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: Daily Savings Procrastination


Comic: Bilbiophile Break-Up


Mar/2012 Torkidlit Meetup at the Bedford Academy

I had great fun at the monthly Torkidlit (Toronto Area Middle Grade and YA Author Meetup) earlier this week. First-timers included: Julie Miller and Emily Pohl-Weary.

Nelsa Roberto brought a copy of her brand new YA book, THE BREAK (Great Plains Publications, 2012):

And Jo Karaplis had the coolest t-shirt:

And my sister came out to the meet up, yay!

I brought copies of my I'M BORED f&gs as well as TOMO:

For news about Torkidlit authors, see the Torkidlit News Facebook Page.

If you're a Toronto area middle grade or young adult author, feel free to join our Torkidlit Facebook group to get notifications about upcoming meet ups.

Here's what some Torkidlit members are up to these days:


Maureen McGowan

- Found out that her new series will be called THE DUST CHRONICLES. The first title, DEVIANTS, will be part of Marshall Cavendish's Fall catalogue.


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Jo Swartz

- Invited to do a workshop at TPL in October as part  of the Young Writer's Conference.



Cheryl Rainfield Page on Facebook.

- Did a talk at York university, went beautifully!

- Did a radio show with Dr. Beth on self-harm, SCARS, ritual abuse, HUNTED

- HUNTED came out in Canada from Fitzhenry & Whiteside in February

- Having a launch for HUNTED on Mar.31st at Bakka-Phoenix Books, 4-6 pm

Karen Krossing

- Her book THE YO-YO PROPHET (Orca) was an Honorable Mention on the Ontario Library Assocation Best Bets List.

- Has written 10 chapters on her work-in-progress.

Megan Crewe

- Had a successful THE WAY WE FALL launch.

- If you're in the Toronto area and want a signed copy of the book, stop by Bakka-Phoenix Books to get your hands on one.

Lena Coakley

- Has been invited to be a speaker at CANSCAIP's Packaging Your Imagination conference

- Lena is also on sub and hopes to have news soon!



Mahtab Narsimhan

- THE TIFFIN is on the OLA Best Bets list for 2012, and is also shortlisted by CLA for the 2012 Children's Book Award.


Marina Cohen

- Signed with John Cusick of Scott Treimel, NY


Nelsa Roberto

- Her new book, THE BREAK, just launched!


Tamara Leavitt

- Preparing to launch her picture book and ebook in the Spring


Anne Laurel Carter

- Teaching at the University of Toronto, Continuing Studies: "Writing For Children" on Saturdays 11-1:30 starting April 14th


Emily Pohl-Weary

It was Emily's first time at a Torkidlit meet up! She's revising a teen novel for Penguin Razorbill (Canada) and Marshall Cavendish (U.S.).


Ruth Ohi

My sister! Her new picture book just came out from Annick Press: CHICKEN, PIG, COW'S FIRST FIGHT.

Debbie headshot 300w

Debbie Ridpath Ohi

My talk at last weekend's Autodesk SketchBook Toronto Event went well (and I'm dreaming of that amazing Susur Lee 12-course dinner!). Also visited the offices of SImon & Schuster Canada to talk about I'M BORED promo and have been working on the I'M BORED scrapbook (covers the process of creating a picture book with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers).


To find out more about Torkidlit, see:



Everything you ever wanted to know about middle grade: by Molly O'Neill & Michael Bourret

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HarperCollins children's book editor Molly O'Neill and Dystel & Goderich literary agent Michael Bourret are talking online about middle grade books, and the conversation is fascinating as well as informative...

Part 1: Everything you ever wanted to know about middle grade…and were willing to ask

Part 2: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Middle Grade, Part 2: Technology and Gender and Marketing, Oh My!


Inspiration, Art and a 12-Course Susur Lee Dinner at the Autodesk SketchBook Toronto Event

Badge pick up at Autodesk

I have been a fan of the iPad since it first came out, and my favorite art app is Autodesk Sketchbook Pro (I've just started to learn the desktop version). A while ago, I posted a sketch that I did with the app on my iPad while waiting in an airport. I had noticed a little boy with his family nearby, and he noticed me sketching. Curious, he came over to look. I did a quick sketch of him, and he was delighted.


I posted about the experience, pointing out how cool it was that a quickie little sketch could bridge the communication gap between different cultures. Chris Cheung, the SketchBook product manager at Autodesk, e-mailed me about the post; we kept in sporadic touch after that. Eventually we met in person, hit it off (we're both nerds and love SketchBook -- how could we not? :-)) and he invited me to speak at SketchBook's first dedicated Toronto event.

The theme: "Inspiration."

Nick Pagee from TIFF

Above: Nick Pagee, TIFF Consultant: Gaming & New Media

I HAD AN AMAZING TIME. First of all, the other speakers were fantastic. They included Skottie Young, Bobby Chiu, Nick Pagee, Miguel Sternberg, C.B. Cebulski, Francis Manapul and Benjamin Rabe, among others. You can read their bios on the the SketchBook blog.

Susur Lee talks about inspiration

One surprise guest (above): renowned Toronto chef Susur Lee, who talked about inspiration and food. After Susur's talk, he went back to his restaurant to prepare a 12 course meal for all of us (!).

C.B. Cebulski (Marvel)

Above: C.B. Cebulski from Marvel.

The event was invite-only, and apparently even the waiting list filled up quickly. The speakers could invite a few people, so I sent invites to my sister (a children's book writer and illustrator) and Patricia Storms (cartoonist and children's book writer/illustrator). Sadly, Ruth couldn't come and I knew Chris Cheung was interested in the NCS, so I asked Patricia if any of the other National Cartoonists Society members would be interested.

Jonathan Mahood, Mike Cope, Patricia Storms and Kate

Above: my guests - Jonathan Mahood, Mike Cope (Chairman of the Canadian Chapter of the NCS), Patricia Storms and Katie Shanahan. Thanks to Jonathan for the photo of me during my talk.

Giving a talk at the Mar/2012 Autodesk SketchBook event

It was especially great to have Patricia in the audience since we were already friends through Torkidlit (Toronto Area Middle Grade and Young Adult Author Group) because whenever I got too nervous, I just focused on her smiling "YOU CAN DO IT!!" face. :-)

From the feedback I received afterward, I think my talk went pretty well. Chris had asked me to describe my unusual career path from being a computer programmer to a children's book illustrator with Simon & Schuster.

Several of the people that approached me afterward said that they were programmers with creative streaks similar to mine, and that my story was inspiring (yay!!). Some said they enjoyed hearing about my process while others seemed drawn by the personal narrative. A lot of people mentioned my enthusiasm. :-)

And quite a few of them said they planned to buy I'M BORED when it comes out this September (YAAAAAY!).

Tina Burke & Patricia Storms

Above: Patricia Storms and Tina Burke.

Autodesk staff & Brendan Frye peruse my I'M BORED f&g

(Above: Autodesk staff peruse my I'M BORED f&gs. On the right: Brendan Frye of Comics & Gaming Magazine.)

The Autodesk offices are gorgeous. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to take one of the tours, but I loved what I saw. When I arrived, I was asked if I'd be willing to be interviewed by the media. I said yes, of course. :-)

I ended up missing some of the talks as a result, but I had fun chatting with Mark Askwith (Space Channel), Joanna Adams (Toronto Standard) and Brendan Frye (Comics & Gaming Magazine). Found out that Brendan is a fellow board gamer (on BoardGameGeek, he's bfrye26).

Bobby Chiu & Kei Acedera
Above: Bobby Chiu & Kei Acedera from Imaginism Studios

There were plenty of opportunities throughout the afternoon for chatting with other attendees. Plus Marvel's senior VP, C.B. Cebulski, was available for one-on-one meetings throughout the day (he's always scouting for talent).

Two people I especially enjoyed meeting were concept artists Bobby Chiu and Kei Acedera. Bobby and Kei are co-owners of Imaginism Studios (Kei is also a children's book illustrator). They've done work for Disney, Warner Bros., Dreamworks, Sony, Universal Studios, among others. Bobby designed creatures for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland! He also teaches on

Plus both Bobby and Kei are INCREDIBLY NICE PEOPLE. Very positive, enthusiastic and supportive. I hope our paths cross again.

Bobby Chiu and Kei Acedera

So many giveaways and freebies handed out throughout the day! Prizes ranged from graphic novels to artwork to a Intuos drawing tablet, Wacom Inkling, soooo much other cool stuff. Everyone who attended received a Silver Snail gift certificate, a bunch of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro tshirts, a copy of THE PERFECT BAIT by Bobby Chiu (tips for artists about finding your own style and creating demand), and (yes) more cool stuff.

Prize giveaway

(Above: Chris Cheung does a giveaway with Francis Manapul (DC comic artist)).

Epson had an area where you could test out some of their artist quality printers by e-mailing them a file or ask any questions. In another area, you try drawing on Cintiques. And there was cake and other snackables always available. We all felt very spoiled.

No one wanted to fill up on snacks, though, because we all knew that after the talks, we would all be heading over to Lee for a 12-course culinary extravaganza prepared by master chef, Susur Lee:

Everyone at the SketchBook event in Toronto was treated to a 12-course meal at Susur Lee's restaurant

Omigosh…SOOOOOoooOOOOooo good! Drooling even now, just thinking about that incredible meal.

Thanks you SO MUCH to Autodesk and Chris Cheung for inviting me to this event. I had SUCH an amazing time.

You can see other photos I took on my iPhone at the event in my Autodesk SketchBook Event album on Flickr.


Woohoo! My contributor's copies of TOMO are here!!

YAY! My contributor's copies of TOMO arrived today!! TOMO (which means "friend" in Japanese) features 36 stories for teens by authors and artists around the world. One of these stories is by me: it's my very first graphic short story, which is sort of a fantasy/romance/horror. Here's the first page:

Looking forward to reading other stories!

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit teens affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Please do consider buying a copy, and tell your friends! You can point them to this online postcard about TOMO.

Find out more about the anthology here: (includes an interview with me)

From Kirkus Reviews:

A broadly appealing mix of the tragic and droll, comforting, disturbing, exotic and universal, with nary a clinker in the bunch.

Buy on Indiebound

Buy on Amazon (On sale for $9.95 right now)

Be sure to visit the Tomo website to learn about our events this March at Boston Children's Museum and the New York Public Library in Manhattan.


New Blog: SUSAN SAYS - by children's book literary agent, Susan Hawk

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I enjoyed meeting Susan Hawk at the SCBWI annual conference in NYC, and I just found out she has a new blog!


Susan worked in children's book marketing for over 15 years, most recently as the Marketing Director at Henry Holt Books For Young Readers. Before that: Library Marketing Director at Penguin Young Readers Group. While at Penguin, she also helped acquired projects for Dutton Editorial.

From her About page:

I handle books for children exclusively: picture books, chapter books, middle grade and YA, fiction and non-fiction. In middle-grade and YA, I’m looking for something that makes me laugh out loud, I’m a sucker for bittersweet, and I can’t resist a character that comes to understand how perfectly imperfect the world is. I want a book to stay with me long after I finish reading, and I’m looking for powerful, original writing. I’m open to mystery, scifi, humor, boy books, historical, contemporary (really any genre). My favorite projects live at the intersection of literary and commercial. In non-fiction I’m looking for books that relate to kid’s daily lives and their concerns with the world. In picture books, I’m looking particularly for author-illustrators, succinct but expressive texts, and characters as indelible as my childhood favorites Ferdinand, Madeline, George and Martha.

Where you can find more info about Susan:

Her Susan Says blog:

On Twitter: @susanhawk

Also, Heather Ayris Burnell recently interviewed Susan Hawk about picture books: why she represents picture books, what she looks for, common submission mistakes, and preferred word count.


Blog Highlight: Schiel & Denver's Ramblings From A Busy Publishing Office

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Just discovered this blog while doing a Google search for publishing news: a great mix of publishing industry news and info of interest to writers. Schiel and Denver is an on-demand publisher with offices in the U.S. and UK.

Blog URL:

On Twitter: @schieldenver


Michael Ian Black and I'M BORED

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I've updated the I'M BORED Scrapbook with a post about author Michael Ian Black. As I've mentioned before, I've been interviewing the author, editor and art director for this book and posting about the process on the Scrapbook.

Most recently, I asked MIB about his writing process - what inspired him to write I'M BORED and how the process went.

Here's what he replied. (Warning: he says some embarrassingly nice things about ME.)


Congrats to Valerie Haight: My 16,000th Twitter Follower!



Today I'm highlighting Valerie Haight, who was the 16,000th person to follow my @inkyelbows account on Twitter. :-) Valerie was also mentioned in Joani Plenty's blog recently and although I've never met Valerie in person, she sounds like someone I would like to meet someday.

Valerie's first e-book, HAPPENSTANCE, will be released through Turquoise Morning Press in December. She also has a suspense represented by Blue Ridge Literary Agency that is currently in edits. and is working on a suspense she says she hopes to pitch in May.

I asked Valerie how she found me on Twitter. Her answer:

I found you by searching the amwriting hashtag on Twitter. I've been on Twitter almost three years and I joined to meet other writers, broaden my resource opportunity and to market my books.

You can find out more about Valerie on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog.

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Related links:

Blue Ridge Literary Agency blog post about Valerie


Comics for writers, Will Write For Chocolate and thoughts on self-publishing


Comic: Fast Writer Envy

I'm posting some of my older comics here as I catalog and tag them in prep for a print book compilation:


Comic: Plot For Sale

As I gradually catalog my writing comics in prep for a book compilation, I'm posting them here in Inkygirl:


Comic: Death and the Writer

From the Inkygirl comic archives...


I'M BORED Scrapbook Blog Launched: how a picture book was created

****Update February 14, 2013: Please note that the Scrapbook and other bonus material have been moved to the I'M BORED Bonus Page.

I recently launched the I'M BORED Scrapbook, a place where I'll be pulling in everything I've been posting related to I'M BORED. Until the picture book launches this September, I'm mainly going to be focusing on a series of blog posts about how this picture book was creating, from start to finish.

Editor Justin Chanda, art director Laurent Linn and author Michael Ian Black have all been kind enough to answer some questions about the process for me.

The most recent post gave me a chance to ask Justin questions I've been wondering about, like whether he attended that 2010 SCBWI-LA conference with the goal of finding an illustrator for Michael's book, what exactly appealed to him about my portfolio, and what Michael's reaction was to my art.

Next up on the Scrapbook: Michael shares what inspired him to write I'M BORED.



Comic: Valentine Rejection

From my comic archives:


Video series with Literary Agent Kristin every Friday

Just discovered that Agent Kristin, who writes the excellent Pubrants blog, has a video series. The most recent explains why asking about the number of pages in YA or MG novel is the wrong question.


Interview: Hazel Mitchell & HIDDEN NEW JERSEY (Post a comment to be entered in the prize draw!)

Today, I'm delighted to interview my Pixel Shavings friend, children's book illustrator and writer Hazel Mitchell, about her newest project.

Published by Charlesbridge/Mackinac Island Press, HIDDEN NEW JERSEY is a new book written by Linda Barth and illustrated by Hazel. The book is packed with historical, cultural and fun facts about New Jersey shared in rhyming narrative and Hazel's wonderful art. Young children can search for the hidden pictures throughout as they learn more about the state.

For a chance to win a copy of this book, just post in the comments section below! Be sure to enter your e-mail address so we can contact you if you win (random draw).


How did you become the illustrator of Hidden New Jersey?

The developer for the book, from Mackinac Island Press (imprint of Charlesbridge) has produced two other books in this series (about Michigan and Ohio) and was looking for an illustrator for New Jersey. She saw some of my work on my Facebook fan page and contacted me. We took it from there. Hurrah for social networking!

Hurray, indeed! How useful have you found social networking in your career? And how did you find the right balance between online marketing/networking and your creative work?

Yes I have, in many ways: making contacts and meeting new people in the industry, learning from other's blog posts and links and for getting my work out in to the world. I spend a lot less time on line than I used to .. especially when I am working on projects. Marketing is a big part of the book industry these days so I will probably spend at least an hour a day doing something online.

Have you ever been to New Jersey?

Yes! My hubby was raised there, so we went to visit occasionally. I had no idea it was such a diverse state, though! The author, Linda J Barth lives in New Jersey and is a local historian.

Did you have any direct interaction with the author during the project?

No, put now the book is ready to publish we have liaised on marketing ideas. it's really great she loved what I did with her words! Phew!

How many illustrations did you have to do for the book? How long did it take?

I did 15 double spreads, plus the artwork for the covers, title/verso page and the 'hidden objects'. In total about 4 months. About 5 days on each full spread.

What media do you work with?

The line work is done in graphite and then I scan in and colour completely in photoshop.

Does illustrating a nonfiction book differ from illustrating a fiction book?

In some cases yes. In this case there was no running narrative throughout the book, as each page is specifically about a different region of New Jersey. So I had to include all the 'facts' in a montage style, abit like a jigsaw puzzle, and yet keep the feel of the illustrations cohesive. I did include the characters from the front of the book (in their canoe) throughout the illustrations as well as their little bumble bee friend, who is the state's adopted insect. There was a lot of research to be done as the illustrations had to accurately reflect many historical places. It was definitely a challenge, but an enjoyable one.

What are you working on now?

I am just about to start illustrating the fourth book in the 'All Star Cheerleaders' chapter book series by Anatasia Suen, (pub Kane Miller). And I am working on writing and illustrating my own picture books, and somewhere in the mix is an illustrated YA. So there is no chance that I will get BORED :-)

Ha! :-D And wow, you have a lot on your plate. How do you juggle your work schedule between so many different type of projects? Any tips to offer other illustrators with multiple projects on the go?

I like a lot going on. It's stimulating. When I have only one thing to do I feel like I am not working at my best. This probably stems from my Naval career and running a print business for many years. However when I am working on a book project I do find it hard to drop it and work on something else. I prefer to see the whole thing through in one go.

Sounds like a contradiction after saying I like working on lots of stuff. But mostly I am thinking about other projects, or making notes. If I have multiple deadlines, then I try and break the day up, or at least swap alternate days to work on them. It's hard. And then sometimes you hit a lull, and it's like you don't know what to do with yourself :-)

My advice is make lists. I cannot do without them and ticking things off gives me a sense of moving forward. I am learning that you have to go with the flow in the world of publishing, that's for sure!



You can find out more about Hidden New Jersey and Hazel Mitchell at the Hidden New Jersey Facebook PageHazel's Personal Facebook PageHazel's Pro Facebook Page,  Hazel's website and Hazel's blog.


Other recent posts about HIDDEN NEW JERSEY:

Pixel Shavings: Hazel outlines the step-by-step process of how she illustrated HIDDEN NEW JERSEY

David L. Harrison's blog post

Joanne Marple's "Miss Marple's Musings" blog

Michelle Henninger's Hidden NJ blog post


Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.


Allen & Unwin opens Friday Pitch to kidlit/YA writers



Publisher Allen & Unwin recently opened up their Friday Pitch to children's/YA writers. Before making your pitch, make sure you read through all the guidelines carefully. They're not accepting pitches for picture book texts, for example, or poetry or short stories.


One Of My Favourite New SCBWI Friends: Mike Curato



Still catching up from my week-long trip in NYC. I've decided I'm more likely to actually post about the event if I write up some shorter pieces rather than attempt one mega-long report. So here's my first!

I love making new friends at these events, which is one reason I try very hard NOT to make too many plans in advance, or hang out with the same group of people throughout the weekend.

Anyway, thanks to my Pixel Shavings friend Russ Cox for introducing me to Mike Curato (who just launched a NEW BLOG).

Not only is Mike a funny and very sweet guy, he also won top prize in this year's SCBWI Winter Conference Illustration Portfolio Showcase!

On the last day of the conference, I went out for lunch with Mike, Russ Cox, Fred Koehler, Roberta Gallagher-Rivera and Wouter Bruneel:

During the meal, I nagged (yes, I'm embarrassed to admit I did NAG) Mike to start a blog. I pointed out that with his award win, lots of people would be checking out his website after the conference. And look, he started one!!! And he gave me credit. :-)

Afterward, we had some fun taking photos out in Grand Central Terminal. From left to right: Russ, Mike, Roberta, Fred and Wouter.

Anyway, I -love- Mike's work, and can't wait to see where his career takes him next.

Where you can find more info about Mike:

Mike Curato's website

Mike Curator's brand new BLOG

Mike Curato Illustration (Facebook Page)

Mike Curato Etsy Page