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: The Misplaced Apostrophe

I'm posting some of my older comics here as I catalog and tag them in prep for a print book compilation. You can also find my comics for writers on Tumblr and Pinterest.

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Jane Friedman: Should You Focus On Your Writing Or Your Platform?

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Writer Unboxed has many excellent posts about the craft and business of fiction, but I especially enjoyed Jane Friedman's most recent post for writers which asks, how much time should you spend on writing versus platform building?

I posted a comment today but am going to post an edited version of it below as well:

 I still think it’s possible for a new writer to get plucked out of the slush pile without a platform; I know at least one writer who got her first book contract with a major publisher this way. BUT I also believe that these days, it’s the exception rather than the norm.

I went about things in the reverse order from most writers: I created my platform long before I had something to promote. I couldn’t help myself, though — I’ve been a fan of online communities years before the term became popular.

I agree with one of Jane’s comments above, that there is no One Right Way. What works for one writer might not work for another. I even think that if a writer who is not suited for social media (and forces herself into that venue despite hating it), her so-called platform could end up hurting her chances of publication rather than helping.

Hm, and this discussion has given me a great idea for a new comic for Writer Unboxed on Saturday. :-)

For writers who want to find out more about building a platform for themselves, I encourage you to check out the posts and comments in Robert Lee Brewer's April Platform Challenge.


Capstone Launches Capstone Young Readers

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Launching in August, "will include board books; chapter books; fiction, including early and middle grade series; graphic novels; and nonfiction titles, including paper novelty and craft books."


(site still under construction)

Apr302012 To Launch This Fall

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Scheduled to launch in Fall 2012, is a non-profit that intends to use "micro patronage" to supply teachers, students, and librarian in high-needs schools with books. is a place where you can give and receive books, as well as ideas. Teachers and librarians request, receive, and recommend books. Donors recommend and buy books for teachers. Students benefit from all the shared books and thoughts. Everyone gets to write tributes to their favorite children's and YA books.

Not only does this sound like a good cause but it also seems like another opportunity for children's and YA authors and publishers to promote books.

I've signed up for their mailing list to be kept informed about the upcoming launch.


Twitter: @bookmentors




Regnery To Launch New Children's Imprint: Little Patriot Press

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 Conservative publisher Regnery Publishing plans to launch Little Patriot Press, a new children's imprint whose titles will be aimed at "teaching and inspiring children through stories about American history and government." The imprint will launch seven picture books this year.

Managing editor: Diane Reeves. Creative director: Cheryl Barnes.

URL (not yet launched):

On Twitter, you can find Regnery Publishing at @Regnery. Doesn't seem to be a Twitter feed for the new imprint yet.

(via Publisher's Weekly)


Bloomsbury editor on new imprint, Bloomsbury Circus



New on Tales From The Reading Room:

Bloomsbury editor Alexandra Pringle discusses the publisher's new literary imprint, Bloomsbury Circus. An excerpt:

When we look back in a year’s time I hope we will have a prize shortlist or two under our belts, a sense of having broken some established authors out of the ‘midlist’ as well as having launched some exciting new talent into the world.  What more could a publisher wish for?

You can follow Bloomsbury Circus on Twitter at @circusbooks as well as on Facebook. Here's the official announcement about the new imprint.

For those who want to find out more about Alexandra Pringle, here's the bio from the Bloomsbury UK site:


Editor-in-Chief of Bloomsbury Adult Books. She began her career in publishing at Virago Press in 1978 where she edited the famous Virago Modern Classics series. In 1984 she was made Editorial Director, later becoming part of the management team to steer Virago through their management buy-out from Cape, Chatto & Bodley Head. In 1990 she joined Hamish Hamilton as Editorial Director and four years later left publishing to become a literary agent with Toby Eady Associates. She joined Bloomsbury in 1999. Her list of authors includes Donna Tartt, Barbara Trapido, Richard Ford, Esther Freud, William Boyd, Ronan Bennett and Susanna Clarke. She is a Director of the Management Board, Bloomsbury Book Publishing Company Limited which also includes the Plc Directors.


Rex Pickett's SIDEWAYS was rejected 70-80 times



A bunch of my "successful writers who got rejected" posts got trashed during the Big Move After Being Hacked some years ago, but I'm starting up the series again. I'll be reposting some old rejection stories as well as new ones. 

Rex Pickett's SIDEWAYS was rejected 70-80 times before finally being accepted. The book was later adapted into an Academy Award-winning film.

You can hear an interview with Rex on

(via GalleyCat)


Writer/illustrator conferences, good news and a new Pixel Shavings post

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If I could give one piece of advice to my young writer/illustrator self, I would have said this: START ATTENDING CONFERENCES. And join organizations like the SCBWI and CANSCAIP.

I have learned so much, been incredibly inspired and met many creative kindred spirits because of these events. Not to mention three children's book contracts! (I'M BORED plus two more recently, yay!!). Speaking of good things happening at conferences...

Here's my post about Pixel Shavings friends Russ Cox and Hazel Mitchell, with their good news from the New England SCBWI Conference.


Just signed up for the Story A Day May Challenge!



I know, I know -- writing an entire story every day sounds crazy. But according to the rules of the challenge, it doesn't have to be a super-long story. I'm going to use this challenge as motivation to come up with SOME story plot every day: each with a beginning, middle and end. Some of these might be turned into picture books, middle grade novels or YA novels.

May is the first month in a while where I won't be doing any traveling, so I actually have a chance of completing this challenge. You can do the challenge on your own, of course, but there's also the opportunity of commiserating with others via the online community. I've joined the Kid Lit group, for example.

Story A Day is the brainchild of freelance writer Julie Duffy. "Sick of starting and never finishing writing projects, in April 2010 I announced that I was challenging myself to write a story a day in May." She opened the challenge to others and was surprised at the response. "The enthusiasm for the project amazed me. It spoke of a hunger to write, no, a hunger for permission to write that I never dreamed was so widespread."

After May, I'll take the best plots and put them in my Rainy Day Story Folder to inspire me when I'm looking for new book ideas.

For more info about the challenge, visit and follow the #storyaday hashtag on Twitter.

So who's with me?


Comic: The Frog Editor

I'm posting some of my older comics here as I catalog and tag them in prep for a print book compilation. You can also find my comics for writers on Tumblr and Pinterest.


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Comic: Slow Writer

I'm posting some of my older comics here as I catalog and tag them in prep for a print book compilation. You can also find my comics for writers on Tumblr and Pinterest.

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Coming up on MiGwriters: Interviews With Our Agents From Transatlantic, Curtis Brown, JenniferDeChiara and Jennifer Lyons

One of my MiGwriter critique partners, Christina Farley, came up with a great idea: to interview our literary agents for our blog. So starting next Monday, we'll be posting info and interviews with our agents from Transatlantic, Curtis Brown, JenniferDeChiara and Jennifer Lyons literary agencies.

See the MiGwriters blog and please do "Like" the MiGwriters Facebook Page for updates.



Comic: Hamster Writers


Comic: Cat and Dog Editors


Comic: Perseverance In A Shoe

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You can also find my comics for writers on Tumblr and Pinterest.


My interview on Raychelle Writes | The Writer's Block


Thanks to Raychelle Muhammed for interviewing me on her blog today as part of her Writer's Block interview series.

In this interview, I answer the questions:

1) Tell us a bit about who you are, and where you live and work.

2) Describe your journey to becoming an author/ illustrator.

3) Describe your body of work. Which have been some of your most meaningful projects?

4) Tell us about your upcoming release, I’M BORED.

5) What is Inkspot? How did you develop the concept for it?

6) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?

7) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

8) How has music played a role in your life?

9) How have your professional associations enhanced your career?

10) What are your upcoming plans for 2012?

11) What advice would you offer to aspiring author/illustrators?

Fun questions to answer. Thanks for the interview, Raychelle!


My Big News: TWO BOOK CONTRACTS with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers (!)

[ UPDATE: I've started posting about the process of working with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. ]

I have been dying to share this ever since I first received the offer but now that the contracts are all negotiated and signed, it's OFFICIAL:

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I am (so very very) pleased to announce that I just signed TWO (!) book contracts with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers.

One contract is to illustrate a picture book.

The other contract is to WRITE and illustrate a picture book.

To say I am excited would be a vast understatement.

Even now, I am fighting the urge to insert exclamation marks at the end of every sentence.

The good people at S&S are looking for a picture book story for me to illustrate right now (yes, RIGHT NOW).  Michael Ian Black's I'M BORED was such a perfect fit for me, and I had SO much fun working on it - I can't wait to see what my next illustration project will be.

As for the picture book that I write AND illustrate: I'm very much looking forward to working again with Justin Chanda, my editor on this project. I've already sent him some ideas, and he'll be helping me choose and work on the story that ends up getting published. MY VERY FIRST OWN PICTURE BOOK!!!! Oops, accidentally let some extra exclamation marks escape there. Sorry, can't help it.


Ginger Knowlton is my goddess of an agent at Curtis Brown Ltd.

Justin Chanda is the publisher of three flagship imprints at Simon & Schuster: AtheneumMargaret K. McElderry Books and Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. He is crazy-enthusiastic about children's and YA books.

He was also one of the illustration portfolio showcase panel judges at the SCBWI Summer Conference in 2010 (thank you thank you, SCBWI!), where he offered me a book contract to illustrate Michael Ian Black's I'M BORED (I later asked Justin about why he picked me, and here's what he said).

I've already learned so much from Justin about the craft and business of creating children's books, and I look forward to learning more.

So much more I want to say, but it'll have to wait.

But for now, just this:




Interview with Jackie Garlick-Pynaert, Coordinator of the SCBWI CE Niagara Falls Writers' Retreat & Conference

 In addition to writing contemporary, edgy YA novels, Jackie Garlick-Pynaert is the coordinator of the SCBWI CE Niagara Falls Writers' Retreat and Conference. You can find out more about Jackie in her blog, Blah Blah Blaah Blogger: A Blog About Life, Writing, and the Perils Of Life On Writing.


How did you get involved in the planning of SCBWI Niagara Falls Writer's Retreat?

I’d been going over the border so much, attending such great writing events and I’d met and made so many wonderful friends State side, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to bring some of that talent over here to an event.

I thought, wouldn’t it be crazy great to hang out and talk shop with all my new and old friends, writers/illustrators from both sides of the border, combine the talent of two countries and just let things combust! My plan was to sit back and absorb all the creative energy flowing throughout the room! Lol - That was my original plan. And Niagara seemed the perfect backdrop, as so many of my US friends spoke of wanting to come over and see them someday.

So, I hopped in the car and set off to check out venues and totally lucked out finding Mount Carmel. I pulled in for directions, and much to my chagrin, found out they accommodated events. Bingo! After that, I decided I just had to throw an event, so I got to work on the details. In the meantime, I attended a local SCBWI CE retreat and was talking up my plans for Niagara when the RA asked if I would consider doing it under the umbrella of SCBWI. I figured sure, why not, the SCBWI label would certainly help to get the name out there, and so I agreed and continued on as the coordinator of the event.


What was the first year like?

The first year was awesome! I actually cried when I greeted all the speakers off the plane. It was so surreal to have all that talent come out to my new little event, and to come from so far, some taking three planes to get there, just to share their expertise. I knew they were all fabulous speakers, having heard them all before, but they really knocked it out of the park at Niagara, I must say.

Newcomer Veronica Rossi shared her take on high concept writing from all the fabulous workshops she’s attended through Donald Maass, and Terri Farley, with over a million books sold to her credit, gave a very inspirational keynote speech to start us off. Fran Cannon Slayton and her Burger King theory of mass marketing was a big hit, as was Sydney Salter and her talk on developing voice. Everyone got to spend time mingling with both the editor and agent (a highlight Niagara offers, unlike some of the bigger events) during down time and meals, and critique circles were well received and credited for improving work.

Having the chance to meet with and receive feedback from a faculty member and few other peers, then time for revision, then returning to the group to share your revision with the faculty member and your peers for affirmation, is really the only way to learn to write. (Another unique bonus of Niagara versus larger events). I saw the difference this critiquing format had on my writing as well as my confidence over a weekend in attendance at a well-known, highly sought after US event, and decided right there and then, I’d be modeling the Niagara event I was planning (in my head at the time) after it. (Note: The same model is applied to the illustrator portion of the program at Niagara as well.)


If the conference isn't already sold out by the time this interview is posted...Why should kidlit/YA writers consider attending this year's event?

I'd consider coming, not only for the benefit of the critique circles I mentioned above but also for the amount of one-on-one face time that is afforded to writer’s/illustrators at this event (again, a lot more than at the larger events.). Being that it’s a retreat, attendees essentially eat, sleep, and, well, be merry with the faculty, creating an air of friendship that lingers on long past the weekend of the event. I know many of last year’s participants continue to keep in touch via facebook and email to this day.

On top of that, there is so much opportunity to be had at Niagara. You can pay for an extra one-on-one critique session, ($45. extra charge) throw your hat in the ring to do a reading, or volunteer to have your first page read aloud at the front and critiqued by the editing/agent panel, which this year will include four major editors of the industry. May I just add, the authors in attendance are big names in the industry as well, with many, many connections, who are willing and have spoken up in the past, on behalf of writers to promote their careers, helping them to get to their publishing destinations.


 Oh, and lastly…well, there's venue…oh, and the food!!! OMG, the food!!! It’s worth the price of admission alone, just to eat the buffet!!! I ask you, where else could you stay in Niagara, listen to eight major players of the children’s book industry speak, receive their critique and eat like a KING for under $500.

Apart from the conference planning, what are you working on these days?

Personally, I've been working on two things. My writing of course, a ‘fantastical, steampunkishly, Burtonistic feeling, YA adventure/romance series, hopefully on its way out the door for submission soon, and…the creation of another small intimate writer’s event, featuring some big time names hopefully…look for details to come soon.

More info about the event:

More info about Jackie Garlick-Pynaert:

On Facebook

On Google+

On Pinterest



Board Game For Writers: Cyrano

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If you're looking for a fun board game to try with a group of writers (all levels of experience), I recommend CYRANO.

When I introduced this to our local gaming group, people were skeptical and hesitant ("I can't write poetry!"). By the end of the game, however, most of the participants admitted that they enjoyed the game much more than they expected. One of them said that his kids would enjoy the game as well.

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In each round, a card determines the theme (in the case above: "Mythology") as well as the line endings (the card also gives suggested rhyming words for those who are having trouble coming up with their own). Each player then composes a quatrain (poem of four lines) with two of the lines ending with one of the rhymes and the other two lines ending with the other rhyme.

I found that because the poems had to be written very quickly AND with specific parameters (rhyme scheme and theme), I stopped worrying about whether the poems were any good or not … and just had fun. :-) The game is also a great creativity booster and reminder of the joy in writing purely for the fun of it.

I suspect that playing with a group of writers would be even more fun! You can find out more info about the game on BoardGameGeek.

Basic info:

4-9 players

Playing time: about 45 minutes

Suggested age of players: old enough to be able to write rhyming poetry. Manufacturer suggests 8 and up while BGG users suggest 14 and up.




Comic: No More Harry Potter

Anyone else feeling like this? 

I did buy the e-book versions from Pottermore, which gives me some comfort. But it's just not the same as knowing there's no new Harry Potter books to anticipate. Sigh.

I've started posting comics from my Inkygirl archives on Tumblr, by the way, as well as Pinterest.