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 DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi


MicroBookTweet: DOLL BONES by Holly Black, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler


Written by Holly Black

Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon & Schuster Children's (May/2013)

Also see my other MicroBookTweets and my interview with Eliza Wheeler.


Assembling A Children's Illustrator Portfolio: Choosing The Portfolio, Images, Assembly and More

Juana Martinez-Neal, who won last year's SCBWI Summer Illustrator Portfolio Showcase, has a fantastic step-by-step post about how to put together a children's illustrator portfolio. Lots of specific tips and resource links plus visual examples from other illustrators (hey, like ME :-).


Interview with Eliza Wheeler about MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS and DOLL BONES

Photo by Adam WheelerEliza Wheeler and I met at the SCBWI Summer Conference in 2010, when both of us were chosen for the Illustration Mentorship Program. We both hit it off right away; I love Eliza's positive life outlook, enthusiasm and wry wit. Since then, we've become good friends and I fervently wish we lived closer together so could hang out more often. Geography really sucks sometimes.

The photo to the right was taken by Eliza's filmmaker/photographer husband, Adam Wheeler (who is just as cool as his lovely wife). 

It's been so exciting to watch Eliza's career take off since that SCBWI conference. Not only did she win the Overall Portfolio Showcase the year after, but her first picture book, MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin), hit the New York Times Bestseller list!! Eliza has a lot of other projects already on the go, of course, but was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for Inkygirl readers.

What was your work process for MISS MAPLE SEEDS?

When I started working on the finals for MISS MAPLE, I had printed out light sketches onto the final drawing paper with my Epson printer (a step I've replaced by traditionally transferring the sketch via a light box), and I stretched and taped my paper onto 16 plywood boards. That way, I could work on all of them at the same time and build up slow washes, moving onto the next as I let layers dry. Creating finals for picture books calls for long hours, and I've found audio books to be really helpful while I work. I believe during this book I listened to The Hunger Games, and started the Harry Potter series. 

Photo by Adam Wheeler

What advice do you have for aspiring picture book writer/illustrators?

1) Be patient while you build up your body of work. Just focus on your craft, and leave the business side of storytelling for later; for when your work is REALLY good.

2) Create the kind of work that your kid self would have loved. Be your own audience, and always ask yourself "If someone else made this, would I read it? Would I put it up on my wall?". It seems obvious, but more often than not when I ask myself this question, I'm surprised to think "no".

3) Read, read, read. Whenever I'm stuck with my storytelling I read. I get new ideas or answers to existing stories when I read. And don't just read in your genre. A friend lent me Aimee Bender's adult novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and I was distracted through the entire thing because every single time I sat down to read that book, a particular story I was working on would come to me in waves. I don't know why that was, but certain books will do that, and I've learned that it's a really great thing.

Photo: Rachel Jackson

Photo: Rachel Jackson.How was your book launch party?

It was INCREDIBLE. I had so much help from my good friends on the day of the event, and it was also my first public speech. I was so nervous, but then really enjoyed telling the story of this special book. There was a large crowd, and it meant the world to see all these friends from different areas of my life come together. There were people there I hadn't seen in years! Also, my books sold out! They had something like 54 copies. We were blown away. I knew that I wanted to make it special for my debut book, but it was even better than I could have imagined. 

Congrats on MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS making it onto the New York Times Bestseller list! What was your reaction when you found out?

It was of complete and utter disbelief! I saw it mentioned on twitter late in the evening, and thought it was a mix-up. Then Nancy Paulsen emailed me the list, and I was in shock. I told my husband, but it sounded more like a question, "My book got on the New York Times bestseller list?"  We just kept saying, "what?! what?!" back and forth. And then I think we laughed a lot and continued saying "what?!". 

Your fabulous illustrations appear in the just-released DOLL BONES by Holly Black. How did that process go?

Doll Bones was extremely fun to work on - illustrations for middle grade go a lot faster than picture-books, it's sort of less excruciating in the sense that we don't need to convey too much information with the illustrations. They add fun, mood, and flavor - there's an ease there that I love. I worked entirely with Simon and Schuster's art director, Sonia Chaghatzbanian, but Holly was sweet to send me a couple Tweets through the process to let me know she was loving the illustrations, which were thrilling messages to get.

What are you working on now?

As for new projects, I'm right in the thick of illustrations for a picture book by Mara Rockliff called The Grudge Keeper. It's a super fun story; one of those manuscripts I couldn't turn down because I wished I had written it. I'm also working on a new picture book idea with my editor Nancy Paulsen at Penguin, but can't say much about that yet. I also will be working on a brilliant middle grade novel by Kate Milford called Left Handed Fate, and I'm equally excited and nervous for that project, just because I want to do Kate's story justice with the illustrations. 

Where to find out more about Eliza and her work:


Eliza's website: http://wheelerstudio.com/

On Twitter: @WheelerStudio

Eliza Swanson-Wheeler on Facebook


Aspiring writers/illus: Create the kind of work your kid self would have loved. @WheelerStudio http://bit.ly/YVJMuu (Tweet this)

Be patient while you build up your body of work. Focus on craft first, biz later. @WheelerStudio http://bit.ly/YVJMuu (Tweet this)


Also see my other Inkygirl interviews.


The Joy and Angst of Reading A Good Book

I'm in the middle of reading DOLL BONES by Holly Black, illustrated by my friend Eliza Wheeler, and enjoying it so much that I find that I'm starting to purposely slow down my reading pace so the book will last longer.

Comic originally posted on Writer Unboxed a few years ago.


Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there!



Trying out Authorgraph.com to digitally sign & doodle autographs

I read about Authorgraph.com letting authors digitally sign copies of their books on Mediabistro today, and have decided to try it out. You can see a sample of how the above doodle/signature was drawn (this is what a reader would receive as well). Here is the Author FAQ from the Authorgraph.com site.

The service is free, though Authorgraph.com points out that if a reader is using Amazon's Personal Document Service, Amazon may charge a small fee. At present, the site's only income-generating model seems to be through Amazon affiliate links. 

Once you've signed your message and autograph, the reader who requested it has the option of downloading it as a PDF or AZW file, which can then be saved on devices or printed out. When printed out, the image fills an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. It would be nice if a reader had the option of a smaller size that is suitable for printing out and sticking inside the book. Savvy readers, though, will know how to shrink the image before printing.

Readers can also share their author autographs on Twitter. Here's a demo video:

Though the idea of being able to digitally sign a book is great, I can't help but be skeptical about the demand. I know that I'd far prefer a real-life ink autograph than a digital file that's been printed out...BUT Authorgraph.com's process saves the author the postage and printing costs/hassle of autographed bookplates sent by snailmail. Plus the opportunity for the reader to send a brief message to the author and then see the signature being drawn adds an extra level of personal interaction.

I'm intrigued enough that I'll be adding this to my I'M BORED Bonus Page and see how it goes.

More info about Authorgraph: http://www.authorgraph.com/

To request an Authorgraph from me about I'M BORED: http://www.authorgraph.com/authors/debbieohi


Comic: Squirrel Writer Conspiracy


Sophie Blackall's 19th century style mailing promotes her new picture book

I always love hearing about interesting and unique ways (without being spammy) that children's book authors and illustrators have for promoting their work, so was intrigued by Sophie Blackall's promo effort:

From Publishers Weekly (click on image to see original article)

The package above was mailed out to about 100 chlidren's book professionals, handmade by award-winning illustrator Sophie Blackall to help promote THE MIGHTY LALOUCHE, a new picture book about a Parisian postman at the turn of the 20th century, written by Matthew Olshan and illustrated by Blackall. 

What a wonderful package to receive in the mail! 

Find out what was inside each package by reading the full article in Publishers Weekly.


My Exciting News(!!): Two Book Contracts With Random House Children's Books

I am thrilled to announce that I will be illustrating two picture books written by Lauren McLaughlin debuting the pint-sized detective, MITZI TULANE, for Random House Children's Books. Editor: Maria Modugno. Art Director: TBA.

Lauren McLaughlin worked in the film business as both a screenwriter (Hypercube, Prisoner Of Love, Specimen) and producer (American Psycho, Buffalo '66, Vig, Stag and others), and she is the author of several teen novels including Scored, Cycler and (Re)Cycler. You can find out more about Lauren at http://www.laurenmclaughlin.net. I read Scored a while back and loved it, am looking forward to reading Lauren's other YA books as well.

My editor will be Maria Modugno. I was originally supposed to work with Maria on the RUBY ROSE books by Rob Sanders at HarperCollins Children's, but then I heard that Maria had left HC to become editorial director at Random House.

Maria Modugno, Editorial Director of picture books at Random House & Golden Books For Young Readers Group

Turns out that Maria still wanted to work with me (YAY!!) because soon afterward she contacted my agent, Ginger Knowlton, at Curtis Brown  and asked if I'd be interested in illustrating the Mitzi Tulane books.

I read the manuscript and fell head-over-heels in love with the pre-school detective.


I'll be starting work on the first Mitzi Tulane book in 2014.

Thank you SO VERY MUCH to my fantabulous agent, Ginger Knowlton, for helping make all this happen and keeping me organized, as well as Ginger's wonderful assistant, Mina Feig.

I'm soooo excited about all the fun picture book projects I have lined up over the next little while. These include...

What I'm working on right now:

NAKED! for Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by me.Editor: Justin Chanda. Art Director: Laurent Linn. Scheduled for publication in Summer 2014. Read the announcement about NAKED! in Entertainment Weekly.

What I will be working on in the near future and next couple of years:

UNTITLED picture book for Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, written AND illustrated by me (woohoo!!!!!). Editor: Justin Chanda. Art Director: Laurent Linn. Scheduled for publication in Spring 2015.

RUBY ROSE ON HER TOES for HarperCollins Children's Books, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by me. Editor: Margaret Anastas. Art Director: TBA. Publication date: TBA.

UNTITLED (second RUBY ROSE book) for HarperCollins Children's Books, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by me. Editor: Margaret Anastas. Art Director: TBA. Publication date: TBA.

UNTITLED (first MITZI TULANE book) for Random House Children's, written by Lauren McLaughlin and illustrated by me. Editor: Maria Modugno. Art Director: TBA.

UNTITLED (second MITZI TULANE book) for Random House Children's, written by Lauren McLaughlin and illustrated by me. Editor: Maria Modugno. Art Director: TBA.

Meanwhile, I am also working on writing and sometimes illustrating my own projects: picture books, illustrated middle grade, and YA. My children's book writer/illustrator sister Ruth Ohi and I are also planning to do a book project together. Life is pretty amazing right now, and I'm grateful for the people who have helped make it happen. I've mentioned a few of these people already, and will be posting about more of them over the coming year.

A Thank You To Justin Chanda & Simon & Schuster Children's

A Thank You Letter To The SCBWI

And how it all got started:

How A Rejection Got Me A Book Deal


Kindoma remote bedtime reading could be useful for authors

I was intrigued by this New York Times article, which talks about how Kindoma's new Storytime app lets grandparents and others read bedtime books remotely to children.

Another possible application: authors doing remote readings for small groups of students? Or larger groups, if the iPad is hooked up to a larger display.

I haven't yet tried the app, but the catch is that the app has to have the book in its library. Once the tech is streamlined and if successful, however, perhaps publishers would want to partner with Kindoma to make titles available. 


Kudos and Thanks

I'M BORED is 2013 ITC March Madness Champion!

Thanks to the Kindergarten and 1st Grade students at Avoca West Elementary in Illinois for choosing I'M BORED as their 2013 ITC March Madness Champion. :-)

For more info about Avoca as well as winners in other categories, see this blog post. Thanks to Susan Geidner for alerting me to this news via Twitter.


Thanks to Writer's Digest for choosing Inkygirl.com as one of its 101 Best Websites For Writers in the May/June issue!


MicroBookTweet: MAYA WAS GRUMPY by Courtney Pippin-Mathurs (Flashlight Press)

More info:

Courtney Pippin-Mathur website

Courtney Pippin-Mathur on Twitter: @pippinmathur

Kirkus Reviews on MAYA WAS GRUMPY


Back on Mon. April 22nd

Between travel and work commitments, my online access is going to be sporadic between now and Mon. April 22nd. Have a great week, all!


Comic: Sometimes you just have to learn to let go...


Survey results: 49% survey respondents feel negatively re: Amazon's acquisition of Goodreads

Last week, I asked you how you felt about Amazon's acquisition of Goodreads.

143 responded: 64% describe yourselves as writer and/or illustrators, 31% are teachers or librarians, 11% are editors, 6% publishers, 2% booksellers. As you can tell from the numbers, some of you wear more than one hat.

The question: Amazon and Goodreads have announced that Amazon will be acquiring the book-based social networking site. How do you feel about it?

What you said:


I posted the survey immediately after the announcement, but I suspect that if I had posted it after Laura Hazard Owen's interview with Amazon and Goodreads, less people would have voted negative. If I was voting? Not sure yet. I love the idea of being able to rate books on Goodreads from my Kindle, but one of the strengths of Goodreads (in terms of brand) was that everyone knew it was indie. This was even more important after all the controversy about Amazon culling book reviews and authors manipulating their Amazon rankings.

According to LHO's interview on Paidcontent, Amazon says that Goodreads will remain an independent subsidiary of Amazon, like IMDB. Thing is, people and sites that use IMDB don't tend to be direct competitors with Amazon. Will all those competing sites/companies be willing to continue supporting Goodreads?

I may post this survey again a year from now, to compare.

And I wouldn't be surprised if, at this very moment, there is someone out there who is working on filling the space left by the Goodreads acquisition: a book reviews site with the potential reach of Goodreads...but that is still independent.

Some comments from survey respondents:

"One of the wonderful things about GoodReads is that it was completely independent of any bookseller, publisher, author and it was reader driven. I could go there and get honest reviews and recommendations without having to worry that they were influenced by the bottom dollar. Now here's another good thing ruined by a major corporation."

"Neutrally optimistic? I don't much care, it might be a little interesting from the outside. I don't use GoodReads, though I have an account, and I use Kindle very little - no gadget and I tend to read through calibre or FBReader rather than the app."

"My worry is Amazon is already the thousand pound gorilla in this industry and readers, and especially writers, need some independent tools. Goodreads has been a reliable one of these, precisely because it isn't a direct seller, so it maintains independence. Losing this is a shame."

"People have pointed out that Amazon does not have a history of buying companies and then running them into the ground like other large companies, so I'm holding out hope for goodreads (which I just recommended to some of my students)."

"Will wait to see what changes are made. There have been a lot of complaints about issues at Goodreads. They might be fixed now, might be better or worse. BUT.. I wish esp. writers/pubs would stop the OMG the sky is falling everytime Amazon farts. If it was Apple or B&N there would have been silence. It gets really old."

"So far, they haven't ruined my fave bookstore, The Book Depository, and I was greatly afraid when they bought that. I only use Goodreads to really keep track of my reading... ...however, I'm not keen on Amazon buying just everything - that doesn't make me very happy - but it's a good excuse to gracefully bow out of Goodreads; I cannot STAND the whole Amazon rating/review things, and the crazy it inspires in authors, and if that's coming to town, I'm out."

"If I wanted to review books for Amazon I would. If I wanted Amazon to mine my data and reading habits I'd have a kindle."

"It all depends on whether Amazon changes or limits the experience."

"Cautious, sad they're only taking care of Kindles."

"Cautiously pessimistic?"

"They'll probably want to link everything to one profile--all my reviews and conversations. Just as they want to link my kindle! I don't want my book reviews linked to the stuff I write about vacuum cleaners or underwear. Bah."

"Best-case scenario: the acquisition will be a positive one for those who already use Amazon and have Kindles, and that it won't affect those of us who only use Goodreads at all. But I'll still be keeping an ear to the ground about possible replacements, just in case Amazon makes too many sweeping changes to what is a great site as-is."

"I don't trust Amazon. The jury is out. I'm concerned."


Also see my other Inkygirl surveys.


Amazon To Acquire Goodreads

Amazon has just announced that it's reached an agreement acquire book-based social network Goodreads for an undisclosed amount. How do you feel about this? Answer via this quickie 2-question survey, multiple choice and anonymous. Anyone who answers will be able to see survey results so far.

Also see other Inkygirl surveys and survey results.


Comic: The Wrong Time To Query An Editor



Any other comic geeks out there? You need to get OOKLA THE MOK VS EVIL

Above: cover for Ookla The Mok's new album, OOKLA THE MOK VS EVIL. Cover art illustration by Art Baltazar, an American comic book artist whose Tiny Titans won the 2011 Eisner Award For Best Publication For Kids.

I've known Rand Bellavia and Adam English of Ookla The Mok for many years; my music group (Urban Tapestry) and Ookla (they were just called Rand and Adam back then) became friends when we were both just starting out. Our paths don't tend to cross that often anymore, but we're looking forward to seeing them both next month at FilKONtario. If you don't know what filk is, feel free to check out my What Is Filk? post.

Anyway, this album has been playing nonstop in my basement office for the past month.

I used to read & collect print comics (Dr. Strange, Power Pack, Elektra, The Dark Knight, Swamp Thing, Elfquest, Chester Brown, Seth, others) until I started to rethink (1) the amount of money I was spending, and (2) the amount of storage space I had. I gave most of my comics to a friend who was thinking of starting up a comics library, but I did save some of my favorites as well as buying compilations to replace some individual issues. I still read comics, but mostly digitally.

Anyway, OOKLA THE MOK VS EVIL is pure fun, focusing entirely on Evil and Bad Guys. Tons of geek culture references throughout, not just from comics but also other media, from Stars Wars to Disney to Doctor Who. Catchy earworm melodies and strong lyrics make this a must-have album for the comics fan.

You can download the lyrics from OOKLA THE MOK VS EVIL from the Ookla The Mok website, and you can listen to the entire album before buying.

Sidenote: Rand is a librarian! Or rather, a Library Director. You can listen to a song I wrote for him many years ago: Library Boy.

Related links:

Ookla The Mok official website

Ookla The Mok Facebook page

Review: Ookla The Mok Vs Evil (Word Of The Nerd)

Ookla The Mok on CDBaby | Ookla The Mok On Amazon | Ookla The Mok On iTunes


2013 Keep Toronto Reading: If I Could Save One Book.... #KeepTorontoReading

To help support the Toronto Public Library's "Keep Toronto Reading 2013" campaign, I created the video above. 

The question: If the library was burning, which book would YOU save?

Join Toronto's One Book city-wide book club (hey, you don't HAVE to be in Toronto to enjoy the book) and read Ray Bradbury's classic novel, Farenheit 451. Then take part in one of the city-wide events during April: see the Toronto Public Library's Keep Toronto Reading 2013 page.


Comic: The Book Title

This comic was inspired by a post by the anonymous Intern years ago, before she came out as her true self: Hilary T. Smith, author of the upcoming WILD AWAKE (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins). See my recent interview with Hilary. Thanks to Hilary for permission to re-post the comic.