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
Had fun with the Toronto Middle Grade And YA Authors group at the Bedford Academy last night. I continue to be grateful to Claudia Osmond for founding the group. I always come away so inspired and motivated!
I asked the attendees of last night's get together what they were working on, if they had any news to share, or just brief bio info and here's what they told me:
Trouble in the Hills YA launched this past fall; non fic called The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Ocean will be out from Kids Can Press this winter, and then a second YA contemp called How to Survive Absolutely Anything will be out from Fitzhenry and Whiteside in March. Currently writing two new Quiz Books for Scholastic and season 3 of Planet Echo, a science tv show. More news on new contracts next month!
"Found one of my NaNoWriMo mauscripts from 2010 and it's better than I remember, so I've revived the project. It's been rattling around in my head for a while so I'm excited to dive back in."
"Signed a three book contract with Amazon Publishing for a YA trilogy. The first book (Deviant) will be released in 2012."
"Find out more about my novels, or read my blog (about books, writing, mad science, detectives and other miscellanea) at www.RobertPaulWeston.com."
Posting every Monday at http://www.thedebutanteball.com/
"First chapter of a graphic novel is almost complete and will be ready for submission in a month."
Karen has a draft of her middle grade fantasy novel complete and ready for reading.
Megan's contemporary dystopian YA, THE WAY WE FALL, comes out from Disney-Hyperion on January 24th! Here's the book trailer:
"My illustrated book, Winter Science, is out (Scholastic) and my non-fiction humor middle grade book (which I also illustrated) will be out in the spring, called Kid Confidential (Bloomsbury)."
Derek is a YA/adult sf/f writer. "Scorpio. Tripping down the rabbit hole. Represented by the sharkly Janet Reid."
"Got my book back from a pro editor I hired and am revising, revising, revising!"
It was Ricki's first Torkidlit meetup! Ricki is a freelance writer and editor, and coordinator of the Write-Brained Network.
Jeff is shopping some novels around and in theory, one is coming out soon. "It's called Evil Eye, about a disembodied floating eye that's totally EVIL." It was Jeff's first Torkidlit tweetup!
Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Excited to be able to say that I'M BORED comes out THIS YEAR (woohoo!). I'M BORED is a new picture book by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by yours truly, coming out from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in Sept/2012. Also looking forward to the March/2012 launch of TOMO: Friendship Through Fiction - An Anthology Of Japan Teen Stories. I have an illustrated short story in this collection. Proceeds from the sales of Tomo will go to organizations that assist teens in the quake and tsunami hit areas.
If you're a middle grade or young adult author and would like to find out about upcoming meetups, please join our group on Facebook:
To find out more about what Torkidlit members are up to, please visit (and Like!) our Facebook page:
On Twitter, follow the #torkidlit hashtag.
Today was the first day in my new work schedule, where I try to stay offline for most of the morning. As I mentioned before, I resigned as Writersmarket.com publishing industry columnist as of Dec. 31st, 2011. After 10 years, it's hard to break the habit of going online first thing in the morning to check publishing industry news sites, blogs and Twitter feeds.
I did check e-mail once for anything urgent but resisted answering or posting. I got a ton of work finished this morning in one uninterrupted block of time.
I spent part of last week doing email housekeeping. Instead of just deleting mailing list emails and newsletter that I never read, I took the time to unsubscribe from as many of them as possible. I revamped my email filter system. I got my email inbox down to ZERO emails.
I feel virtuous, productive.
But I'm also aware that's only the FIRST DAY.
Back in 2001, I visited the Writer's Digest offices in Cincinnati, OH and pitched my idea of a publishing industry news column to David Fryxell, who was editor-in-chief of Writer's Digest and Writer's Digest Books. He liked the idea, so I started my column in January, 2002.
Back then I was writing a lot of nonfiction articles for print and online magazines, so the research overlapped with market research I was doing anyway. I got into the habit of surfing the publishing industry news sites (this was before Twitter and Facebook) first thing every morning and keeping an eye on industry trends. It was fun and also helped me find new markets for my own work.
Over time, however, the focus of my own work began to change as I began attending SCBWI conventions and I began pursuing my initial passion (writing for young people) more seriously. Then came the summer of 2010, when a rejection turned into a book contract with Simon & Schuster and a spot in the SCBWI Illustration Mentee Program. Not having any formal art training, I've been in sponge-mode this past year, immersing myself in the world of children's picture books, learning as much as I can AND working on illustrations for I'M BORED, a new picture book by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2012). And then Jen Rofé of Andrea Brown Literary Agency nominated my YA novel-in-progress for the Sue Alexander Award.
I didn't win the award, but the nomination was a great honour and also helped cement a decision that was already in the works: I needed to find more time to focus on my own book projects. The decision to give up my Writersmarket.com column was tough because (1) of the regular income, and (2) Robert Lee Brewer has been a fantastic editor to work with.
BUT not having the column would mean that I wouldn't have to go online first thing every morning. This may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but the following comic (originally posted in Writer Unboxed) summarizes my own experience:
A while back, I posted in Inkygirl about cutting down on my online time. Well, that plan fizzled out within a few days…mainly because my Writersmarket.com work has me in a mindset where I need to be online enough to know what's going on in the publishing industry: not just kidlit but in general. Plus I need to go online first thing every morning, which inevitably gets me into catching up on various blogs and Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and e-mail and and and…well, you get the picture. And it's so easy for me to justify any online time by thinking, "well HEY, it's part of my work!"
So I'm removing my own safety net.
Yes, I'm nervous. But also really excited.
I'll still be online way more than most of you. BUT I'll be cutting back my usual frenzied surf/read/Twitter/FB posting. It's going to be hard, I can already tell. The biggest challenge for me: being okay with NOT always knowing the latest publishing industry news and trends. I need to take all that energy, time and focus and put it into my own creative projects instead.
I just posted my final Market Watch column in Writersmarket.com today. It's been a grand ten years and I've enjoyed working with a site that has so much great info for freelance writers, and I've especially enjoyed working with Robert Lee Brewer.
My current plan: to do an e-mail check in the morning for anything that needs an urgent reply (my agent, editors, art directors, etc.) but then STAY OFFLINE until I get some solid, focused work finished. I'm sure it'll take some experimenting before I find a schedule that works for me, but my overall goal is to spend less time online. At this point, I'm sure some of you out there are thinking, "See? Social media and the Internet are eeeeevil!" but I'd disagree. Almost all of my career opportunities have, directly or indirectly, been the result of connections I've made online or information I've found online.
I think every person needs to find their own balance.
My goal: to find mine. Wish me luck, eh?
Inspired by a GalleyCat post on Mediabistro.com. For more WWFC, see WillWriteForChocolate.com.
Back in 2001, my friend Allison Durno convinced me to try reading the Lord Of The Rings trilogy again. I had tried back in high school, but found it way too dull. With the (then) upcoming LOTR movies, though, I figured I may as well give it another shot.
Not surprisingly, I decided to blog about it (because that's what I do, after all). TheOneRing.net told their readers about it, and suddenly I had a huge number of Tolkien fans looking over my shoulder.
I was still a bit doubtful in the beginning, but then a bunch of them told me to SKIP THE PROLOGUE, which was the bit I couldn't get through on my first attempt back in high school. So I did…and found it much easier to get into the story.
And I ended up loving the books. :-)
Anyway, you can see all my original posts AND the comments, courtesy WaybackMachine:
I had SO much fun doing this. At one point, though, Allison had to step in and do some moderating because some commenters were getting so enthusiastic that they were letting some spoilers slip. I remember getting a phone call one morning from Allison, who warned me NOT to read the comments that day because of a major spoiler. I gave her admin privileges so she was able to delete the comment, and she kept an eye on spoiler comments for the rest of the time.
It was the response to this blog that prompted me to do my Waiting For Frodo webcomic, by the way.
And now I'm doing Waiting For Bilbo webcomic with the help of Shane McEwan (formerly of Weta Digital -- you can see his name in the credits for the Lord Of The Rings movies). It's about avid fans waiting in line for The Hobbit movies.
If you're on Facebook, please do "Like" our Waiting For Bilbo page! Thanks kindly. :-)
For some reason, I wasn't able to access the collar drawing/writing features (the top left of my screenshot SHOULD have links to those features). I was able to access them fine the last time I did a Hangout, so not sure what went wrong. BUT at least everyone else had fun experimenting with the collab tools.
Apart from that glitch, however, the main reason I can't fully recommend Google+ Hangouts for a public event yet is because there is currently no way for one person to moderate. If someone behaves inappropriately (I had someone expose himself in my previous Public Hangout!), there's still no way to kick that person out of the chat. You can block him, but that only means YOU don't see/hear him anymore -- everyone else in the chat will still see him unless they block him as well.
Still, it has great potential for creative collab with trusted invitees.
Jolie Stekly has a great interview with my agent, Ginger Knowlton. Ginger will be sharing her views, along with three other agents, on the final panel of the SCBWI Winter conference. And Ginger mentions me in the interview, yay!!
I joined Klout a while back because I was curious about the service and also because of a recommendation in a blog I respect that writers should be aware of their Klout score.
It was fun at first, checking out what various people's Klout scores were and playing around with the tools. But then I became aware of a few negative points:
1. My Klout score didn't bring me any real benefits.
2. I checked my Klout score way too often, angsting about fluctuations. ("Uh-oh, I'm going away on vacation! My Klout score is going to drop!")
3. The accuracy was questionable, with so many factors not being taken into account.
4. I started feeling hypocritical and slimy. I'm always going on about how the number of followers and other numbers aren't nearly as important as meaningful connections. So why was I so concerned about my Klout score?!? Plus I became aware that it was influencing how I tweeted…which made me feel even more hypocritical and slimy.
As soon as I submitted my opt-out request today, I felt a tremendous relief.
Before Klout fans jump on me, let me point out that I opted out of Klout because of my own weakness/angsting, not because Klout is Bad.
I'm going to take all the time I was spending thinking about Klout and put it into writing and illustrating instead. :-)
Wow, I love watching this man draw. The video includes fascinating info about how Kevin Henkes draws and writes. He says that before starts a picture book, he works on the character first. He wants to have a clear image of the character before anything else.
One of my favourite quotes from the video: "If we expose our kids to books and art, nothing but good can come of it."
More info about Kevin Henkes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Henkes
Unfortunately his official website seems to be hacked right now. :-(
I was recently telling someone about my agent and realized that I was doing a terrible job at accurately describing why I think Ginger Knowlton is so great. So I decided to do a handwritten post instead.
Please note that these are only ten reasons of many. :-)
Thanks so much to Claudia Osmond for hosting the holiday meet up for the Toronto Middle Grade & Young Adult Author Group! I had a fantastic time: so many great conversations, good food and lots of kidlit/YA talk.
For more info about what Torkidlit members are up to, please do visit the Torkidlit News Facebook Page.
Click the right- and left- arrows to see the slideshow of my iPhone photos:
Hm...just noticed that Squarespace's Gallery feature forces ALL the photos in horizontal mode, which means you're not seeing the full photo in some cases. To browse all the photos, do visit my 2011-12 Torkidlit Holiday Party Flickr set.
(Continued from Part 1: Lost Weekend with David Diaz)
Another highlight from Lost Weekend: the conversations. They sprung up everywhere and without warning, while we were painting, sitting by the fire, helping David in the kitchen, over meals, while we were out walking.
Topics frequently revolved around children's book illustration but also writing, family, food, travel, other work…in other words, LIFE.
As the weekend progressed, it became clear to all of us that this was about so much more than just kidlit illustration info and new business contacts. It was also about mutual encouragement and sharing, bonding and appreciation.
And um, food. Lots and lots of good food. :-)
Each of us ended up taking away something different. One aspect I especially enjoyed: getting to spend more time with people I knew mainly online. It was fun rooming with Andrea Offermann, who had flown in from Germany. She had arrived the week before for an art show at ThinkSpace Gallery.
Some of the newer Mentees I had only been in contact with via Facebook and had only met briefly in person.
And it was such a treat to finally spend time with Bonnie Adamson, co-founder of Kidlitchat and founder of the KidLitArt chat on Twitter. We had run into each other at SCBWI conventions, but usually only had time to exchange a few words before hurrying off to the next workshop or keynote talk.
And that was another thing I LOOOVED about Lost Weekend. We had a chance to slow down and get to know each other in a much more casual environment than a convention. Although David had some activities planned for us, the schedule was flexible and adjusted to the group dynamic.
Another of many highlights: getting to know David's son, Ariel Diaz. Not only is Ariel a talented artist but his quirky humour and dry wit enhanced the weekend for all of us. You can see samples of his work at his site: turbogrease.tumblr.com.
I can't imagine what it must have been like, having a horde of women descend on your house for an entire weekend! Ariel handled it well. :-)
On the last evening, David hosted a party for not only our group but some of the local artists and industry people. We helped David with food prep but he did the bulk of the work. If it had been my house, I would have been super-stressed about all those people showing up for dinner but if David was, he sure didn't show it.
Great to see Erin O'Shea; Erin was one of the first Mentees in 2009 (in the red sweater below):
We had a table where some of our portfolios, postcards and business card were on display for people to peruse:
I was also happy to see Jen Rofé from Andrea Brown Literary Agency at the party; Jen had given my YA novel a great critique at the SCBWI Summer Conference in L.A. (and nominated it for the Sue Alexander Award!) and I loved her energy. She gave us all some excellent advice during the evening PLUS --not sure if it's public news yet so am not naming names yet-- is going to be representing one of the Mentees!
[Edited December 8, 2011: Yay, it's official. Eliza Wheeler has just signed with Jen Rofé. CONGRATS to both of you!!]
There was so much relaxing downtime and casual conversation that I didn't realize how much useful children's book illustration info I had absorbed during the event until I got home. I had learned something that could help me in my own craft from every Lost Weekend attendee, from new techniques to try, process tips, digital tech (I sooo want Christina Forshay's drawing tablet!!), attitude inspiration and encouragement, how-to advice and practical industry info.
We've been in touch since Lost Weekend, rehashing some of the memories from those magical few days, following up on tips and advice, exchanging recipes (ok, they've all been David's recipes…and they're making me hungry!!). Plus we Mentees are starting to gradually ramp up our website at:
Please do bookmark us; we'll be adding more Mentee bios and organizing our post schedule. Stay tuned for lots of great info and news for children's book illustrators! Plus you can find us on Twitter at @KidLitArtists; Juana Martinez-Neal has started to help with that account. And please do Like our KidLitArtists Facebook Page; you can find updates to most of our blogs as well as main blog.
And finally, a huge THANK YOU to David Diaz for inviting us to be part of this incredible Lost Weekend! As I mentioned before, this wasn't an officially sanctioned SCBWI event but rather something that David put together on his own, opening up his home and devoting a big chunk of time (including prep) for our group. We were all blown away by his generosity.
And thank you also to the SCBWI for bringing us all together in the first place! If you're interested in children's book writing and illustrating, you NEED to join this organization if you haven't already. More info: http://www.scbwi.org
Attendees of Lost Weekend 2011:
You can see my other photos from Lost Weekend in Flickr.
In case you missed it, here's the link to Part 1 of my Lost Weekend with David Diaz report.
I'm gradually going through all my comic archives as I work on my Will Write For Chocolate book compilation, so am posting some of the oldies here in Inkygirl (sometimes revamped).
From the Angry Robot site:
"We are absolutely thrilled to be able to announce the launch of our new YA imprint, Strange Chemistry The imprint will launch in September 2012, with five titles appearing before the end of that year, before settling down to one book each month. Strange Chemistry will follow AR’s strategy of co-publishing its books simultaneously in the US and UK, in both eBook and paperback formats. Subject matter will include fantasy, science fiction, supernatural and horror, and as with Angry Robot the lines between those genres are likely to be very blurry at times."
You can find an interview with editor Amanda Rutter on YAtopia. According to the interview, Strange Chemistry will be open only to agented submissions.
As some of you already know, I was thrilled to be picked for the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Program at last year's Summer Conference in LA. Thrilled as in "can this really be happening to me" thrilled, especially when combined with the offer from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers to illustrate Michael Ian Black's new picture book, I'm Bored.
The six of us got together during the conference, just to chat and get to know each other a little better: Eliza Wheeler, Andrea Offermann, John Deininger, Kimberly Gee, Ashley Mims and me. We discovered (to our mutual relief, I suspect) that we all got along very well, and we decided to launch our own website at KidLitArtists.com.
We also kept in touch via group email about what we were all up to, shared successes and disappointments, critique and encouragement. We hung out when we attended the same SCBWI events.
At the SCBWI Summer Conference this year, some of us were joking with Caldecott-winning children's book illustrator & SCBWI Illustration Mentor David Diaz, saying we'd love to snoop through his studio (I believe it was Eliza who was nervy enough to suggest it). David surprised us by saying it was a great idea. In fact, he sent out an invite soon after the conference, and said he wanted to invite some other mentees as well.
And so LOST WEEKEND was born!
Sadly, not all the 2010 and 2011 Mentees could make it to Lost Weekend (we missed you guys!). Here's the attendee list:
Mentees: Class of 2010:
Mentees: Class of 2011:
Others invited by David:
Note: This wasn't an officially sanctioned SCBWI event but rather an act of generosity by David. I admire his courage, inviting a bunch of strangers into his private home. I think he was a tad nervous at first, wondering what he had got himself into.
(Above: piece by David Diaz)
Some of us stayed at the hotel, some at David's. I loved David's house with its high ceilings, full of light and color. There was art everywhere, including many gorgeous and interesting pieces by David and his son Ariel.
(Above: Piece by Ariel Diaz)
David did most of the cooking…and he's really good at it! My mouth is watering even as I type this, remembering these home-baked popovers fresh out of the oven, light as air and slathered with fresh cream, jam or savoured plain:
Here are just some of the other things we feasted on during the weekend:
German pancakes, scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach, smoked bacon, sausage.
"Sin-cleansing" French pressed coffee.
Handmade pasta, with an Putanesca Sauce with Hot Italian sausage
Salad with goat cheese, candied walnuts, crasins, and white balsamic vinegar dressing
Sformata di Ricotta
Oven roasted garlic
Jambalaya rice with sausage, mushrooms, grilled tri-tip
Chocolate chip coconut brownies
Apple raspberry crumb pie and ice cream.
I'm pretty sure I left Lost Weekend heavier than when I arrived.
Plus Bonnie introduced me to Pickled Okra (yummmmmmmmmmmm):
which go wonderfully in these:
I loved the buzz of activity in the kitchen as we chopped and stirred under David's tutelage, conversation and laughter (a LOT of laughter) filling the house.
Even food shopping was fun:
I discovered Von's, which is apparently a chain grocery story in California. "V-a-u-g-h-n-s," said David, when I asked him how to spell it. I believed him and started writing it down until I heard the others sniggering. Kidlit illustrators can be so MEEEEEAN. :-D
We spent a lot of time just chatting in front of the fireplace. We each gave a brief demo of how we worked, talking about our process. It was funny, really -- each one of us basically felt like our own process was SO boring yet when it came to seeing how the others did their work, we were each fascinated. Lots of kidlit and art talk and picture book writing talk, plus browsing of each other's portfolios.
On Sunday, the weather cleared up so we decided to go walking on the beach. SUCH a nice change from Toronto weather!
We left our shoes in a pile on the beach:
David reassured us that no one would steal them. :-)
And holy cow, I know it sounds like a cliché, but it felt SO GREAT to walk barefoot along the beach!
and we saw pelicans:
and hang gliders:
David took us to the Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Garden, with its beautiful gardens and koi ponds:
We got in trouble from a security guard in the gardens when we laughed too much as we tried to get this photo taken:
Darned noisy kidlit illustrators!
Above: David let us snoop through some of his archives from earlier in his career
It was fascinating to see some of David's earlier work, and hear his explanations of how and why he changed his illustration style. We also got to see sketches and drawings from Mother Earth Watches (working title, will change), his upcoming book with Chronicle Books (tentative publication date: Spring 2013).
David taught us a new technique: taping down a framed area on masonite, painting a background texture/color using acrylics, then a layer of matte medium (or at least I had to do this since my base layer of acrylic was already so textured), then drawing in conte, then spraying with a fixative.
Some of us (hand waving here) didn't normally work with acrylics, so were a bit nervous about the process. BUT it ended up being a lot of fun as well as enlightening -- it was good to push beyond our normal creative comfort zones, especially in a safe and encouraging environment like the one at Lost Weekend.
Also very cool to see the different approaches everyone took in their projects.
Andrea Zuill, who drove to David's, brought some of her paintings later in the weekend for us to look at. I LOVE her work! She also brought a print for each of us as a gift. Here's the one she gave me:
You can see more of Andrea's work at http://www.andreazuill.com/
Continued in Part 2: Lost Weekend With David Diaz.