoNewbies who are writing their novels with hopes of eventual publication: let your novel sit for at least a few weeks before looking at it again. Then start proofreading, editing, polishing. Work on your craft. Study the industry. DO THE WORK.

For more experienced writers who like online communities, NaNoWriMo can be a fun way to work on your first draft of a novel that you've done prep for: an outline, character studies, etc.  Why fun? Because you can commiserate with other NaNoWriMo participants as you're writing. The atmosphere can be compared to writing to a deadline in the same room as other writers working to a deadline.


Source: via Debbie on Pinterest


You could also share your writing tips with other NaNotypes on your blog -- this will not only attract traffic this year but add permanent search-friendly content to your site. In 2011, there were over 250,000 NaNoWriMo participants and chances are excellent that numbers will go up this year. 

But in the end, NaNoWriMo is not for everyone.


Source: via Debbie on Pinterest


I've seen a number of posts out there from pro writers who bitterly rail against the event, saying it's a waste of time. I believe that NaNoWriMo can be fun and useful for writers of all levels of experience, but it depends on each individual's mindset and motivation.

And if NaNoWriMo isn't your cup of tea or you don't need these kinds of motivational challenges to write, that's fine. Cheer on other writers and then go back to your work. :-)

If you'd like an ongoing writing challenge but don't have the time for NaNoWriMo, you could try my 250, 500 and 1000 Words/Day Challenge.

And speaking of NaNoWriMo, the first episode of the 6-part Web series NANOMUSICAL is now online! You can see me as a dancing extra (yes, I said dancing) in this episode, too:


PiBoIdMo: Picture Book Idea Month

Tara Lazar's Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) starts today!

The goal: to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.

Even if you're not ready to join the challenge but are still interested in reading the daily guest posts about writing, illustrating and publishing picture books (hey, I'm one of the guest bloggers), you should follow Tara Lazar's blog.


Halloween Comic: Even Witches Have Deadlines


Interview with YA author Maureen McGowan about DEVIANTS

Over the weekend, I was excited about attending Maureen McGowan's book launch for her new YA, DEVIANTS: THE DUST CHRONICLES (Book 1). I met Maureen through the Toronto Middle Grade and Young Adult Author Group, a fun network of kidlit/YA writers who meets monthly.

Maureen's one of my favorite YA authors: she's so positive, encouraging and I love her wicked sense of humor. :-)

Maureen kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her Deviants experience:

Could you tell us a little bit about your new book?

Deviants is the first book in a new sci-fi series called The Dust Chronicles. Glory is a sixteen-year-old orphan who can kill with her eyes. She and her younger brother are both "deviants", their DNA having been mutated by asteroid dust that covers most of the Earth. When her brother, a paraplegic, is discovered, she must accept the help of a mysterious, hulking boy to flee the domed city they live in before they're captured and killed.

Outside the dome they're pursued by horrible scab-covered monsters, called Shredders, and Glory discovers the truth about her parents' deaths. It's fast-paced, full of action--and some kissing too.

Did you plan it as being the first of a trilogy from the beginning?

Yes. I think each of the books work as standalone titles, but I knew that Glory's full story could not be told in one novel. She learns things in Deviants that completely change her perception of herself and the world, and more in book 2 that changes her perception of others and her ability to differentiate between right and wrong... Basically she needs more than one novel to work through all these issues.

How did DEVIANTS get published?

When the version of Deviants that sold was ready to go on submission, my agent knew that each of the traditional publishers already had several post-apocalyptic-set novels on their lists. We figured there was a good chance that, even if one of those editors picked up the series, it was unlikely they'd be able to give the books "lead title" treatment.

So to increase the chance for the books to find a wide audience, he suggested we try something different and submit to Amazon who, at the time, were just getting ready to announce plans to ramp up their publishing arm.

At first I thought the idea was crazy. But I took it as a sign when Connie Brockway and Barry Eisler (then Penny Marshall and James Franco and Deepak Chopra) among others, announced they were planning to publish with Amazon. Suddenly it seemed like a bold and interesting option.

Claudia Osmond & Maureen at the DEVIANTS book launch this past weekend

The editor offered very quickly after reading the manuscript. I had to keep the sale a secret for a long time and that was tough! We first discussed releasing my trilogy under their planned adult sci-fi imprint 47North (not yet announced at the time) but ultimately decided to release the books as young adult titles.

I think the young adult market is so exciting right now, with so many fabulous books that smash both age and genre barriers. Most of the best books I've read in the past three years have been young adult and I'm excited to be part of that world.

Fabulous DEVIANTS book cake at the launch (by Fanta Cakes)What's your typical work process?

When I’m working on a first draft, I’m obsessed about the word count—to the point where I’ll change a passage to the strikeout font, rather than delete it, even when I know that a section needs to go.

I need to see evidence of forward momentum to keep motivated and meet deadlines. First drafts are the hardest part for me—usually. I can lose confidence in the book and myself midway.

The days when ideas are coming fast and furious and my fingers are flying are magical—but those days are few and far between. I need to store up that fabulous feeling to get through the bad days.

If you could travel back in time and give your younger writer self some advice, what would it be?

Don’t expect publication to happen too quickly or on the same timeline as other authors. Don’t try to write only what you think will sell. Know the market, but don’t pander to it. Write books you’d want to read.

Any tips for aspiring writers on handling rejection?

Rejection is part of the business. Everyone—and I mean everyone— gets rejected multiple times, and at every point in his or her career. Rejection typically begins the first time you show your work to someone and ask for objective feedback, and it doesn’t end when you get a publishing contract.

Embrace rejection. Every “no” simply means that particular editor or agent wasn’t right for that particular project at that particular time.

Success in publishing is like being struck by lightning. All you can do is build more and better quality lightning rods to up your odds.

Maureen doing a reading at her book launch

Any news about upcoming projects or events you'd like to share?

Compliance, the second book in The Dust Chronicles will be released May 21, 2013, so readers won’t have to wait long to see what happens to Glory next.

I’ll be appearing at the World Fantasy Con, in Toronto, November 1- 4th. I’m also excited to be part of a “Teen Books for the Apocalypse” tour with Megan Crewe, Lesley Livingston, Leah Bobet, Cheryl Rainfield and Courtney Summers. We’ll be visiting bookstores in southern Ontario during the month of November. It feels a long way off right now, but I’ll also be attending the Teen Day at the RT Booklovers convention May 1-5, 2013.

Readers can find me at:, or follow @MaureenMcGowan on twitter.

Thanks so much for having me!


Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.


Publishing success=struck by lightning.All you can do is make better lightning rods. @MaureenMcGowan


New Survey: How do YOU discover books?

GirlSittingPileBooks 500

I have a new survey up: How do you discover new books to read? Three multiple choice questions. 

The goal of these surveys is to help writers in their craft and business, and results are always posted here on Inkygirl.

For past survey results, see the Inkygirl Survey Archives.


Book Trailer Survey Results: What Works & What Doesn't

A couple of weeks ago I posted a survey (as part of my ongoing series of surveys) about book trailers and whether people thought they worked. 

I've included some data details and a selection of comments at the end of the post, but here's a summary: 104 people responded. 85% of them said they had never bought a book solely because of a book trailer. 46% said a book trailer did have an influence on their buying decision, usually when they were already considering buying a particular book but were on the fence. 60% thought that book trailer sometimes helps sell books, depending on the trailer.

Overall, it doesn't seem clear that book trailers have a direct influence on book sales. However, they do make people aware that the book exists. Also, a number of teachers and librarians said that trailers for children's books were useful for showing students in schools.

What makes a good book trailer, according to most respondents who commented on the topic:

- Accurately conveys the mood of the book. The key is "accurately" - comments included complaints about trailers that were better or significantly different in feel from the book.

- Short and simple, and doesn't give away too many specifics of the book. ("The best book trailers are more like flap copy—setting the scene and the story, but not literally "showing" it to me. And they should be short. 2 minutes tops. 1.5 is better.")

- Rather than trying to reproduce scenes from the book in low-budget live action, good trailers instead focus on the essence of the book (mood, atmosphere). If you have the budget & expertise for high quality production & editing, then there's more leeway.

- For nonfiction books and picture books, show some interior pages (content not easily found elsewhere online).

Main criticisms of bad book trailers:

- Cheesy, melodramatic and amateurish-looking.

- Misleading - doesn't reflect what the book is going like, either in mood or content.

- Too long. Suggestions for max length: 30 sec-1.5 minutes. Max 2 minutes, though some said that even 2 minutes was too long.

- Illegal use of images or music.

Related online resources:

Why Flashy Book Trailers Don't Work - by Catherine Ryan Howard

Eight Million Viral Views Later: In Search of the Ultimate Children’s and YA Book Trailer on Publishing Perspectives

Why Book Trailers Are Now Essential to the Publishing Industry - Mashable

How To Make A Book Trailer - by teacher-librarian Michelle Harclerode

How To Make A Book Trailer by Myrlin A. Hermes

5 Free Tools for Creating Book Trailer Videos - by Richard Byrne

How To Make Your Own Book Trailer by Julie Cantrell


Some places where you can find kidlit/YA book trailers:

Mr. Schu Reads: Exploring Children's Literature Through Book Trailers

Book Trailers For All

Also, many publishers have channels on YouTube where they will post book trailers.



104 people responded as follows:

1. Have you ever made a book purchase SOLELY because of a book trailer?

15.5% said YES, 84.6% said NO.


2. Have you ever purchased a book PARTLY because of a book trailer? (e.g. you were already considering buying the book anyway, but the book trailer helped convince you)

45.2% said YES, 54.8% said NO.


3. Do you believe that book trailers can help sell books?

27.9% said YES, 59.6% said SOMETIMES/DEPENDS and 12.5% said NO.


Selection of comments and comment excerpts:

"A book trailer can flop if the maker "Tries too hard." For me, someone tries too hard when it's too "shiny." There's too much going on. Background music along with a voice over and too much movement on the screen. Some really good book trailers I've seen have been almost minimalist. A few words on the screen, with a voice over. Ending with an image of the cover and date of release, or somesuch."

"Unless a book trailer is as professional-looking as a movie trailer, it is still going to look amateur-ish in my opinion. Better to let the book cover and description tell the story than to cheapen it with a trailer. Besides that, it takes either a lot of time or a lot of money on the part of the author, which could probably be better spent."

"I don't tend to do the "oh, I need to run out and buy that" unless I already know the author, and even then they're more likely to go onto a queue. However, there *have* been some book trailers which have called my attention to authors I didn't know, on the level of "Interesting concept. If the trailer's accurate, that's worth keeping an eye out for." On the other hand... Trailers are essentially equivalent to back-cover blurbs or equivalent-size print ads. We already know how misleading those sometimes are. On the other other hand, one _hopes_ that the author has more opportunity to review the trailer than the blurb. All of which boils down to: It's probably more effective than a typical small print ad, for me. But I'm honestly not sure how much bang for the buck it actually delivers. And I'm atypical, both in being a sf geek and in being the son of an ad man."

"Trailers full of illegal images grabbed off google search, or with equally illegal use of music, ensure that I will never read the book. Ever. It shows that not only is the book self-pubbed, but self-pubbed by someone who has no artistic integrity and no sense of professionalism. Trailers that work as movies are hard to do, and risk being too long and too cheesy. Image trailers need to be professional and respective of other artist's rights. The images need to match in type, whether they be photos vs illustrations etc. Video trailers need to be short, SHORT, and with a strong hook. The trailer for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, for instance, was better than the actual book it advertised. Personally, I liked the trailer for Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Visually simple, legal stock images, nice voice-over, and a great hook."

"Book trailers need to be more professional, made properly like a film trailer. Just using screenshots of text set to copyright-free music isn't really enough. We need to see imagery and hear realistic voice-overs... the book trailer needs to accurately capture the feel of the book. Done properly, book trailers can be as exciting as film trailers, and play a key marketing role."

"I usually turn off the radio or change the channel when I see book trailers. For the most part, they're too cheesy and don't really portray the "feel" of the book itself or what the reader can expect from it."

"For me as a market target (I buy and read a LOT of books), a trailer is most effective when it's 1) short 2) has great music 3) expresses the high concept of the book only (I can click through to a synopsis) 4) doesn't attempt production values it can't afford (I'd rather see something simple that's well done)"

"I've watched trailers for books I'd have never heard of without someone linking to the video as being entertaining or worth watching. With those books, I decided that the book wasn't for me, but raising awareness can't hurt."

"They need to be done professionally, have either simple text to read or a narrator. I hate amateur videos with scrolling text and terrible blurry photos set to music"

"Answer to number 3 is actually "not to me". I know some people are fascinated by video and might be thus lured to a book - I am bored or uninterested (you could have given me that info a lot faster/clearer in text!), so avoid trailers. And when I can't avoid them, I glaze over pretty fast. I have enjoyed some trailers, I think, in and of themselves - which usually means they have good music and/or enjoyable graphics - but as a lure for a book? No."

"Book trailers assume somebody's going to watch them, and that somebody is going to get their ideas of which books to buy through watching book trailers. I'm not sure that particular audience exists. I think they're more useful as an educational tool to start classroom discussions about books, or maybe to be used by librarians/teachers as booktalks for getting them to read the book."

"It has to be noted that book trailers are advertising vehicles, not sales-promotional tools. There must be a clear set of objectives defined before the trailer can be created. Otherwise, you end up with a slide show that is not truely representative of the book. Too many trailers fail, and are far too long. Have a look at mine and tell me what you think. Cheers! Gerry"

"Don't have the book's characters in the trailer. Books are often sold based on the author's name (why the type is always the same size or bigger than the title, I wager), so sell me the author. ... Children's books are quick bursts of entertainment, and I don't need to be sold on Patricia Storms the author, I'd actually prefer to see a pirate and a penguin do a little dance. Whatever you do, though, hire me to shoot and edit it :P Just remembered, one of my first video gigs was a book trailer of sorts! … I'm a lot better now than I was then, heh."

"I bought Leviathan 95% because it had an awesome trailer, but it's also the only trailer I've ever loved that much. I've enjoyed a few since then (the Born Wicked trailer comes to mind, along with Shiver), but with those I'd already planned on buying the book. For me, a good trailer is one that doesn't look amateur, that makes use of good costuming (if using actors) and lighting, that is careful with the details."

"Like a good cover for a book or a good song on an album, a trailer can create an atmosphere, evoke a feeling or mood that might snag some readers. Frankly, I don't see a lot of book trailers because I don't go looking for them. They are not necessarily right in front of the consumer the way a tv ad is."

"Sometimes they're great as little 'shorts' in their own right but like with movies, the more 'teasing' and 'mysterious' a book trailer is, and the less information it gives, the less inclined I am to bother following it up. The "This Is Not My Hat" trailer for Jon Klassen's upcoming book is a great example of a trailer (for a children's book, at least) done absolutely right."

"But then again, I make them. For my own book, as well as for others."

"Adding various media to your marketing strategy is usually a good idea, though it seems that few people probably buy based solely on the trailer (hopefully this survey will say for sure!)"

"I would rather read back cover copy than watch a trailer."

"Hi, I enjoy making trailers for my own books. So far I have made three, but before I even started I watched many, many trailers in order to find out what I did and didn't like about them. While there was much I admired about the ones I've seen (and yes, I did buy books because of them!), there were quite a few that had the following problems: a) they were too long, b) they could be very repetitive (same action or pictures repeated several times in the same trailer, c) the music was overwhelming, too dramatic, and didn't match the story, d) the same music had been used too many times on other trailers, e) the voice-over was muffled, too fast, or had a tone/quality that I then didn't want to read, and f) the trailer was SO professionally produced, acted, etc. that there was no way it could ever match the book, i.e., it really seemed like the trailer to a film, not a book, and I felt like I had seen too much already. I've now presented several seminars on making trailers, and these are the main points I do my best to help others avoid."

"I have books with trailers but is it impossible to tell if they are creating sales, so will be interested to see what your find."

"I loved The Chicken Problem book trailer. I also loved the I'm Bored song trailer thing. I'd like to see book trailers for graphic novels. Usually when I see book trailers they are posted with reviews or comments, so it's hard to say that I've ever purchased a book solely based on a book trailer."

"Hello, The example below is just the beginning and the end of the trailer, but are the parts that really hooked me. "The Red Garden introduces us to the luminous and haunting world of Blackwell, Massachusetts, capturing the unexpected turns in its history and in our own lives. In exquisite prose, Hoffman offers a transforming glimpse of small-town America, presenting us with some three hundred years of passion, dark secrets, loyalty, and redemption in a web of tales where characters' lives are intertwined by fate and by their own actions. . . . . . . . Beautifully crafted, shimmering with magic, The Red Garden is as unforgettable as it is moving." This trailer really made the book seem rich and deep, but Alice Hoffman is not a hard sale anyway. Thank you, Ann"

"I guess I'm too old school i.e. book trailers are too flash for me. I saw a few and I was put off. I tend to stick to my favorite authors who don't need to create trailers to sell books. If I hear about a good book (outside of my favorite authors) I'll research it further to see if I'll like it. if so I'll buy it."

"Don't give away too much. It's just like with movie trailers. If I feel like I've practically read the book by watching the trailer, I won't read the book."

"Most book trailers are just so cheesy, that they do more harm than good sometimes."

"I think some teachers use mine in schools but I'm not sure they really sell books."

"A book trailer needs to give me something I can't get from looking at the cover and reading the back cover copy. It needs to portray a sense of emotion and tone. I don't want to see the authors vision of a low budget film based on their book. Makers of book trailers would do well to study successful television and radio commercials. Keep them short (30seconds), match your music to the tone of the product (book) but remember it's background music and not the star of the show. Grab me with something shocking, funny, or unusual in the first 5 seconds if you want me to keep watching."

"I think trailers have not quite caught on yet - personally, I haven't bought a book because of one. But I do say sometimes, as I think they will become more and more important as book buyers become aware of them. I am an author - and I have begun work on a book trailer. So, I'll see what happens."

"I think that a decent, fun book trailer gets shared around the internet, so I think that's the main reason to make one. I like book trailers that show the inside and outside of the book, especially for picture books and art books. I like to see the physical-ness of the book. Too many sites don't show what the insides look like. I wanna know what I'm buying!"

"Book trailers totally grab my grade 3-5 students. Books that have a trailer fly off the shelf after I have book talked them using the trailer as a supplement."

"I use them in the media center. When I show one to my students they line up to check the book out."

"The best book trailers (to me,) focus on the book and not on dramatizing scenes from the book. When I see a trailer that looks like a movie, I always think: "Wow—I'd see that movie." But I never think: "I want to read that book." They feel counter- productive to me. Also, I don't always like seeing actors as the characters—it interferes with what I see in my head. The best book trailers are more like flap copy—setting the scene and the story, but not literally "showing" it to me. And they should be short. 2 minutes tops. 1.5 is better."

"Goals for a good trailer: -Set the tone -Inform the reader about the book -be entertaining -market towards target audience in imaginative ways (e.g. If the book is about how to take care of your dog, try to have links with pet stores, grooming stores, etc. and not just book trailer sites)"

"Isn't a book trailer just a commercial for a book? If done well it can help, if done poorly it can hurt."

"I think if a trailer is done right it can boost readership. I have never decided not to read a book based on the trailer, but I have chosen to read one I'm borderline on after seeing a good trailer for it."

"I am answering as a librarian. I can say that professionally created BTs of 30 seconds in length are an invaluable tool in spotlighting books on our middle school morning news show which reaches 1000 students per day. Longer trailers can generate interest but can only be shown to the class I'm working with."

"I don't know if there is a solid venue for book trailers? I think there needs to be more awareness of them."

"Most book trailers I have seen are cheesy and melodramatic. I usually avoid them."

"As an illustrator, I find the thumbnail of the trailer video important. It makes me decide to play it or not. Sneak peek pages could be more effective than trailers."

"Don't like live action book trailers. Prefer artsy ones that hint at the themes in the books. (See Maggie Stiefvater's trailer for The Raven Boys or Laini Taylor's trailer for Daughter of Smoke and Bone) Must have appropriate music. Badly done book trailers can do more damage than good. Those by self-pubbed authors tend to be generic and poorly produced. Spelling/grammar mistakes in a book trailer will make me not buy the book. This is a deal breaker."

"I don't understand book trailers at all. I don't get why people make them or watch them. They never tell you anything. Unlike movie trailers they can't even tell you if the movie will be well shot or well acted because books have no cinematography or acting. A book trailer is just a really self indulgent commercial. This book is sooo awesome, let me show you show pictures and clips relevant to the storyline while someone tells you how awesome it is. You should buy it. I have strong opinions on book trailers but maybe I'm in the minority."

"If the trailer is good, I think it helps. (Well I hope so or my trailer is a waste of time) I have seen some really bad trailers that made me decide not to buy a book."

"It seems like book trailers are getting shorter, which I think is a good thing. 2:00 is a lonnnnng trailer to me."

"Book trailers can be intriguing and build up higher interest in the book. But only if done professionally. Many, many book trailers I've seen are clearly not the author's forte, nor properly funded by the publisher. A cheap-looking trailer (for me) often makes me skeptical of buying the book because then I'm left wondering where else they cut corners."

"I don't see many book trailers. Every once in a while one will pop up, but without them being prevalent, it's hard for them to work. Also, since book trailers are a somewhat recent advertising scheme, a book trailer feels like a ploy to sell a book that wouldn't sell based on the quality of writing."

"My cousin uses them in her English class and I used them in my teen book club."

"I love movie-like book trailers, but they're expensive to get right. So unless writers have a big budget or an extremely talented friend, it's best if they just go with an amazing photo/words slideshow (and put the money into great music) or use the low-budget aspects as part of the story (character relating things to his own webcam, jostled smartphone video, etc.)."

"For me I don't really see the point. But some trailers are cute, I guess"

"Book trailers need to be more like a hook, a why-to-read pitch, not an overview or summary of plot points. Bad ones can really turn me off."

"Some very good trailers have lead me to take the books out of the library and recommend the trailer to others who may have purchased the book. As well, I have a couple of books on my to-read list because of a trailer. A lot of trailers are crap. Slow. Long. BORING! Look homemade. Uck. They are a couple of slides and photos in PowerPoint and (sadly) look it. They lack originality and don't pull the reader in. They have to, have to have to. And if you can entertain--please do! Bobbie Faye's Very, Very, Very Bad Day is AWESOME. As well I love the Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. So funny. Love the humour!"

"Twice now I've bought a book because I liked the trailer, but after I read the book I usually felt let down, because the trailer was better, or significantly different in feel, from the book."

"ONLY IN NON-FICTION. I cannot stress this enough. The only time I have ever bought a book from a trailer, it was a quilting book that I bought because the trailer showed all the quilts and patterns and I couldn't find interior pictures of the book elsewhere."


A new NaNoMusical trailer (and I'm in it, woohoo!)

A while back I mentioned that I had volunteered as an extra in NaNoMusical, a 6-part Web series about writer friends participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In the spirit of Nanowrimo, it was written in a month, shot in a month and edited in a month with no budget.

Yay, another NaNoMusical trailer! And yay, I'm in it:

I volunteered as an extra & you can see me in this trailer, looking all serious and concerned as 'Manda Whitney (one of the NaNoMusical co-authors) freaks out. :-D Errol Elumir (the other co-author) is singing...and he also has a new Debs and Errol comic about NaNoMusical.

You can find out more info on the NaNoMusical Facebook Page and NaNoMusical Twitter feed.

Script written by Errol Elumir and Manda Whitney

Music by Errol Elumir and Deborah Linden

Directed by Kelsey Goldberg


Luke LaRocque as Dale

Blythe Haynes as Jill

Errol Elumir as Rick

Manda Whitney as Val

And Errol is also starting to post some prologue NaNoToons as November approaches. I'll be jumping in to help with NaNoToons starting November 1st.


Writing Challenges: Remember WHY you do them

I'm working very hard on trying to finish my outline for a middle grade novel, and hope to use NaNoWriMo as extra motivation to get the first rough draft finished. BUT I don't want to start writing the novel before I'm ready so if I fall behind, then I'm not going to sweat it.

Whether or not I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year, however, I'm still collaborating with my friend Errol Elumir (who is also co-authoring a NaNoMusical) on comics about the event: do bookmark and Like our NaNoToons Facebook Page. :-)

If you'd like a more forgiving writing challenge than NaNoWriMo and would also like to keep it up during the entire year rather than just November, feel free to participate in my 250, 500 and 1000 wds/day Challenge.


I'M BORED in Seven Impossible Things today

I've been a fan of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: A Blog About Books for ages, and was THRILLED to discover from Hazel Mitchell (my Pixel Shavings author/illus friend) that Jules has posted about I'M BORED today. You can read the post here:

What I’m Up to at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Debbie Ridpath Ohi

I've started keeping a physical scrapbook of I'M BORED clippings like this, by the way. Yes, I know I also have them collected online. But I find there's something more satisfying about being able to flip through physical pages and look at something in print, especially in days ahead when excitement dies down and I get back into regular work....and regular rejections. :-)

Oh, don't get me wrong. I know that at least my foot's in the door now when it comes to getting more books published. But I'm also realistic and know that rejections are as much of a reality AFTER getting published for the first time as before.

I figure this scrapbook will be a much-needed spirit booster in those days.


Trying out Animation Desk app for the iPad: potential book trailer use?

I've had the Animation Desk app on my iPad ($4.99 in iTunes store right now) for ages but only finally got around to trying it out recently. I created the animation above in about an hour, and that included figuring out how to use the app. I have zero animation experience but still had a lot of fun. Next time, I may try adding some audio. :-)


Comedian Librarian Meredith Myers Offers Musical Tribute To Edgar Allan Poe

In a Baltimore Post Examiner article, librarian Meredith Myers says she created literary parody song "The Raven Is Hard To Handle" to honor Edgar Allan Poe as well as promote libraries. Fun video with a great message at the end!

You can find out more about Meredith in her website,


Comic: The Digital Revolution

OHI0195 iPadMadeOfTrees 600sm

A few days ago, I posted a caption challenge on my Facebook wall. Lots of great suggestions, and I ended picking Paul Carroll's caption. :-)


All Hallows Read: Give A Book This Halloween

What a wonderful idea. :-)

You can find more info about Hallows Read on their official website.


Interview with Rob Sanders (Picture This!) about COWBOY CHRISTMAS

Rob Sanders does not work as a telephone sales rep, loading dock worker, trophy engraver, photo stylist, or editor. But he used to. Rob Sanders is not a cowboy, ballerina, chicken, twin, or rockabilly star. But he writes about them. Rob Sanders is a picture book author, a writing teacher, a blogger, a great uncle, a dog owner. And he loves it all.

I'm a big fan of Rob's Picture This! blog, a wonderful resource for picture book writers, and I'm thrilled to be illustrating his new RUBY ROSE series, which is coming out from HarperCollins in 2014. Rob's COWBOY CHRISTMAS picture book (written by Rob, illustrated by John Manders) came out from Golden Books in September.

Rob was kind enough to answer a few questions about his recently released book:

How did Cowboy Christmas begin?

The idea that became Cowboy Christmas came to me when I was driving home from a picture book boot camp with Lisa Wheeler. As I drove along I-75, random thoughts flooded my mind, including memories of the GALA Choruses Festival I’d attended a couple of months earlier. (NOTE: Let your mind wander. Some of the best story ideas come when you’re not trying to think of story ideas.) In particular, I remembered a song entitled “Hannukah Hoedown” which was performed by an ensemble of “Orthodox cowboys.” I thought, “I’ll write a story called Hanakkuah Hoedown!” Of course, I don’t know much at all about Hannukah, so the story quickly morphed into Cowboy Christmas.

I worked drafts through my critique groups and, truthfully, it stunk. But after a few critique group cycles (and a couple of paid critiques), the plot firmed up and the story got better.

Diane Muldrow, Golden Books

I sent the manuscript for a consultation at SCBWI, LA, and I was assigned to Diane Muldrow, of Golden Books/Random House. Diane began our consultation by saying, “My dad and granddad were cowboys.” What a serendipitous connection! Diane gave her critique. I listened, learned, and asked questions. Then I hauled out my latest revision of the piece which we went over it. Diane gave me pointers about making the story more “cinematic” and said, “Send it to me after you’ve revised—no promises.”

Two weeks later, I mailed off the revised manuscript, and two months later we had a signed contract!

What was the editorial process like? How did the manuscript change from when you first submitted it?

Most of the revisions Diane wanted were already in my “second” manuscript (the one I whipped out during our consultation). The Golden Books/Random House team wanted me to “up the cowboy” even more with lingo, expressions, and dialogue. I also revised the verbs over and over.

Diane and I had a couple of phone-call editing/revision sessions. One of them came after she had finished sketches in hand. At that point, we were able to tweak some lines, simplify a passage or two, and we even cut out one whole block of text because the illustration on the two-page spread showed what the words said, so the words were no longer necessary.

When Diane snail-mailed or emailed me the latest version of Cowboy Christmas, I poured over every word, every line, every scene. I charted out words (especially my verbs and dialogue tags) to make sure I wasn’t being redundant and that I had the just-right word every time. Then I collected up my ideas and saved them for the next time Diane asked for input, or we had a scheduled conversation. There are many times to revise during the process leading up to publishing and a wise writer seizes every opportunity.

Working with Diane was a blast. She’s funny, talented, and knowledgeable. She not only valued my input, but went out of her way to ask my opinions.

Have you met the illustrator, John Manders, in person yet?

A family photo from Christmas 1959. I'm the little one on the end. From left is my older brother, Butch; sister Pat; and my cousin Kem. Could these cowboy outfits planted the seed for Cowboy Christmas?I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting John Manders in person. When Diane Muldrow told me John would be the illustrator, my first response was, “The spine will say Sanders/Manders! I love the rhyme!” Diane replied, “It rhymes? We hadn’t even thought of that.” LOL!

When I received Diane’s email about John I had just used a book he had illustrated with some of my student writers. I sent him a fan email immediately, and told him how excited I was that he was going to illustrate Cowboy Christmas. We also passed emails back and forth a few times at the end of the process and after the book was published.

Some people ask if the illustrations look as I had imagined them. That is so-o-o-o difficult to answer. Diane likes her writers to give lots of art notes. (It’s like art directing a movie.) And John did follow the intent of most of the notes—HOWEVER, I could never have imagined the characters and settings and hilarious scenes he created. The book really is a collaboration between story and art, and the illustrations definitely tell the other half of the story.

Picture This! is such a wonderful resource for picture book writers. When did you create it? How did it begin?

Debbie Ohi, you are precious to mention my blog! Picture This! (http:// is my blog for picture book writers. The blog launched January 2011. The whole reason I started the blog was to make myself study and learn more about picture books and Picture This! gave me structure and a schedule to do that. I blogged daily for a year and a half and nearly wiped myself out. (I tend to overindulge in things I love.)

Now I post less frequently, and only when I really have something important to share or say. I’m trying to work smarter, not harder these days, so I’ve created an archive (or directory) for Picture This! so folks can easily find writing craft topics, interviews, inspiration, creative challenges, and so on. I’ll update the directory every six months or so. You can find the directory for Picture This! at: PICTURE%20THIS%20DIRECTORY.pdf.

Do you have any advice for those who are considering attending their very first children's book writer/illustrator conference?

Stop considering it, and do it! I suggest going to a conference in your SCBWI Region first—that will be more manageable and not quite as overwhelming. Take full advantage of everything—every session, breakout, informal critique time, cocktail hour, paid critiques, etc. After you have a regional event under your belt, go to LA or NYC for a national conference. There is one word for one of those events—AMAZING!

Some folks say they can’t afford to go to conferences. Believe me, I understand. I work as a teacher for my full-time job. I know all about money constraints. But if you’re serious about writing and/or illustrating, you simply cannot not go to conferences. Start saving your money. Find roommates. Share a ride. Ask if there are scholarships or reduced rates in your region. As my Granny always said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!”

Rob with friends at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA 2012

What advice do you have for writers when it comes to handling rejection?

Develop tough skin. Rejection is part of the process (and part of life). In our fantasy worlds editors open our manuscripts and fall in love with us and print our books without a single alteration. But in the real world, there are thousands of rejections for every one published book.

Can I tell you the truth about what I do when one of my writing projects is rejected? I revert to seven-year-old Rob and I say to myself, “I’ll show them. They’ll be sorry. When I sell a million books they’ll wish they’d bought this one from me.”

Then I set out to prove them wrong.

Some of my best writing has been I’ll-show-them writing. Turn your rejections into motivation. Learn from your mistakes. Listen to what people are telling you. And try, try, try not to take rejection too personally. Remember, they rejected a particular manuscript . . . they didn’t reject your writing as a whole, and they certainly didn’t reject you as a person!

What's next for you? What are you working on now?

I have two picture books coming from HarperCollins in 2014. The books are based on my character, Ruby Rose, who dances her way through life and in and out of trouble. (By the way, Ruby Rose grew out of a big-time rejection.)

The first book is entitled Ruby Rose on Her Toes. The other Ruby Rose book is still in the works. Oh, guess who the illustrator is? None other than the world-famous Debbie Ohi!

(Note from Debbie: WOOHOOOOOO!!!!!!!!)

I have several picture book projects out with my agent right now and he’s shopping those around. I’m working to promote Cowboy Christmas and have book signings, readings, and other appearances coming up in the next few months. I’m beginning to be asked to speak at conferences in various locales. And (believe it or not) I am working on an edgy middle grade novel—a real departure for me—but very, exciting, too. What can I say? I just can’t stop writing!

Any advice for aspiring picture book writers?

Advice-R-Us! I always have advice, ask anyone who knows me. Let me give you a quick list.

1. Write more than one story. As you write more and more, and experiment and learn, the practice of doing so will make you a better writer. It takes many stories to find one that is publishable.

2. Join a critique group AND participate by submitting your work for critique and by critiquing others.

3. Join SCBWI and attend regional and national meetings. Almost every book is sold through a personal contact, a link, a connection.

4. Pay for professional critiques from other authors and professionals. Choose the people you use for critiques from those you meet at conferences, or people whose work you respect and admire.

5. Learn your craft. Good writing doesn’t just happen.

6. Don’t try to find short cuts or take the easy way out.

7. Don’t give up! I know many writers who have stopped because they received some rejections, or life got too busy, or they thought another genre might be easier. Keep at it! Success will come!

8. Visit my web site and have some fun looking around.

9. Buy a copy of Cowboy Christmas and support my retirement fund!

10.Look me up on Facebook, through my blog or website, Twitter, via email, or at conferences. I’d love to meet you!


Rob’s Events and Appearances

October 19-21, 2012

Florida Writers Association

Orlando, FL

Speaker and Critiquing


November 3, 2012

2:00-4:00 p.m.

Inkwood Books

Tampa, FL

Book Launch Party and Signing


November 4, 2012

Horn Museum of Art

University of Florida

Gainesville, FL

Reading and Book Signing


November 9, 2012

6:00-8:00 p.m.

Mintz Elementary Night at Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble, Brandon, FL

Reading and Book Signing


November 17, 2012

10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Parnassus Books

Nashville, TN 

Reading and Book Signing


December 1, 2012

1:00-3:00 p.m.

Barnes & Noble, Dale Mabry

Tampa, FL (Near Kennedy Blvd.)

Book Signing


December 15, 2012

1:00-3:00 p.m.

Barnes & Noble

Springfield, MO

Reading and Book Signing


January 18-20, 2013

Florida SCBWI Winter Meeting

Miami, FL

First Books Panel and Critiquing





David LaRochelle: Children's Book Author/Illustrator AND Pro Pumpkin Carver

Wow, check out the amazing kidlit-focused pumpkin carved by children's book author/illustrator David LaRochelle:


From David:

"Chronicle Books held a promotion in conjuncture with my new book "It's a Tiger!" The winning bookstore won a custom designed pumpkin carved by me. Here is the pumpkin I carved today for Riverwalk Books in Chelan, Washington."


See a video of David carving pumpkins:

Pro-Pumpkiner from Ben Garvin on Vimeo.


My interview on London Time about illustrating children's books

Posted today over on London Time: Lorna London interviews me about the process of illustrating a children's book, advice for aspiring picture book writers, and I'M BORED.

For more press, please see my Press, Interviews & Other Coolstuff page.


Comic: Writer Health Tip Of The Day

OHI0155 WriterHealthTipArms

I'm posting some of my older comics here as I catalog and tag them in prep for a print book compilation. You can find my comics for writers on Inkygirl (, Tumblr ( and Pinterest (


NaNoWriMo Comic Archives (Part 1)

As my friend Errol Elumir and I start ramping up for NaNoToons this year, I'm going to start posting some older NaNoWriMo comics from previous years, starting with 2008:

OHI0151 NaNo 2008Nov01


OHI0152 NaNo 2008Nov02

OHI0153 NaNo 2008Nov03

OHI0154 NaNo 2008Nov10

To see more NaNoToons, please do Like the NaNoToons Facebook Page!

And speaking of NaNoWriMo, the first official trailer for the NaNoWriMo Musical is online. I was an extra, and you can see me briefly in the background in the dancing clip near the end :-) :


Comic: Autumn Procrastination

OHI0072 AutumnProcrastination

I'm posting some of my older comics here as I catalog and tag them in prep for a print book compilation. You can find my comics for writers on Inkygirl (, Tumblr ( and Pinterest (


I'M BORED into its second printing, yay!

And speaking of other cool snailmail I've received recently...

The note from Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing reads:

"Congratulations! Your book has been reprinted! Please find a sample copy enclosed. Best wishes, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers."