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


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:

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:

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


Interview with Lena Coakley, author of WITCHLANDERS

Photo: Emma-Lee Photography

I met Lena Coakley through the Torkidlit: Toronto Middle Grade and YA Author Group, and have been excited to see all the praise that her debut novel WITCHLANDERS, published by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster Children's, has been getting from Kirkus Reviews (starred review), Publishers Weekly (starred review), School Library Journal (starred review) and other respected publications. The book also won the 2012 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the Americas Region and is a Junior Library Guild selection.

Here's a plot summary of Witchlanders:

High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future. It’s all a fake. At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated? But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned— Are about him.

Q. What was the writing process like? How long did it take? 

Witchlanders was a labour of love. It took me ten years to write—eight years on my own, and two years working through three critique letters with my wonderful agent, Steven Malk of Writers House. Of course, one of the reasons it took me so long was because it was my first novel and I had no idea what I was doing.

I didn’t have an outline—when I started out, I didn’t really know enough about structure to make one—so instead I kept revising and revising until a structure began to emerge. I have to say, I don’t really recommend this method because it takes forever! For the book I’m writing now, I have a detailed outline. I’ve learned my lesson!



Q. How detailed is your outline? Could you please tell us more about your outlining process?

I use the screenwriting guru John Truby’s methods; here’s a picture of the outline for my current work-in-progress.


I’ve written a short synopsis of each scene on individual file cards, which are then organized into rows underneath the plot point they correspond to such as the inciting incident, the opponents’ plan and counter attack and the final battle.

Q. I love how detailed and real your world-building is in Witchlanders. What's your world-building process?

People often ask me about the worldbuilding in Witchlanders because they find the two countries in the book, the Witchlands and the Bitterlands, so intricate and detailed. Because worldbuilding comes naturally to me, it’s difficult for me to articulate how I created these places.

It’s funny; plot is something that I’ve had to learn, and so story structure is something I can talk about. I have a vocabulary for it because to understand it I’ve had to read books and talk to other authors. All I can say about worldbuilding is: It’s important to walk your world. What I mean by that is, it’s important to lie in your bed or sit in your chair imagining every corner of it –the culture, the ecosystem, the religions, the people. I spent a lot of time thinking about places and people that never ended up in my book. Friends and family might think this looks like lazy daydreaming—but we authors know better!

How do you keep track of all these world-building ideas as they come to you?

I haven’t really come up with a way to organize these ideas other than writing long lists, which isn’t very practical. I know many authors create something they call a “world bible” that they use as a reference tool. I’m sure that if I ever write a series I will have to create one of these because there is no way I will be able to keep all my world-building elements straight in my head.

Above: Wattpadd interviews Lena at S&S offices.

Q. If you could go back in time and give your young writer self some advice, what would it be?

I think the young writer I was just had to learn by doing, so I’m not sure what sort of advice would have been helpful. Certainly, every bit of encouragement I received over those ten years was worth its weight in gold.

Writing is a lonely business, so I think if I could go back in time, I’d probably just say: “You can do it. I know it seems like this novel will never be finished, but if you put one word in front of the other, sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter, the miracle will happen. You’ll finish a book.” And if anyone reading this is mired in the morass of their first novel, that’s what I’d say to them, too.

Q. Did you get any rejections when you started submitting your writing? If so, do you have any advice for writers about how to cope with rejections?

Of course I got rejections! When I was looking for an agent, my trick was to send out a batch of five queries and then immediately choose what the next batch of five was going to be. I tried to convince myself that it would actually be a good thing to be rejected because the second batch was even better than the first. Of course, sometimes the rejection just gets you down. I took a break from querying when I knew that a negative response was going to make me too depressed to write.

Q. Would you like to share anything about your current/upcoming projects?

I’m pleased as punch about what I’m working on now. It’s a YA fantasy about the young Brontë siblings and the characters they wrote about in their juvenilia. I can’t say too much about it—I’m afraid even the title is up in the air—but I’m happy to report that it will be published in 2014 by Abrams in the US and HarperCollins in Canada.

Other places you can find out more about Lena and her work:

Lena Coakley's website

Lena Coakley on Facebook

Lena Coakley on Twitter (@lenacoakley)


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


Today's print issue of The New York Times Sunday Book Review has their list of Notable Children's Books Of 2012. There are six YA books, eleven middle grade books, and eight picture books….and I'M BORED (written by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by me) is included!! I'm about to head out this morning to hunt down a copy of The New York Times  in Toronto but first, I wanted to write this post:

It's been a truly extraordinary year for me.

Not only did my very first children's book come out in bookstores, but Simon & Schuster also gave me contracts for two more books - one of which I'm also writing. I am grateful to so many people who have encouraged and supported me in the past as well as during the I'M BORED creation process, but today I'd like to mention one person in particular: Justin Chanda.

JustinChanda bySonyaSones credit

In 2010, Justin saw my portfolio in the SCBWI Summer Conference Showcase and decided that I'd be the perfect illustrator for Michael Ian Black's newest picture book. Later on (after it was too late for him to change his mind), I asked Justin more about why he picked me; you can read some of his answers in the I'M BORED Scrapbook.

S SKids

Justin had never heard of me when he first approached me at the conference. He didn't know anything about my "author platform" or the fact that I had been focusing on writing up to that point ... it was all about my art. From Justin, when I asked him:

There was a sense of whimsy and definite style. I loved the assorted cast of characters, but I loved your point of view just as much. I remember there was an illustration of a robot who had lost his arm and one of a little girl looking at these tiny monsters. In both instances I got a clear sense of character, a sense of humor, and a sense of style.

Over the years, I've had a wide range of rejection letters from a wide range of children's book publishers…from the bare form letter for my early efforts up to much more personalized "we like her writing but the story's not quite there" or "we love her mss but it doesn't quite fit our list right now". I've been appreciative of all feedback and I can tell by the quality of the rejections that I've been getting much closer…. but they're still rejections. :-)

Justin Chanda was the first children's book editor to believe in me enough to offer me a contract, and I will always be grateful to him and Simon & Schuster Children's. I'M BORED has opened up other opportunities at S&S, with two more picture book contracts. Justin says he'd also be happy to take a look at anything else I've done, including my middle grade and young adult writing (YAY), so I've  been working hard on some new projects.

2011 01 31 SS Sign


I'm going to be writing a series of short gratitude posts over the coming months, thanking some of the people in my life as well as those involved with the creation of I'M BORED, but for now... I'm going out to get a print version of The New York Times Sunday Review so I can get ink on my fingers and spend way too much time marvelling at the extraordinary fact that my name is included.

Photo below was taken by my husband Jeff, when The New York Times reviewed I'M BORED back in September. Below the photo, I've posted the comic I created after reading the review. 


NYTimesBoredComic 600


Happy "Take Your Child To A Bookstore" Day!

December TakeChildBkstoreDay 500

Take  Your Child To A Bookstore Day was founded by children's book author Jenny Milchman, whose debut novel COVER OF SNOW comes out from Ballantine in January. More info about Take Your Child To A Bookstore Day:

Take Your Child To A Bookstore website

Publishers Weekly article (December 1, 2012)


Comic Caption Contest & A PiBoIdMo Guest Post

PiboIdMoscreenshotI have a comic caption contest over on Tara Lazar's blog today, as part of PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) as well as a guest post about how I come up with picture book ideas.

The winner gets a signed copy of I’M BORED with a hand-drawn doodle inside. If you already have a copy of the book (yay, thank you!), I will inscribe the book to anyone you’d like and send it to them. Even if you DON’T win, all commenters will be entered in a random drawing for a hand-drawn doodle.


New NaNoMusical episode out today: "Page and Page Count" (and my book is in the first scene, woohoo!)

Yay, a new episode of NaNoMusical came out today!


And LOOK, a copy of I'M BORED is in the background!!

2012 11 BoredNaNoMusicalEp4

Even if it wasn't, this episode would still be my favourite.

I love the chemistry between the two lead actors, the humor, the background characters (Muses?) who assist Jill and Dale during the genuinely touching duet at the end.

Ooo, and it looks as if the NaNoMusical crew is putting together a professional CD!


Daily NaNoToons being posted over at

Just a reminder that Errol Elumir and I are posting daily NaNoWriMo comics over on Here's today's:


Throughout November, you can read daily comics about NaNoWrMo.

AND Errol and I have also been posting our archived comics about NaNoWriMo from previous years, so please do bookmark:


Today's Google Doodle celebrates Bram Stoker's books


Episode 2 of NaNoMusical now online!

Yay, episode 2 of NaNoMusical is online! I just love the delicious NaNoEmoAngst of the first song. Plus Dale and Jill are just SO ADORABLE together. :-)

In case you missed the first episode:


New comic on Writer Unboxed


Tina Cho's Advice For Aspiring Picture Book Writers

Congrats to Tina Cho, who recently won the COWBOY CHRISTMAS book prize giveaway as part of my interview with Rob Sanders.

Tina Cho is an author of 22 guided reading books from Lakeshore Learning and Compass Media. My Mini Pet Shop and The Christian Girls Guide to Grace (a book about etiquette), both with Legacy Press Kids, and a coloring book with Warner Press will be out in 2013. She is a former elementary teacher who currently homeschools her 5th grade daughter and 2nd grade son. Though she grew up in Iowa, she is now living outside of Seoul, South Korea. She is participating in Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 in 2012 picture book challenge and Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo.

You can find out more info about Tina at

What advice do you have for aspiring picture book writers?

I had to read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by the late Stephen Covey in college, and one of those seven habits stays by my side. "Be proactive." If you really want to learn how to write picture books and get one published, you can! Join a critique group. Read writing craft books. Read writers', illustrators', editors', and agents' blogs. My children's lunch was delayed today because I was so engrossed in reading blogs! Read picture books every day. And join picture book challenges. Not only are they fun, but they connect you to other writers like yourself. 


For more insights from children's book writers and illustrators, see the Inkygirl Interview Archives.


KidLit Cares: KidLit Community Raises Funds For Post-Sandy Relief Efforts


 If you're a teacher, librarian, aspiring kidlit/YA author or illustrator, I strongly urge you to check out the services currently up for auction on Kate Messner's site as part of KidLit Cares, generously donated by members of the children's/YA community to help raise funds for Red Cross disaster relief efforts.

NOTE: If you lack the money, expertise or time to bid or donate services, you can still help by spreading the word about KidLitCares. If you're on Facebook, do "Like" the KidLitCares Facebook Page. You can follow KidLitCares updates on Twitter with the #kidlitcares hashtag.

Just a few of the listings:

Penguin Art Director Giuseppe Castellano is offering a written portfolio critique, with a follow-up phone call to discuss your work. Just added yesterday: "If we reach $300, I’ll add a one-on-one lunch with me, my treat. We can talk about art and publishing, linseed oil and Wacom tablets! We’ll hammer out details after the auction. If we reach $500, in addition to the above, I will bring a book idea of yours to our Editorial Meeting." Details here. (Auction closes Tue. Nov. 13, 2012)

Chronicle Books editor Melissa Manlove is offering a picture book critique, a "free pass" to an editorial meeting (will take your revised mss to an acquisitions meeting for consideration & feedback), $300 of Chronicle books, advance copies of four of her books.

And just added yesterday: "If the bids reach $3,000 I will include a one-on-one lunch with me whenever we’re next in the same area (my treat, of course)–at which you will feel free to pepper me with publishing questions." Details here. (Auction closes Mon. Nov. 12, 2012)

Egmont USA publisher Elizabeth Law, who specializes in children's and YA fiction, will critique 30 pages and a synopsis of your manuscript. Elizabeth will provide written notes and line edits and have a 40 minute phone call with you to discuss your project and your writing, and any questions at all you have about the industry, agents, publishers, e-books etc.

AND (just added yesterday), she'll read, critique & discuss the first 40 pages and synopsis of the next round of your manuscript, if you get it to her within 6 months of her initial call. Details here. (Auction closes Fri. Nov 9, 2012)

These are only a few of many amazing services being offered for auction by editors, art directors, agents, publishers, authors and illustrators as part of KidLit Cares, so do check out all the listings on Kate Messner's site. Writers wanting to connect with editors and agents should note that listings include a mss critique & phonecall with Bloomsbury Children's Books editor Caroline Abbey, phonecall with Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, query crit & phonecall with Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency, phonecall and crit of your mss & synopsis & query letter with literary agent Pam van Hylckama of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents, picture book crit & submission pkg from author/agent tag-team Anne Marie Pace & Linda Pratt (Wernick and Pratt Agency), phonecall and crit of mss + query + synopsis by Michelle Witte of Mansion Street Literary Management, mss crit and book from Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine executive editor Cheryl Klein.

Plus Skype visits from authors like Linda Sue Park, Mo Willems, Laurel Snyder, Laurie Halse Anderson, Veronica Roth, Linda Urban, Sara Lewis Holmes, Barbara O'Connor, Ellen Hopkins and others -- or in-person visit with Sarah Albee or Cynthia Lord. Get a character named after you or a friend in one of Robin Wasserman's upcoming books. Get your mss critiqued by a pro author like Laurie Halse Anderson, Julie Berry, Jo KNowles, Jean Reidy, Kody Keplinger, Deborah Underwood, Michelle Knudsen, April Henry, Sarah Darer Littman, Kelly Fineman, Tessa Gratton, Gwenda Bond. Get pitch/publicity/launch tips from experienced pros. Soooo much more! Do browse the full list.

****Note: Make sure you read over the full rules/details on Kate Messner's KidLit Cares page before bidding, plus verify listing details.

If you're a member of the children's book community and would like to donate your services to the next round of KidLitCares, fill out the form at the bottom of Joanne Levy's Kidlit Cares page; Joanne will be organizing Round 2.



NaNoToons, NaNoWriMo & why I'm a NaNoRebel this year

Starting today and throughout November, Errol and I are collaborating on daily comics about NaNoWriMo at You can also follow the comics on our NaNoToons Facebook Page.

Errol's doing NaNoWriMo, of course. I won't be participating in NaNo this year except as a NaNoRebel. If I had finished my outline for my novel, I would be so doing NaNoWriMo. And I -have- done NaNo without an outline before.

This year, however, I just have too much going on and also will be away for a chunk of November.

In the past, I've found NaNoWriMo a great motivational challenge in terms of getting me writing. Nowadays, though, I find I already HAVE that motivation -- my main challenge is more efficient time management. I still believe that NaNoWriMo can be a fun and useful event for aspiring writers as well as experienced writers, given the right mindset and situation.


Source: via Debbie on Pinterest


For aspiring writers, NaNoWriMo can be a much-needed motivational kick in the pants, and a chance to prove themselves that they can write a novel-length manuscript. I've heard several pro writers who say that NaNo helped get them to finish their first novel. The key, I think, is to remember that the 50,000 words you write in November is a FIRST DRAFT. Don't make the mistake of thinking you've written a finished manuscript and DO NOT immediately send it off to agents and editors.

You will be doing yourself a great disservice by sending out a mss that you have bashed out in 30 days for the following reasons:

1. Your novel is not nearly polished enough for submission, no matter how pumped up you are about finishing it.

2. Editors and agents are likely already being inundated with naive NaNoNewbie novel submissions in the months just after NaNoWriMo.

3. If you are an unpublished writer sending out your first draft of a NaNoWriMo novel, there is a 99.99% chance (ok, I can't prove that but I still am confident that my stats are accurate) that you will be rejected.

My advice for NaNoNewbies who are writing their novels with hopes of eventual publication: let your novel sit for at least a few weeks before looking at it again. Then start proofreading, editing, polishing. Work on your craft. Study the industry. DO THE WORK.

For more experienced writers who like online communities, NaNoWriMo can be a fun way to work on your first draft of a novel that you've done prep for: an outline, character studies, etc.  Why fun? Because you can commiserate with other NaNoWriMo participants as you're writing. The atmosphere can be compared to writing to a deadline in the same room as other writers working to a deadline.


Source: via Debbie on Pinterest


You could also share your writing tips with other NaNotypes on your blog -- this will not only attract traffic this year but add permanent search-friendly content to your site. In 2011, there were over 250,000 NaNoWriMo participants and chances are excellent that numbers will go up this year. 

But in the end, NaNoWriMo is not for everyone.


Source: via Debbie on Pinterest


I've seen a number of posts out there from pro writers who bitterly rail against the event, saying it's a waste of time. I believe that NaNoWriMo can be fun and useful for writers of all levels of experience, but it depends on each individual's mindset and motivation.

And if NaNoWriMo isn't your cup of tea or you don't need these kinds of motivational challenges to write, that's fine. Cheer on other writers and then go back to your work. :-)

If you'd like an ongoing writing challenge but don't have the time for NaNoWriMo, you could try my 250, 500 and 1000 Words/Day Challenge.

And speaking of NaNoWriMo, the first episode of the 6-part Web series NANOMUSICAL is now online! You can see me as a dancing extra (yes, I said dancing) in this episode, too:


PiBoIdMo: Picture Book Idea Month

Tara Lazar's Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) starts today!

The goal: to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.

Even if you're not ready to join the challenge but are still interested in reading the daily guest posts about writing, illustrating and publishing picture books (hey, I'm one of the guest bloggers), you should follow Tara Lazar's blog.


Halloween Comic: Even Witches Have Deadlines


Interview with YA author Maureen McGowan about DEVIANTS

Over the weekend, I was excited about attending Maureen McGowan's book launch for her new YA, DEVIANTS: THE DUST CHRONICLES (Book 1). I met Maureen through the Toronto Middle Grade and Young Adult Author Group, a fun network of kidlit/YA writers who meets monthly.

Maureen's one of my favorite YA authors: she's so positive, encouraging and I love her wicked sense of humor. :-)

Maureen kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her Deviants experience:

Could you tell us a little bit about your new book?

Deviants is the first book in a new sci-fi series called The Dust Chronicles. Glory is a sixteen-year-old orphan who can kill with her eyes. She and her younger brother are both "deviants", their DNA having been mutated by asteroid dust that covers most of the Earth. When her brother, a paraplegic, is discovered, she must accept the help of a mysterious, hulking boy to flee the domed city they live in before they're captured and killed.

Outside the dome they're pursued by horrible scab-covered monsters, called Shredders, and Glory discovers the truth about her parents' deaths. It's fast-paced, full of action--and some kissing too.

Did you plan it as being the first of a trilogy from the beginning?

Yes. I think each of the books work as standalone titles, but I knew that Glory's full story could not be told in one novel. She learns things in Deviants that completely change her perception of herself and the world, and more in book 2 that changes her perception of others and her ability to differentiate between right and wrong... Basically she needs more than one novel to work through all these issues.

How did DEVIANTS get published?

When the version of Deviants that sold was ready to go on submission, my agent knew that each of the traditional publishers already had several post-apocalyptic-set novels on their lists. We figured there was a good chance that, even if one of those editors picked up the series, it was unlikely they'd be able to give the books "lead title" treatment.

So to increase the chance for the books to find a wide audience, he suggested we try something different and submit to Amazon who, at the time, were just getting ready to announce plans to ramp up their publishing arm.

At first I thought the idea was crazy. But I took it as a sign when Connie Brockway and Barry Eisler (then Penny Marshall and James Franco and Deepak Chopra) among others, announced they were planning to publish with Amazon. Suddenly it seemed like a bold and interesting option.

Claudia Osmond & Maureen at the DEVIANTS book launch this past weekend

The editor offered very quickly after reading the manuscript. I had to keep the sale a secret for a long time and that was tough! We first discussed releasing my trilogy under their planned adult sci-fi imprint 47North (not yet announced at the time) but ultimately decided to release the books as young adult titles.

I think the young adult market is so exciting right now, with so many fabulous books that smash both age and genre barriers. Most of the best books I've read in the past three years have been young adult and I'm excited to be part of that world.

Fabulous DEVIANTS book cake at the launch (by Fanta Cakes)What's your typical work process?

When I’m working on a first draft, I’m obsessed about the word count—to the point where I’ll change a passage to the strikeout font, rather than delete it, even when I know that a section needs to go.

I need to see evidence of forward momentum to keep motivated and meet deadlines. First drafts are the hardest part for me—usually. I can lose confidence in the book and myself midway.

The days when ideas are coming fast and furious and my fingers are flying are magical—but those days are few and far between. I need to store up that fabulous feeling to get through the bad days.

If you could travel back in time and give your younger writer self some advice, what would it be?

Don’t expect publication to happen too quickly or on the same timeline as other authors. Don’t try to write only what you think will sell. Know the market, but don’t pander to it. Write books you’d want to read.

Any tips for aspiring writers on handling rejection?

Rejection is part of the business. Everyone—and I mean everyone— gets rejected multiple times, and at every point in his or her career. Rejection typically begins the first time you show your work to someone and ask for objective feedback, and it doesn’t end when you get a publishing contract.

Embrace rejection. Every “no” simply means that particular editor or agent wasn’t right for that particular project at that particular time.

Success in publishing is like being struck by lightning. All you can do is build more and better quality lightning rods to up your odds.

Maureen doing a reading at her book launch

Any news about upcoming projects or events you'd like to share?

Compliance, the second book in The Dust Chronicles will be released May 21, 2013, so readers won’t have to wait long to see what happens to Glory next.

I’ll be appearing at the World Fantasy Con, in Toronto, November 1- 4th. I’m also excited to be part of a “Teen Books for the Apocalypse” tour with Megan Crewe, Lesley Livingston, Leah Bobet, Cheryl Rainfield and Courtney Summers. We’ll be visiting bookstores in southern Ontario during the month of November. It feels a long way off right now, but I’ll also be attending the Teen Day at the RT Booklovers convention May 1-5, 2013.

Readers can find me at:, or follow @MaureenMcGowan on twitter.

Thanks so much for having me!


Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.


Publishing success=struck by lightning.All you can do is make better lightning rods. @MaureenMcGowan