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


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."


Look what the SCBWI Head Office sent me by snail mail...


As some of you already know, I've been hugely grateful to the SCBWI for the career-changing opportunities that have come my way as a result of attending their events.

I sent them a thank you letter back in May, and SCBWI President Stephen Mooser replied as follows:

 Hi Debbie—Wow and Congratulations—we keep a file and a posting of SCBWI Success Stories, and not only is yours one of the best, but it may also be the most entertaining of all time---you have made our day and we are so happy for your well deserved success—looking forward to seeing you again soon—all best wishes from all of us here at the office, Steve

Then in mid-September, The New York Times Sunday Book Review ran a very nice review of I'M BORED, and I sent out a public request for extra copies of the review, if anyone had it. 

Today I came home from the cottage to find a copy of the review and a nice note from Steve on behalf of the SCBWI waiting for me.


I continue to be so grateful to the SCBWI for its continuing support of children's book writers and illustrators. THANK YOU, SCBWI!!


To fellow Canadian writers out there: Happy Thanksgiving weekend!


Nominations Open For The 2012 Cybils

Screen Shot 2012 10 04 at 8 37 33 AM

Nominations are open for 2012 Cybils, the seventh annual Children's And YA Bloggers' Literary Awards:

Here's info about how you can nominate.



LovedLOVED this book. I had expected an entertaining kid-focused superhero story, but it was so much more than that. Mike Jung has added a wonderful twist on the typical superhero theme. His writing is fresh and truly funny, with sweet/touching moments as well. An entertaining and thoroughly satisfying read.


Age level: 8 and up - Hardcover: 320 pages - ISBN-10: 0545335485 - ISBN-13: 978-0545335485


You can see my other Micro and Graphic Book Reviews on Inkygirl. Please note that I review books on whim and for the pure fun of it, so please do not ask me to review your book. Thanks. :-)


Survey Results: Print vs Digital Purchase?

For a list of all survey results as well as current surveys still in progress, see my Inkygirl Survey Archives.

Thanks to all those who responded to my most recent survey, which asked:

Q. When making a book purchase, do you prefer ebook or print format?

Of 129 responses, 60% said they preferred print. 25% preferred ebook/digital.

Of the remaining responses ("Other"), here are some of the comments:

Ebook to get it fast for YA, but print book for picture books, & when I really love a book I want both. - @CherylRainfield

I do both. It varies with price and format. Some picture books don't look so great on the Kindle. They look better on the iPad. - @StacySJensen

Print if I plan to share with my students. (so MG books) E if I'd like to be able to read it anywhere (love having selection on my device) E if it is MY copy of a book I'm using with a reading group (love the notes features on my device and I don't lose my notes that way) Print if I already own part of the series or it's a series I think I will loan to family or friends (it's complicated!) - @Mselke01

I prefer print for fiction or anything pictorial, but I like ebooks for quick access to information

It depends. For a quick read, ebook. For things I want to save and reread or refer to often, print. - @bexdk

It depends on the book. For most, I prefer ebook. But there are some I want a print copy for my bookshelves. Usually, they are by favorite authors or friends.

I like print for children's books, ebook for adult (pleasure) print for how to book's...

Depends on the book and the price..and where I'll be reading. For travel, I prefer e-books. For home or camping, I prefer print. - Julie Chilton

Ebook for fiction, print for non-fiction. - @crazywritinfool

Both. I can't really separate the two because I usually end up buying the book in print even if I have it on my Kindle/iPad. I can't give up my books. I also will buy books for Kindle that I already own in print simply because it is easier to take on a trip or read in bed (for example: "War & Peace"). - @InkyTwig

Both! I love having both formats for different situations. - @wickedagrarian

Depends on the book. If it's something I want straight away, ebook, if it's more of a collectable - print.

E-book for texts I'll read linearly (novels, short stories). Print for reference materials, anything with graphics, anything I expect to consult arbitrary sections of. Also print for books with more "staying power", ones I'll want to have for years and years, 'cause who knows what'll happen to digital content over time?

Depends on the format & purpose: print = illustrated books e = reference books a = audiobooks, which is the only format I consume for fun. Ebooks, unless there are many illustrations or photos. In that case, I prefer print.

It depends. If I need something right now, I'll order a Kindle version, but for a nice slow read, I'll order print. If I want something to take on the plane, I order a Kindle; if I want to read it while taking a bath, I'll order print. For study and writing in the margins I'll order print because I don't care for the annotation function in electronic devices. Even the markup function in Word is annoying even though it's industry standard. - @suelange

I only buy drm-free ebooks and so my selection is limited, but I'm quickly coming to prefer digital over print. - @limako

Depends on the book. Picture Book, Easy Reader - Print (love to look at the color illustrations and for studying page turns) MG, YA Fiction - Ebook (convenience of being able to take it anywhere easily) - @darshanakhiani

Digital for novels, print for picture books.

Whichever is cheapest, naturally! (which at the moment is nearly ALWAYS print) - @readitdaddy


Next survey: Book Trailers - Do They Work? (3 multiple choice questions + optional comments)

Do you have a suggestion for a future survey question? Please let me know!


Happy National Punctuation Day!

Yes, it's that time of year again: National Punctuation Day!


My informal surveys about writing, reading & publishing

I currently have over 21,000 followers in Twitter, and I've noticed that whenever I ask a question of interest to writers, I get quite a few great answers. Unless everyone uses the same hashtag, however, only I see replies. To help others benefit and exchange helpful info, I've decided to start up a series of informal surveys to do with writing, reading and publishing.

I'm using an upgraded Surveymonkey service, did a test run a while back, and am pleased with the interface/security. My test question: Do you own an ebook reader? 73% said yes.

Feel free to suggest survey questions, but please note that I am only interested in questions whose answers will ultimately help writers in their craft or business or knowledge of the industry, NOT for a specific project or promo.

Here's the first official survey: When making a book purchase, do you prefer digital or print? Please answer here. Anyone who answers will see the aggregate results. I'll post a more detailed summary in an upcoming Inkygirl post.

And if you have suggestions for future survey questions, please do post them below or use this form. Thanks!


Comic: Pirate Plagiarism (in honor of Talk Like A Pirate Day)

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 reviewed by The New York Times today!


Interview with TYPE Books owner + I'M BORED launch info

If you haven't seen it already, check out this wonderful stop-motion video that Sean Ohlenkamp (Lowe Roche) created, called "The Joy Of Books", with the help of 25 volunteers over four nights:

Thanks SO much to Type Books for hosting my illustrator I'M BORED Book Launch. The launch will take place this coming Tuesday: Sept. 18th, 6-8 pm at TYPE's Queen St. location (883 Queen St. W., 416-366-8973). You can find out more info and RSVP at the Facebook event page for the I'M BORED Launch. To Michael Ian Black fans: please note that the author will NOT be there -- it'll just be me. :-)

 Type Books owner, Joanne Saul, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about the bookstore.

Q. How did TYPE Books get its start?

TYPE was started in 2006 by my partner Samara Walbohm and myself. We met doing our PhDs in CanLit at the University of Toronto. We would often daydream in the stacks at Robarts library about what we might do if we didn't go the academic route. TYPE was one of those dreams.

We call ourselves a friendly neighbourhood bookstore and we mean it. We stock local authors' books. We launch them too. We host events for local writers. We have strong relationships with local publishers. We have a gallery in our basement where we show the artwork of neighbourhood artists. We have a storytime for neighbourhood kids. We host a love of reading and writing program in our basement called "Word-Play." We have kids from four local schools come to the store twice a week for a full program. We're very proud of the work it does.

Type 883 Queen West

What's the best part of of being a bookstore owner? What's the most challenging?

The best part of being a bookstore owner is meeting new people and establishing relationships with customers (and authors and publishers). I love interacting with my regular customers and talking about what they're reading.

I love the feeling of community in both the stores. It's a true joy to be able to put the right book in the right person's hands.

The worst part of owning a bookstore is paying the bills.

March Madness Window

Other than the I'M BORED launch :-), are there any other upcoming events and news you'd like to share?

We're so excited about the I'm Bored launch! We can't wait. It's a fabulous book - beautiful and funny too. My son just changed daycares and "I'm Bored" was his going away gift to his old centre! I'm also really thrilled to be part of the launch for Andrea Curtis' book, "What's For Lunch" at the end of the month. It's a fascinating look at what kids eat for lunch around the world. Andrea's event at TYPE: September 30th, 3-5.

Facebook Event Page for the I'M BORED Book Launch (Illustrator)

Where to find more info about TYPE:

Their website:

On Twitter:

On Flickr:


I'M BORED interviews, guest posts a podcast (and many giveaways of the book!)

TodaysParent Adele

It's been an exciting and whirlwind week since I'M BORED launched on bookstore shelves last week!

Thanks so much for those of you who have been helping me promote the book online and offline. I've compiled a list of interviews, guest posts and other places online where you can find related posts, and most of these still are or were holding random draws for copies of the book.

*NEW* I am also going to be sending hand-drawn doodles to each of the book giveaway winners for I'M BORED. This applies to any blog who is doing an I'M BORED giveaway in the near fuure.


Wed. Sept. 12, 2012 (online): Interview by Christina Farley on Chocolate For Inspiration.

I'll also be giving a talk tonight at the monthly CANSCAIP meeting about my I'M BORED experience, the benefit of conferences like Packaging Your Imagination and SCBWI, as well as how to get the most out of these kinds of events.


Today's Parent and Parenting magazines featured I'M BORED (Today's Parent photo at the top right of this post courtesy Adele Maclean)

I was Featured Artist on

July 27, 2012 (online): Toasted Cheese interview with me about I'm Bored - by Erin Bellavia

August 20, 2012 (online): For Young Readers: Most Anticipated Books Of Fall 2012 (49th Shelf)

August 27, 2012 (online): At The Desk: Debbie Ridpath Ohi on Open Book Toronto

Tue. Sept. 4, 2012 (online): I'm Bored Releases Today! - by Christina Farley

AndreaMack PotatoCelebration

Tue. September 4, 2012: A MiG Writer Book Birthday Series: Happy Book Birthday To I'M BORED, by Christina Farley - A Fun Potato Recipe from Carmella Van Vleet - A Boring School Challenge, by Kate Fall - I'm Bored Potato Celebration, by Andrea Mack

Wed. Sept. 5, 2012 (online) - Miss Marple's Musings. Interviewer: Joanna Marple.

Wed. Sept. 5, 2012 (online) - I'M BORED contest announcement by Andrea Mack.

Fri. Sept. 7, 2012 (online) - Perfect Picture Book Friday, with Beth Stilborn.

Fri. Sept. 7, 2012 (online) - I'M BORED review by Greg Leitich Smith. "With expressive illustrations and a hilarious point-counterpoint, a little girl demonstrates that children are less boring than potatoes. And there are waterfowl, too. Really."

October issue of TODAY'S PARENT (print): I'M BORED feature mention

Sun. Sept. 9, 2012 (online) - New Voice & Giveaway: Debbie Ridpath Ohi on Cynsations. Interviewer: Lena Coakley.

WildPhotoCollage v01 600

Above: selection of photos from my I'M BORED In The Wild gallery of readers with the book.

Mon. Sept. 10, 2012 (online) - The Other Side Of The Story - podcast interview by Matt Mylusch

Mon. Sept. 10, 2012 (online) - It's Worth The Wait: My guest post on Beth Stillborn's blog, By Word Of Beth, about the waiting process between the offer and when the book finally appears on the shelves.

Tue. Sept. 11, 2012 (online): I'M BORED Trifecta with Mr. Schu and Colby Sharp:

-- My guest post on Nerdy Book Club: In The End, It's The Story That Matters (A defence of so-called celebrity books)

-- Mr. Schu's post about the I'M BORED book music video, his interview with Zoe (w/ help from Zoe's Dad)

-- Colby Sharp shares his 4th grader's favorite moments from I'M BORED on Sharpreads


You can find these and other press links on my Debbie's Interviews, Appearances, Guest Blog Posts and Other Cool Press Page.