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 Writer's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, #BookADay, writing/publishing industry surveysWriting & Illustrating a Picture Book For Simon & Schuster BFYR post series and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives,  and comics for writers (including Will Write For Chocolate).

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


Podcasts For Writers: Guest Post From Julie Duffy

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I'd like to welcome Julie Duffy, my very first Guest Blogger. Julie is a fierce advocate of everyone's right to write. She hosts, a creative writing challenge held in May every year, and has written magazine articles, ebooks and workshops for writers.

Until May she'll be posting warm-up writing prompts every Wednesday at

This month, Julie will be talking about podcasts for writers. I'm especially interested in this topic since I've been listening to a LOT more spoken word these days -- while I'm illustrating, while I'm outside taking walks, while I'm doing household chores.

Podcasts For Writers


Guest post by Julie Duffy

Writing can be a bit of a solitary act and if you're not living with other writers, it can feel as if you're the only person in the world who 'gets it'. Social media is great for helping with this, but we can't be at our computers 24 hours a day. Happily, for those times when we must tear ourselves away from the soothing glow of the screen, there are, of course, podcasts. Specifically: podcasts for writers. So that you don't have to wade through all the podcasts in the world, I've compiled a list of the podcasts I find most inspiring and/or educational. Don't forget to share your favourites, or any I might have missed, in the comments. (I have mostly listed podcasts that are still being updated regularly but I did break my own rule once.)

Inspiration - Authors Talking

For inspiration, I love to listen to podcasts of authors being interviewed or doing readings at different venues. Often the authors take questions from the audience and usually end up spilling 'secrets' about how they write, how their characters developed, how they find continuing inspiration. All this is good. But my dirty little secret is that, while I listen, I imagine what it would be like to be up there answering questions from adoring fans who can't wait to read my next book. On days when I can't seem to concentrate on writing, I pop on a podcast and remind myself that the screaming fans can't come until I've actually done the work. My favourite podcasts of authors on the booktour circuit are:

The Author Events Series from the Philadelphia Free Library

This podcast features published authors on tour to promote their latest release. Sometimes the podcast features archived events, but usually they are recent. Each author usually reads a little from their work then takes questions from the audience. The library has a good system, where they take microphones into the audience so you can hear the questions as well as the answers. The audio quality is good and the questions are asked by everyday folks like you and me. I love this podcast.

Authors On Tour Live from the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver

This podcasts hosts many of the same authors as the Philadelphia podcast, but the authors often read different passages and answer different questions. Also, it hosts more 'smaller' authors who have a local connection. It's nice to get a non-East-coast, non-establishment perspective. Also, AOT sometimes takes its recorder on the road and reports from places like Book Expo America.

BookLust with Nancy Pearl

A monthly podcast from the University Bookstore in Seattle. For the past four years Nancy Pearl has talked to big name authors on tour. This interview-style works well, perhaps because it's in a bookstore and the authors are comfortable; perhaps because Nancy Pearl is an intelligent interviewer. The audio quality is great and the half-hour length is long enough to go in-depth with the authors but not so long that it drags. This is available as audio-only or video too.

You might also like:

B&N Meet The Writers

This is a shorter -- and in my opinion inferior -- version of the two podcasts above. It has slick production values and an impressive cast of writers in its archive...but it also features anyone who might shift books, like The Kardashian Sisters and JWOWW from the Jersey Shore...For the past year this has been offered as a video podcast, but you can find lots of good stuff in the audio-only archive too.

iTunes Meet The Author

Another podcast of big-name authors doign the book-launch circuit, this time from the Apple store in NYC. The format varies from event to event as they sometimes feature guest moderators who interview the authors. Doesn't have a predictable schedule but it does use the enhanced podcast features like chapter titles and occasional photo slideshows.

Writers Voice with Francesca Rheannon

Running since Oct 2010, still being updated. Interviews with authors. Fewer big names than the other podcasts, which means you hear some new voices.

Pen on Fire

From the University of California at Irvine. Discussions on art and writing, featuring interviews with writers, and occasionally editors and agents. Recent guests have included Edwidge Dandicat and Betsy Lerner.

Education - Craft and Workshop Podcasts

For this second class of podcasts, I look for those that focus on the craft of writing. These are sometimes hosted by working writers and sometimes feature speeches from workshops. On days when you want to take your writing seriously, and work on your craft, these are the podcasts to reach for.

Odyssey SF/F Writing Workshop Podcasts

This podcast features excerpts from classes taught at the Odyssey writing workshop held each summer. 16 writers are picked each year for this professional-level workshop, and it features published authors as teachers and lecturers. Each podcast is 15-20 minutes long and packed with useful information for more than just Science Fiction or Fantasy writers. These talks are aimed specifically at writers, not readers, and you should come away inspired to get back to your own writing after listening. Sometimes the talks touch on the publishing business, but more often the topic is craft-related.

Writing Excuses

Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Dan Wells are writers and artists in the science fiction world. Their podcast's tagline is was enough to turn me into a fan: “15 Minutes Long, because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart”. They discuss the craft of writing from their perspective as working writers. The free-form conversation follows a different topic in every episode. As always, just because these guys are sci-fi and fantasy writers, this does not make their advice applicable only to SF writers!

The Writing Show Slushpile Workshop

Story consultant Paula B takes first chapters from a listener/writer and critiques it. This grew out of the most popular segment of her former podcast The Writing Show. I’ve always found it useful from time to time, to really tear apart someone else’s work and see what they’re doing - what works, what doesn’t and why. This show is all about doing that. Maybe you’ll even be brave enough to submit your first chapter...


Litopia hosts four different podcasts: Litopia After Dark, The Debriefer, Between The Lines and Open House. Litopia After Dark is a "A literary salon" with five hosts, each of whom brings a topic and gets a different discussion going, and a chatroom where people can send in comments during the broadcast. It is extremely well produced and it is fun. Good for reminding lonely authors in our garrets that we're not alone! Between the Lines is an interview-with-the-author podcast and Open House is a call-in show ("Skype-in", actually). My favourite, though is The Debriefer podcast hosted by Florida lawyer Donna Ballman. She covers legal issues as related to writing: using legal issues in stories, legal issues that affect writers. It’s a short, focussed podcast and I find it quite fascinating.

You May Also Like:

Holly Lisle on Writing

This one violates my policy of not reviewing podcasts that are no longer being updated. There are only six episodes of this podcast, from 2006 but they are so tightly focused on the craft of writing, that I wanted to include them anyway. She seems to have moved on to creating products like workshops and classes that she charges for (and I don’t blame her one bit), so grab the free podcast info and graduate to paid classes if you like her stuff.

Writing For Rookies

This podcast is aimed specifically at non-fiction, science fiction, screenwriting and comic book writers. It's relatively new but promising.

Bonus Inspiration

Since you've read this far, here's one bonus podcast which is not aimed at writers but is a treasure trove of ideas, speech patterns and stories that pack an emotional punch.


Storycorps is a group that collects real-life stories for the National Folk Archive in the US. Storycorps takes its mobile booths all over the country and invites people to bring a relative or friend in, and interview them. From the old New York couple talking about their first date, to the girl who lost her fiance on 9/11, to the 100 year old southern triplet who used to dance in sideshows, to daughter interviewing mothers...just try listening to these without tearing up, I dare you. Then go away and figure out how to do the same to your readers ;)

So go forth and listen: listen in your car, listen while you do housework, listen on the bus...just don't listen when you should be writing! Do you have any writing-related podcasts to recommend?

 - Julie Duffy


A Tale To Tell: Collaborative Illustrated Storytelling

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(via David Diaz on Facebook)


I've seen a ton of collaborative text storytelling sites but this is the first illustrated version. Intriguing! I'd volunteer but it looks as if they're booked up until at least the summer already.

From their About page:

A Tale to Tell is an illustrated, collaborative storytelling project where each week a new illustrator/artist will be invited to submit the next part of the story, with a text entry and an illustration to accompany it.  Each artist responds to the story as it was left by the previous, taking the story wherever they wish and leaving it open for the next person to continue!  Creating an elaborate, imaginative tale from the minds of some of the most creative people around.

For now, the project exists in online form but further down the line we will also be looking into getting our collective narrative published.


Mesmerizing Video: Organizing The Bookcase

Short and fascinating.

Thanks to David Diaz for the link.


Writers For The Red Cross

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I'm participating in Writers For The Red Cross, and am donating a selection of my writer greeting cards as well as a hand-drawn doodle and handwritten instapoem to the winner of the bid. Read more here. Bidding doesn't start until the event officially kicks off on March 1st.

About the event, from the site:

This online event celebrates Red Cross Month (March 1-31). It is intended to raise funds and awareness for the Red Cross and its work in communities across the country. We’re auctioning off publishing-related items and services donated by authors, publicists, agents, and editors. We’ll also have daily guest posts from authors about “What the Red Cross Means to Me.” All donors who give over $25 will also be able to select one free book from a range of books donated and shipped by publishers for the event.

To find out more about Writers For The Red Cross and about the other participants, organizers and bookstore partners, please visit the Writers For The Red Cross site.


Writers and Voice

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I've posted the first in my series about "Writers and Voice" over in the MiG Writers blog, for those interested.


Reminder to writers: Don't forget to take regular breaks!

Writers: Don't forget to take regular breaks from your computer

I love my work. The one downside: I tend to work WAY too long without taking breaks. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, I find that taking regular breaks from the computer makes me MORE productive, not less.

Taking a few minutes to  stretch helps prevent repetitive stress injuries. Forcing yourself away from the keyboard to get some fresh air can also help put things in perspective and spark new ideas. While writers need to write, they also sometimes need to NOT write.

Right now I'm looking for Mac software that will remind me to take breaks  from my computer throughout the work day.  I used to have a great little application, but  the  developer no longer supports it, sadly.

I have tried several types of programs  ever since, but so far I haven't been completely happy with any of them.

I'd like the reminders to be customizable and to not interrupt a work task in progress. I'd like the option of scheduling mini computer breaks as well as longer breaks. I want to be able to end any computer break sooner if I need to. The last application I tried drove me crazy because the keyboard was completely inaccessible at times.

What about the rest of you? Do you have any system in place to make sure you aren't punched over the keyboard for hours at a time without a break?


Photographic evidence of the fading Twilight trend


Photo taken at a Walmart on the weekend.


Writers and Voice: new comic up on Writer Unboxed

Posted a new comic on Writer Unboxed today, inspired by my recent investigation into voice. I'll be starting a series of post on voice on the MiG Writers blog soon, every Thursday, so stay tuned!


NaNoEdMo - National Novel Editing Month

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I was reading this post in Writer Unboxed and thought I'd remind you all about National Novel Editing Month.

Looking for motivation to edit your manuscript? Check out NaNoEdiMo, which is a challenge to writers to spend 50 hours in March editing your novel.

An excerpt from the site:

You have entered the portal to the crazy world of novel editing. Have you written a 50,000 word novel but haven't edited it yet? Then you've come to the right place! It is here that people from all over the world gather together to spend 50 hours in March editing their novels. This is not as easy as it might sound but the forums are available to get advice and ask all the important questions you may have. Advice from real published authors will also be here to help you and a certificate of completion awaits each winner at the end of the month.



Comic: Valentine's Rejection (revamped)

I decided to revamp the old version of the cartoon in honor of today. :-)


Routines For Writers, Erin Bow and Writing Spaces

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One of my favourite sites for writers: ROUTINES FOR WRITERS. Their posts are almost always inspirational and/or informative. Not surprising, considering their tagline: "Helping Writers Write More"

Today's post on their blog is no exception, an interview with Erin Bow. I've always enjoyed learning how about how writers organize a space, and it was fascinating to read how Erin ended up using a pole dance studio for her writing office (!).

I'm also intrigued by the fact that her office has no Internet access, no phone and no doorbell on purpose, so she can totally focus on her writing. Wow, now THAT'S dedication. Since so much my work is tied into being online, I don't think I'd be able to do this.

But hm...maybe a variation? Must think on this...

Meanwhile, congrats to ROUTINES FOR WRITERS on winning an Inkygirl Golden Cupcake Award!


My two main takeaways from the SCBWI conference in NYC

SCBWI NYC Takeaways

When I first saw the word "takeaways" in people's conference reports, I was confused. What were takeaways? Were they giving out free food?!? I was even MORE disappointed that I had missed the event!

But no, takeaways are key messages you've learned at a conference. They can vary from person to person, depending on their own situations and experiences.

I'll be posting more details about my takeaways from various panels and workshops, but overall my main takeaways were:

1. What's most important: STORY and CHARACTERS. Some panelists listed both while others just listed story, but the message was the same. It doesn't matter what format a book is in if the story sucks. Voice and style can help make good writing, but aren't nearly as important as having a story and characters that the reader cares about.

2. Do the work. Get it written. Don't get too obsessed with the process, or networking and promoting, or all the other extras that can be good but NOT if they're keeping you from doing the work. This is something that has really hit home for me, which is why I'll probably be easing back somewhat from social media. (Ok, I'll still be posting a lot compared to some people, but it'll be easing back for me!)

Both of these apply to both writers AND illustrators -- I'll be interpreting the takeaways from an illustrators' point of view and posting them in the SCBWI Illustrators' Mentees Blog soon.


Daily Word Count Challenge: 250, 500, 1000 wds/day

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Ok, remember when I said that my goal of writing 500 words a day was probably too easy and that I may upgrade? Glad I decided to wait, because these past few weeks have been craaaaaazy, Mainly due to prep for my trip to New York, but also because of my current illustration schedule.

So I'm going to stick with 500 wds/day. :-)

How about the rest of you? How have you been doing with your individual challenges? Feel free to post on the Facebook Group page instead.


NYC Trip Report (Part 1): Mark Fowler, Rights Of Writers, and The Center For Fiction

Not sure how many of you used Inkspot or subscribed to Inklings back in the early days of the Web (whoa, that sounds so ANCIENT now, doesn't it?) but one of my columnists was Mark Fowler. Mark did the ASK THE LAWYER column. SOOOO great to finally meet Mark in person.

With Mark Fowler in NYC

Mark is an attorney at Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke LLP, and also blogs at RIGHTS OF WRITERS: A Blog About Writing And The Law.

I strongly advise you to check out Mark's blog, which has a ton of great info for writers. Mark says he is also open to suggestions about topics he should blog about, but says that he's unable (for legal reasons) to answer questions that are specific to your own situation e.g. individual advice.


Mark is also on the board of The Center For Fiction, the only nonprofit in the U.S. solely dedicated to celebrating fiction, working every day to connect readers and writers.

Anyway, check out the view from the floor where he works:

View from Mark's office floor

THANK you, Mark, for taking the time to get together!


Laurent Linn & Excitement & CAN'T WAIT


Ok, so that may not have been the most coherent blog post title I've ever written but I CAN'T HELP IT! Because I just found out that I'm going to be working with LAURENT LINN at Simon & Schuster as I illustrate Michael Ian Black's new picture book, I'M BORED.

Soooooooooo excited about meeting Laurent in a couple of weeks.


Caught up in comment moderation -- apologies!

I love Squarespace, but their spam-handling tools are abysmal. Supposedly this will be addressed in an upcoming release but so far there's no word on when that release will be.

Waiting for the next Squarespace Release

As a result, anyway, I have to put ALL comments through a moderation stage where each comment needs individual approval (ugh). Time-consuming and a hassle, but it's either that or let all the spam comments through...and there have been a LOT of spam comments which I've had to block.

I've been a bit behind in comment moderation but have caught up now. Apologies for anyone who has been wondering why their comment hasn't been posted!


Reading habits

Reading our iPads in bed

One of the Daily Doodles I've been posted on my blog, to illustrate a post in iPadGirl. As you might guess, it's how Jeff and I do much of our reading. :-)


Promoting My Book Projects On Second Life

Inkygirl Omizu's Fabulous Writer Emporium

My booth on Book Island in Second Life, where I promote my writing/illustration projects as well as sell writer gear (the latter to cover my Second Life expenses).

Daily Wordcount Check-In: So how did you all do this past week?

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So how did you all do?

Post your update here or on the Facebook page.


The Today Show Snubs Children's Book Award Winners...And What YOU Can Do About It

(Update: Also see the related Facebook page)

Instead of their traditional interview with the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals in Children's Literature, The Today Show decided to interview Snooki instead. Here's what Lin Oliver of the SCBWI (Society For Children's Book Writers & Performers) said in her letter to The Today Show in response. An excerpt:

"In choosing not to run the interviews with Clare Vanderpool and Erin Stead, television has once again underestimated the intelligence of its audience.  Parents are dying to get their hands on good books for their kids.  Booksellers are eager to sell and promote good books for kids.  It’s good business, good broadcasting and good ethics to honor the best books for children."

If you're as disappointed by The Today Show's choice as I am, I encourage you to post a comment saying so at: