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


23,000th Follower Profile: YA Author Julie Williams On Writing Process, Art and Tips For Aspiring Writers

Thanks to Julie Williams (@JulieKWms2013) for being the 23,000th person to follow my @inkyelbows Twitter account! Julie is the author of two YA books. ESCAPING TORNADO SEASON: A Story In Poems (HarperCollins, 2004) is a novel in verse. IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD (title may change) will come out from Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press in 2013 or 2014. She's repped by Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency, Inc.

As I started checking out her blog, I discovered that Julie is not only a published author but also an artist. When she's not writing, she's likely to be in her studio up to her ears in paint, glue, markers, fabric, paper, old photos, beads, sticks, driftwood, stones, vintage books, lace and hardware -- all used to create her mixed media works.

Check out her gorgeous "Mardi-Gras Me-Dusa" piece, which was chosen for the cover of the Minnesota Women's Press magazine a while back:

The piece is a mixed media fiber art collage: fabric, fusible interfacing, thread, ribbon, beads, Lumiere acrylic paint, ribbon. Stitching was done by both hand and machine.

Q. What is your writing process?

I'm an avid journal keeper. I write first thing every morning no matter what and have been doing that for many years. When I'm working on a book, my journal becomes a place to try out all the WHAT IFs of my characters and story line. Almost all my back story writing happens in the journal first. Starting my day with the journal is the most constant part of my writing routine. In the early stages of a novel (you know, like the first THREE drafts) I write mostly in the mornings and only about 2 or 3 hours a day. I usually write about five days a week. Later, when I'm bringing the story home (like rewrites FOUR and FIVE) I become pretty obsessed and write for 5 or 6 hours a day or even longer and seven days a week. I wake, sleep, dream, eat and journal journal journal the book. That's where I am right now with what I hope is the final revision of IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD.

Whenever I get stuck in my writing (and I do get stuck, especially on a big project), I either let it sit and do artwork for a couple days, or I apply the visual work to the book project itself. What works for me: I make many charts and calendars and flip charts and story boards. Sometimes I even draw maps and do collages and make character paper dolls. Anything that helps me to not only track the characters and plot lines, but to flesh them out and make them dimensional. Whenever I take the time to do one or more of these things, the writing always flows again.

ESCAPING TORNADO SEASON is a novel in verse and it began with poems I'd written about my family and about growing up in Northern Minnesota and Nebraska. I wrote over a hundred new poems in order to create the story of Allie. It was an exciting process because I discovered that the more fictional the story line and characters became, the more they revealed the emotional truth I'd been searching for in my original writing. IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD is different in two big ways -- it's in a more traditional prose form and it's not nearly as autobiographical. But my inspiration for the book does come from the years I spent in the theatre here in the Midwest and from my wildly diverse and nontraditional family.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Do it because you love it, because if you don't write your head will explode.

Develop rituals that work for you -- like writing in a journal first thing in the morning (or right before you go to bed at night). Let the other parts of your life inform your writing and your writing rituals. When I was working on an earlier draft of IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD, I created a Director's Book inspired by my graduate study in Acting and Directing. And then when that wasn't giving me what I needed, I went back into it and added visual images to help capture things I might have missed about the characters and about their dreams and wants and needs and desires. When I was in the theatre I never dreamed I'd use those skills to write a book. No matter what "other life" you've led or are still leading -- mine it for your writing!

Read what you write out loud. And then, when you're too close to what you've written -- have someone else read it out loud to you so you can hear how someone else is receiving your words. That second one is a lot scarier than the first, but it is a pretty powerful tool. This revision I've done a lot of interviews with my main character (again, in my journal) and I'm always surprised what Jessie has to tell me when I get out of my own way.

I've been very fortunate to have one or two "first readers" that I love and trust. I think they encourage me to continue writing more than anyone or anything else.

Hook up with great organizations like the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and Sisters in Crime (SinC) where you can meet other people who write so their heads won't explode. I'm not a big group person myself (like a lot of creative people I tend to be a loner who needs a LOT of solitude). What helped me get over that obstacle was to volunteer to help at events and conferences and workshops and that led to many years of fruitful contacts and teaching opportunities. I met my first editor at an SCBWI retreat. My agent and I were in a writing group together when I lived in Southern California. Here in Minnesota I know if I show up at The Loft for a reading or a class or a workshop, I'll go away enriched and quite possibly with a new writing friend.

Facebook and Twitter (I'm just starting this!) and web sites and blogs, oh my! They work. I'm still learning about all of this and parts of it I love and parts of it I don't love so much. What I do love is meeting new people in a virtual way. I forget to check FB and twitter, so I set it up to receive everything in my email. This would make many people crazy but I love it. I'd rather delete what I don't want to read than miss something important.

Laugh a lot. Cry a lot. Listen hard. And keep writing so your head won't explode.

Q. I saw your gorgeous Mardi-Gras Me-Dusa piece. Have you ever combined your writing and artistic talents for any book projects?

I'm so glad you liked Mardi-Gras Me-Dusa. I had a lot of fun doing that fabric art collage and was really pleased when it was chosen for the cover of the November 2011 issue of Minnesota Women's Press magazine (e-edition and paper copy). I haven't combined the writing and artwork (in a finished product kind of way) yet, but would love to do that in a creative nonfiction/memoir piece. I'm really drawn to hybrid forms in both fiction and nonfiction. They are, as I'm sure you know, harder to sell. I am using some of my poems and other journal writings in my collages right now and am excited about the possibilities.

Q. What are you working on now? Any other upcoming events or other info you'd like to share?

I'm totally engrossed in what I hope is the last big rewrite of IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. By the time I finish the book, it will also have a new title!

Where you can find more info about Julie:

Julie Williams blog

Julie Williams gallery at MNArtists.org

On Twitter: @JulieKWms2013


Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.



Comic: Not A Good Way To Start The Year...


Comic: Too Much Backstory


Originally posted in Writer Unboxed. See my other comics in Writer Unboxed.


Comic: Writer Biscotti

Originally posted in Writer Unboxed. See my other comics in Writer Unboxed.


Comic: Pros and Cons Of Being A Freelance Writer

Originally posted in Writer Unboxed. See my other comics in Writer Unboxed.


Limited time to write but seeking a motivational challenge?

Too often, writing challenges end up in frustration and guilt rather than motivation. If you're looking for a writing challenge but have limited or unpredictable time to write, try my 250, 500 and 1000 words/day challenge.

And if you're on Facebook, you can encourage and commiserate with other writers on the 250/500/1000 Words A Day FB page.

Here are the rules.


Work goals for 2013: MiG Writers

I mentioned earlier that the members of my MiG Writers critique group have all posted their work goals for the coming year: here's the post. Thanks to Christy Farley (whose YA novel GILDED debuts this November) for putting this post together!

One of the reasons I'm so looking forward to the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC later this month is because it'll be the first time that all the members of MiG Writers will be meeting in person!

You can find out more about us on our blog: http://migwriters.blogspot.com.


Happy New Year's, everyone!


My 2013 Goal: To Make More Time To Read and Create Books (plus a New Year's Resolution Comic)

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I used to set ambitious New Year's goals every year ("I'm going to write 2000 words a day, every day!") but then get discouraged when I inevitably realized that, once again, I had set a goal or goals that were unrealistic. Or that had originally realistic but then got put on the back burner because of circumstances out of my control that had to take higher priority.

This year, I'm taking a different approach. While I am going to set some realistic work-related goals (to be posted on the MiG Writers blog) which I have tried hard to make realistic, I'm also going to work toward an overall goal:

Make more time to read and create books.

It's so easy to say, "I wish I had more time to xxxx" but the truth is that it's up to me to MAKE more time for what's important to me.

One of my tendencies is to want to do everything. I want to write (and illustrate!) more picture books. I want to work on my new MG and YA novel projects, because I know my writing and knowledge of the industry has improved over the years and I'm much confident about getting these newer book projects published. I have some fun nonfiction book ideas for grown-ups that I want to turn into book proposals so I can start pitching them. I'm thinking of self-publishing a compilation of my writing comics, but I also know that self-publishing requires a lot more admin/promo/marketing time. I want to keep all my webcomics updated but know I have way too many webcomics to keep updated. I want to improve my German language skills before Jeff and I attend Essen in late 2013. I want to improve my French language skills before Jeff and I visit French-speaking friends in late 2013. I want to write a new song for my music group to perform in our concert at FilKONtario. I want to reorg my home office. I want to learn more about non-digital art techniques like ink and watercolour, acrylics and multimedia textural art. I want to turn some of my cartoons and daily doodles into greeting cards. I want to help beef up content in my various collab group blogs. I want to improve my Photoshop skills and also go through Lynda.com tutorials on various creative software packages I've purchased in the last year. I want to write more songs. 

I could go on and on and on. Clearly, I can't do all the above. I need to let go of many of these goals, else I know I'm going to end up not attempting any of them very well. So again, I've decided to focus on the following:

Make more time to read and create books.

Throughout this coming year, in addition to my regular Inkygirl.com posts, I'm going to be sharing my experience in trying to make more time to read and create books.

My first steps:

1. Managing my email more efficiently.

2. Being more aware of how much time I'm spending on social media.

I'll report back on both of these first steps in upcoming Inkygirl posts, so stay tuned. :-)


Will Write For Chocolate updated: "Waiting For The Critique"

I'm going to try updating Will Write For Chocolate more regularly in 2013; I have so much more material now. :-) You can also get updates via the Will Write For Chocolate FB Page, on Google+, and on Pinterest.


Inkygirl survey results: how you discovered books this year

A while ago, I asked how you all discover books to read. 239 responded. 

Here's what you said:

Q: How do you discover new books to read?

Keep in mind that most of the respondents are kidlit/YA and/or publishing industry people. 71% describe themselves as writers, 16% book bloggers, 13% teachers, 9% librarians, 8% illustrators, 7% editors, 2% publishers, 1% agents.

Word of mouth was the the most popular way that people said they discovered new books to read.

Many said that they discover books by browsing library and bookstore shelves as well as recommendations from librarians and booksellers. Quite a few mentioned Amazon recommendations and NPR. Others mentioned talk shows like Oprah, television interviews, NPR reviews & discussions, publisher catalogs, Audible.com author blogs, individual author blogs, when book awards are announced,  library discards, book clubs, radio reviews, favorite blogs that also recommend books, literature courses, book calendars, books encountered while doing research, panels and discussions at conventions, book swaps, publisher & bookseller previews.

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

For past survey results, see the Inkygirl Survey Archives.


Project For Awesome: Debs & Errol talk about supporting literacy nonprofit The Office Of Letters and Light

The Office Of Letters and Light not only organizes NaNoWriMo but also the Young Writers Program, Script Frenzy and the Script Frenzy Young Writers Program, among other events. The goal: to help kids and adults find the inspiration, encouragement and structure they need to reach their creative potential. 

Here's a video from my friends Debs & Errol about why donating to OLL is a good thing:

If you support this cause, please do Vote for them on the Project For Awesome site, and comment/Like the video. Here's why:

If you've never heard of The Office Of Letters and Light, here's an overview:

If you're short on cash, there are other ways to help out OLL.


Inkygirl Golden Cupcake Winner: Kite Tails Newsletter


Congrats to the SCBWI Tri-Regions Of Southern California KITE TAILS newsletter for winning an Inkygirl Golden Cupcake Award!

KITE TAILS is a free online newsletter published by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. 

Each issue is packed with all kinds of useful info about the craft and business of writing and illustrating for young people, including interviews with agents and editors.

Some of the focus is on the West Coast, but there is still a ton of valuable advice and information of use to all children's writers and illustrators.

In the current issue, for example, you can find:

- What is a Sketchcrawl?

- Common Core State Standards: Education Reform and What It Means For Illustrators

- Report from SCBWI-L.A. Illustrator's Day includes useful details about what attendees learned. Advice from children's book writer/illustrator Dan Krall: "Don't try to second-guess what other people to see."

- If It's Work, Is It Supposed To Be Fun? A First Look At SCBWI-L.A.'s Working Writer's Retreat 2012

- On Queries - by literary agent Michael Bourret

- A Will Write For Chocolate comic by yours truly :-)

- Journey To The SCBWI Summer Conference - by my friend Maple Lam (who won a place in the SCBWI-LA Mentorship Program!)

- A Poet's Perspective - by Sheila Ellis

- The Hollywood Writer's SChmooze

- Profiles of local authors and illustrators

....and sooooo much more.

You can browse past issues in the Kite Tails archive online. And I should remind you again: all this info is FREE.

Congrats again to Kite Tails on winning the Golden Cupcake! :-)


Here is a list of other winners of the Inkygirl Golden Cupcake Award.


Inspiring TED Talk From Children's Book Author/Illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Aspiring AND experienced children's book authors and illustrators need to watch this video. 

I really want to meet Jarrett J. Krosoczka someday.

Some of my takeaways from the talk: How important it is for grown-ups to encourage imagination and creativity in children. How just a few encouraging words to a young artist or writer could have a deep and long-lasting impact.


"A Gift Of Time" holiday gift certificate for your writer friends

Here's a gift idea that every writer can appreciate: TIME TO WRITE.

What to write under "Details":

Depending on your relationship with the recipient, you could offer to do dishes for a week, pick up the kids from school, # hours of running errands, grocery shopping, babysitting and so on.

Just download the high-res version (1.3 MB), print it, cut out the certificate using the guidelines, fill in the information. 

Ideas for presenting the gift:

- Slip the certificate into a white envelope & then decorate the envelope with Christmas stickers, sparkles, etc.

- Roll up the certificate and tie a colorful ribbon around it. Present it as is, or wrapped in gold tissue paper.



I'M BORED Process: How a picture book is translated into other languages


 I was thrilled to find out that the French version of I'M BORED was available for ordering online, and then got curious about the process.

How does a picture book get translated? Are there any issues that children's book writers and illustrators need to be aware of, when working a project?

I interviewed Tracy Philips from the S&S UK Translation Rights team about the process, over the I'M BORED Scrapbook Blog.


Comic: The Best Gift For Writers


Interview with Adrienne Kress about THE FRIDAY SOCIETY: creative process & advice for writers

Photo of Adrienne: Tanja Tiziana. Steampunk background: http://valerianastock.deviantart.com

I met Adrienne Kress through the Toronto MG/YA Author Group (Torkidlit). She's smart, funny and passionate about her craft, and I've appreciated her advice and encouragement over the years. I interviewed Adrienne about her middle grade novels last year, and I can't wait to buy her new YA steampunk novel, THE FRIDAY SOCIETY (Dial, Dec/2012). More info on her website: AdrienneKress.com.

If you're in the Toronto area, I encourage you to go to Adrienne's book launch on Fri. Dec. 7th at the Gladstone Hotel. Check out this VERY cool event launch poster (click to see the bigger version):

Summary of the plot from a starred Quill & Quire review of THE FRIDAY SOCIETY: "The steampunk adventure novel, set in Edwardian London, follows the lives of three very different teenage girls, each of whom works for an important man but also maintains a life of her own. The three strangers – Cora (the lab assistant), Nellie (the magician’s assistant), and Michiko (the Japanese fighter’s assistant) – find themselves thrust together as the result of a horrific unsolved murder and quickly discover that, by combining their special skills, they can accomplish more than they ever thought possible."

Above: BookEnds interviews Adrienne about steampunk fiction, writing & THE FRIDAY SOCIETY.

Q. What was your creative process for The Friday Society?

The creative process for THE FRIDAY SOCIETY was very similar to the process for my writing in general.

It starts with thinking. Normally I get a cool basic idea. In this case it was a team of female Steampunk superheroes. Then I start to problem solve: how many should there be? Who are they? How do they meet? What is the basic plot that drives them? What are the supporting characters? Etc. The more I think, the more comes to me. It's all a bit of a logic exercise, "If they are like this, then this means that. If this is their job, that means that they probably live here. . ." and so on.

I really do just think about it for a good while. If the idea sticks with me, if it gives me butterflies still a week later, I take that as a sign that the idea has staying power. That's the key with writing for me. The act of writing is not glamorous. It's hard work. You aren't always inspired to write. In fact many days you feel a bit like a little kid who doesn't want to get up in the morning: "I don't wanna!!" So you need to have a project that you are completely passionate about. That you are willing to work through the rough patches for. At least I do.

Then comes figuring out the voice. This usually begins by jumping into the deep end and just starting writing. For THE FRIDAY SOCIETY it took a bit more effort than usual coming up with the voice. I started out writing it oldy-timey - a bit like the voice I used in my short story in the anthology CORSETS & CLOCKWORK - but it didn't really suit the light irreverent tone I was going for. Eventually the idea of writing the book in a contemporary voice came to me, and it made SO much sense. After all, the key to Steampunk is that it is anachronistic - a story set in the past but with futuristic technology and attitudes. Well why couldn't the actual act of telling the story be anachronistic too?? (if you want to read a post on the subject of anachronisms in Steampunk and why I chose the voice I did, check out my blog here). Once I had the voice, I could really get going on the story.

Photo: Tanja Tiziana

Now back when I was younger when I wrote just for fun, I realised I was the kind of person who enjoyed starting to write and seeing where the story took me. If I planned something out too much I got bored. I would feel, "Well, I already know what happens, what's the point in me writing it?" But I quickly learned that if I didn't do any planning whatsoever I would paint myself into a corner that I just couldn't get out of. So what I tend to do is a combination of both. I come up with a very basic plan, and then I fill in the blanks in the moment as I write. I also tend to plan in phases. So I'll plan the first fifth of the book, and when I'm coming to the end of that, I'll stop and plan the next fifth. Etc. As an example: with the beginning of THE FRIDAY SOCIETY I decided I wanted three chapters of introductions per girl and then I wanted my girls to meet up at a gala where they would come across . . . something mysterious. Seriously, that was it. Not much to go on, but still enough that I knew where I was going.

I should add at this point that I do tend to have a very basic idea of what the novel will be on the whole. This is part of what I think about during the thinking phase. But again it's very basic. In the case of TFS it was, "I want a Steampunk superhero origins story where my three girls defeat someone intent on destroying London for some reason. Also there will be subplots." :)

As I continue to write my book I, of course, come across bumps in the road and face difficult problem solving. This is always tricky to manage but I have learned that if I just stick with it I can get out to the other side. Sometimes it means moving onto something else or just going for a walk to clear my head. Sometimes it means sitting there and figuring it out one word at a time. And it's kind of amazing the direction your brain can take you. The characters of Hayao and Dr. Mantis were meant to be small one offs, but as I wrote them they just took on a life of their own and became integral to the story. This is why I enjoy not planning every little thing as I write, I love being surprised by my own story.

Now my method is simply mine. It certainly does not work for everyone. The most important thing is for a writer to find what works for him/her and be confident in that technique. So many blogs will tell you absolutes. But here's a secret: whatever works for you, works for you. Try different methods, see what sticks and discard that which doesn't. Don't be afraid to fail, and don't second guess when something is working for you.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Unfortunately my advice in not particularly glamorous nor original. It is: Read and Write. Ta da! To elaborate. . . Read. Read a lot. Read every genre and every medium. Read novels, non-fiction, plays, poetry, graphic novels, picture books etc etc and so forth. Everything you read will inform what you write. It will teach you the writing rules, it will teach you how to break those rules. It will teach you what you like, it will teach you what you aren't a fan of.

And then you have to write. You just have to write. A lot. You never really learn until you do. And you never really improve until you do a lot.

Q. Any upcoming events or current projects you'd like to share?

Well, the book launch for THE FRIDAY SOCIETY is this Friday at The Gladstone Hotel in Toronto

I am also doing a Steampunk event at Words Worth Books in Waterloo on December 12th with the wonderfully talented Morgan Rhodes (author of the upcoming FALLING KINGDOMS). 

Related links where you can find more info about Adrienne:

Adrienne Kress media kit

Adrienne Kress author website (Adrienne's also an actor, director, playwright & teacher)

On Twitter: @AdrienneKress, on Facebook

Inkygirl interview with Adrienne last year

Review of THE FRIDAY SOCIETY by Quill & Quire, Steampunk Canada

Some related interviews:

Avery's Book Nook: "The Friday Society" by Adrienne Kress

The Friday Society: A Chat with Adrienne Kress (The Book Smugglers)

Manga Maniac Cafe interview with Adrienne




Comic: Snowman Writer Gift


Comic: Snowman Writer Gift