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 DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Tuesday
Aug192014

Will Write For Chocolate

Updated my Will Write For Chocolate comic strip (yes, finally).

Monday
Aug182014

And the Golden Marmot goes to: Tim Federle @timfederle

 

This week's incredibly prestigious Golden Marmot award goes to BETTER NATE THAN EVER author Tim Federle for his brilliant Twitter status update above. You can find out more about Tim at Timfederle.com and on Twitter at @TimFederle.

 

Wednesday
Aug132014

Simon & Schuster publisher Justin Chanda on why you shouldn't write to trends

 

Love this quote.

Debbie

Monday
Aug112014

A great quote from Judy Blume for children's/YA book writers and illustrators

"Do not let anyone discourage you. If they try: get determined, not depressed." - Judy Blume

Monday
Aug112014

Comic: Writer Wish

Saturday
Aug092014

Comic: Grammar Graffiti

Tweaked from a version that originally appeared in Writer Unboxed.

Thursday
Aug072014

Lee & Low New Voices Award open to submissions

2014 08 07 LeeLowNewVoices

Lee & Low Books has just announced its 15th annual New Voices Award. The Award will be given for a children's picture book manuscript by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash prize of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $500. U.S. residents only.

Details here.

Wednesday
Jul302014

A cautionary comic for aspiring authors and illustrators

Originally published in Writer Unboxed.

Wednesday
Jul302014

Comic: So a zombie and a vampire walked into a bar...

Tuesday
Jul292014

My office featured in Andrea Skyberg's Tuesday Studio Tours today!

Thanks to Andrea Skyberg for featuring my Office Cave in her Tuesday Studio Tours today.

Find out why my office looks NOTHING like the rest of the house, how my hero husband Jeff helped enhance my office, my envy of those who have appealing-sounding creative rituals, music I'm listening to (including Ookla the Mok) and a sampling of my new OfficeCrazyDanceBreak playlist, the most useful tool in my studio, and advice for those who want to make a personal space where they can be creative. Plus LOTS of photos!

Thank you, Andrea!

Tuesday
Jul222014

A comic for those who think it's easy to write children's books

Originally posted for PiBoIdMo.

Thursday
Jul172014

Tips for SCBWI conference newbies, second-timers, plus a CHALLENGE for the many-timers

Only a couple of weeks until the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles! If you haven't yet registered, you're out of luck....they just announced that the conference is now sold out. However, you can follow along virtually via the #LA14SCBWI hashtag on Twitter as well as the SCBWI conference blog.

If you're a conference newbie who is nervous, I encourage you to browse my SCBWI Conference Newbie comics. I created these when I was a nervous newbie as well! So many people think I'm an extrovert, but I'm actually very much an introvert and was terrified (to the point of sweating palms, pounding heart, hating the idea of having go up and introduce myself over and over) about attending my first regular SCBWI conference back in 2009.

(Edit re: above comic: I did end up meeting Jay at the conference and he was really nice! And he didn't mention his Amazon ranking EVEN ONCE! Heh.)

I've posted advice for first-timers before and will post it again at the end of this piece, but now that I've attended other SCBWI annual conferences (and had my career jumpstarted because of the 2010 SCBWI-LA Conference), here is some additional advice I have for those who have attended more than once:

Don't get offended or disheartened if people you've met before don't remember you.

This is something I've learned from both sides. As a 2nd- and 3rd-timer (and so on), I've sometimes gone up to a person or group I've met and had my confidence deflated when it becomes clear they don't remember me at ALL from the previous year. My inner reactions ranged from embarrassment, humiliation, irritation, frustration and even brief anger ("I guess I'm just NOT IMPORTANT enough for xxx to remember!! Hmph.").

Now heading into my sixth year in a row attending SCBWI-LA, I've learned the following:

- I'm terrible at remembering people unless I've had multiple conversations or interactions with the same person.

- Even then, especially if I'm tired or am in a noisy crowd (remember what I said earlier about being an introvert?) or have met many new people in a row just before, I may still forget having met someone before.

I still accidentally re-introduce myself to people whom I've met before, sometimes whom I've met EARLIER IN THE CONVENTION. I'm always horribly embarrassed when this happens. 

Make sure your name badge is easily visible.

Also, when I approach someone whom I've met before but with whom I don't have constant contact, I usually try saying something that will help remind them of our mutual context, or remind them of having met at xxx. Until I'm sure they actually do remember me, I try very hard NOT to put them on the spot (e.g. I don't say, "So, what did you think of my most recent post?" etc.).

When someone does this to me (subtly or unsubtly :-) setting the context and helping me remember), I immediately feel more at ease with them and am more likely to want to chat with them in the future.

Another tip: if someone DOES remember you, never assume that they're up-to-date on all your exciting news. I've had the occasional person react badly when they realize I'm not aware of their new book ("?? But I posted it all over Facebook!") I never assume anyone reads all my posts or keeps up with all my news. People have busy lives and different priorities.

Something else I've learned: even so-called Big Name authors and illustrators can be insecure. I am faaaar from being a Big Name, but having had a bit more experience at conference-going now, I also realize how some of the Big Name types who seemed standoffish to me actually weren't.

Be gracious, be forgiving and try very hard to assume the best about a person rather than the worst.

And I apologize ahead of time if I don't remember your name or re-introduce myself. :-\

And here some tips for first-timers who feel nervous about attending for the first time, or are normally very shy or introverted and dread the idea of having to meet a lot of new people:

1. Be brave and make the first move. You'd be surprised at how many other attendees feel exactly the same way as you do. Introduce yourself to people you sit beside, stand in line with, notice standing alone.

2. TAKE BUSINESS CARDS. Yes, even if you aren't published yet. We're all going to meet a lot of people over the weekend, and taking away a business card from an encounter or introduction will help the people you meet remember you. If you're an illustrator, take postcards or make sure a sample of illustration style is on your business card.

3. Have realistic expectations. Don't expect to be "discovered" at the conference.

4. In my experience, you're much more likely to meet new people if you're alone. If you're always chatting and hanging out with the same person or people, you're not as approachable. I'm not saying that you SHOULDN'T hang out with people you like, of course! Just keep in mind that as a group, you're probably not going to meet as many new people as someone who is by themselves.

5. If you're on Twitter, write your Twitter handle on your name badge somewhere.

But most of all: TRY TO HAVE FUN. 

***** A CHALLENGE TO THE "MANY-TIMERS" OUT THERE ****

Try to remember what it was like when you attended your very first event, or how insecure you felt in the beginning. Then make it a personal challenge to find at least one lost-looking or nervous conference newbie who is sitting or standing alone. Introduce yourself, chat with them, find out what they're working on, perhaps (if appropriate) offer some advice.

Give good karma and it WILL come back to you.

Wednesday
Jul162014

I enjoyed Weird Al Yankovic's WORD CRIMES video much more than the original song

Tuesday
Jul152014

My workshop at CANSCAIP'S "Packaging Your Imagination" conference Sat. Oct. 18, 2014

Registration's now open for CANSCAIP's Packaging Your Imagination conference on Saturday, October 18th, 2014. I'll be giving a workshop for beginning writers and illustrators called "Lightning Rods, Agents & Book Deals: Building Your Personal Brand."

However you feel about the word "brand," everyone has a personal brand. You DO have control over it (yes, even the shy and introverted) and it can have a big effect on how successful you are in achieving your personal and professional goals.

Some keys, I've found: Be authentic, find your niche and don't try to do everything. Come to my workshop and I'll explain more, including social media tips for those who aren't quite sure what to do with their social media. 

Find out more details about the event and how to register on the CANSCAIP website. Can't attend in person? CANSCAIP now offer a live streaming option!

Tuesday
Jul152014

New bookish comic, with thanks to @Catelli_NQU for the caption!

Monday
Jul142014

Comic Caption Challenge

 

Any suggestions for a caption? Feel free to post your caption suggestion below, on my Facebook Inkygirl Page, or on Instagram.

Please keep try to keep captions family-friendly, thanks. 

Sunday
Jul132014

Comic: Another Advantage Of Print Books

Tuesday
Jul082014

Books About Town, Narnia BookBench, and giving credit to Pauline Baynes

EDITED 9:49 AM: Books About Town just tweeted to me: "So pleased you like the concept of Books about Town. We’ve now added the credit to the bench page. Thanks for highlighting!" Wow, thanks to the organizers for their quick response! Do check out their website for more info about their public art event.


If I were able to visit London right now, I would SO be checking out as many BookBenches as I could find. Books About Town on display in London from July 2 - September 15, 2014. What a wonderful celebration of London's literary heritage and reading for enjoyment!

I was especially delighted to see a bench devoted to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (see above). I clearly remember receiving this book as a Christmas gift from my Aunt Agnes when I was nine years old. I LOVED this book and immediately read all the other books in the series. 

The illustrations were a big part of the story experience for me, as I’m sure it was for many other young readers.

Anyway, the Narnia BookBench had lovely art by Mandii Pope, but I do wish the BookBench description had also given credit to the illustrator of the original book edition, Pauline Baynes, since the BookBench art was clearly an homage to the original.

Pauline baynes

Above: Photo from the 2008 obituary for Ms. Baynes in The Independent.

Did you know that Pauline Baynes illustrated some of Tolkien’s early work, and that he had hoped she would illustrate The Lord Of The Rings? The project ended up being too huge to include illustrations, but she did create beautifully drawn and coloured versions of Tolkien’s maps for a later edition of LOTR.

C.S. Lewis was a friend of Tolkien’s, and Baynes became the illustrator of the Narnia books. I love her diary entry for one of only two meetings that she had with C.S. Lewis:

“Met C.S. Lewis. Came home. Made rock cakes."

You can read more about Pauline Baynes on Wikipedia and in The Independent obituary.

And you can find out more about Books About Town on their website, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Thursday
Jul032014

Christina Farley on writing YA, GILDED and SILVERN, plus advice for aspiring YA authors

I met Christina Farley through my critique group, the MiG Writers. Christy's one of the most productive writers I know, and she recently left her teaching job so she could write fulltime.

Christina's contemporary fantasy novel for young adults, GILDED, launched from Skyscape earlier this year. Its sequel, SILVERN, launches on September 23rd, 2014. You can read the first chapter of SILVERN here.

Other places to find Christy:

Website - Twitter - Facebook - YouTube - Tumblr - Pinterest

Synopsis of GILDED:

Sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee is a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself. When her widowed dad uproots her to Seoul from her home in L.A., Jae thinks her biggest challenges will be fitting into a new school and dealing with her dismissive Korean grandfather. Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she's next.

But that’s not Jae’s only problem.

There's also Marc. Irresistible and charming, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae's heart. As the two grow closer, Jae must decide if she can trust him. But Marc has a secret of his own—one that could help Jae overturn the curse on her family for good. It turns out that Jae's been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she's always been looking for.

Q. What was your writing process for GILDED? 

Coming up with ideas for books can be a challenge, but the idea for GILDED stemmed from the Korean myth of Haemosu and Princess Yuhwa. It left me wondering what happened after Princess Yuhwa escaped Haemosu’s clutches.

The what ifs inspired me to write the story of GILDED. But to writing a full length novel isn’t easy.

1. First I plotted out the story.

See my plot grid for GILDED here:

I also did a blog post on more specifics on how to plot out books here and you can use my templates to get you started here.

 

2. Next, I prepare to write the book.

I often use aromatherapy (a scented candle) to write as well as create a soundtrack for each book. I love keeping a journal for each book as well. This will have all the names of my characters in it, nuisances, research I’ve done on the book, notes, and illustrations. The journal became extremely useful when I went to write the sequel and had to remember all the small details for characters or the rules of my world. For more ideas, you can check this video I made here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3chpYaMLYxg
 

3. Once everything is prepped, then I write my first draft. It’s sloppy and a complete wreck, but the structure of the book is in place.

For GILDED I had to do a lot of research of Korean mythology. I also found that since Jae Hwa was a martial arts expert, I had to learn Korean archery and taekwondo because I wanted the book to be as authentic as possible.

4. Revision is where the book comes to life. I revised GILDED so many times I’ve lost track. But each time, I strengthened the book’s structure, working on characterization, description, subplots and the arc of the book.

5. After I think the book is in good shape, I have my critique partners take a look. Debbie Ohi and I are part of the MiG Writers ( www.migwriters.com). I’m indebted to her and the rest of the group for their hard work in helping GILDED shine.

Q. How did GILDED get published?

Finding an Agent:

Once I finished GILDED, I realized I needed an agent for this book. So I did my research mainly on querytracker. I’d look up agents in my field and then research everything I could on them before I queried them. My agented friend’s warned me that a bad agent is worse than no agent, so I when I received offers of representation from agents, I made sure I had a phone conversation with them to see if they were the right fit. I talk more about that here: http://youtu.be/5Kebg57lUJs

Finding a Publisher:

I like to say it was tough work, but my agent, Jeff Ourvan of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, LLC, is completely responsible for selling GILDED. He found the perfect editor for me and I’m thrilled to be working with Miriam Juskowicz.

Christina with her editor, Miriam Juskowicz.

The biggest difficulty I had was decision making. Before signing with Amazon Children’s, there was another unexpected option with a different project. Jeff provided invaluable guidance of what to do for my career long term rather than just signing with the first book offer I was given. I think this all goes back in finding the right agent because the right agent looks out for you not just for the one book, but for your career.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring YA writers? 

My advice for writers is to focus on your craft. Become not only a master of weaving words, but tap into your creative self. If others are writing it, you shouldn’t. Trend chasing will only leave you frustrated. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Challenge yourself to write outside of your comfort zone because in doing this, you are pushing yourself to become everything you can be as a writer.

Don’t base your success on others. You have your own path to follow. It won’t be all grassy fields and stunning mountain peaks. The writer’s journey is a lot like the path through Mirkwood in the HOBBIT. You may feel lost, confused, trapped in the feelings of depression; and if you, don’t be afraid to take a break. Follow Bilbo’s example and climb a tree, leave the forest behind, and breathe in the fresh air.

As Gandalf says, “DON’T LEAVE THE PATH!”

Q. How did the launch for GILDED go?

My launch was amazing. I actually had two launches, a virtual and a physical launch. The reason I did this is I have so many friends from all around the world, including my critique partners! This allowed me to celebrate this special day with them because they have been there with me every step of this incredibly hard journey. It meant so much to me to have them 'there' after all we've been through together. Link for the virtual launch: http://christinafarley.com/the-dream-team/

For my physical launch, I had it at the Windermere Library since it was the perfect location for all of my friends and family to come together. We had 120 people show up and it was overwhelming how kind everyone was to show their support of the book.

After I did a power point presentation about the history of how GILDED came to be, I read a portion of GILDED and then we ate cake and celebrated! While I was signing books, my husband gave away books and swag. It was definitely a day I will never forget. More photos from the physical launch: http://christinafarley.com/gildeds-launch-party-recap/

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

I’m thrilled to say the sequel to GILDED is coming out this fall! SILVERN delves deeper into Jae Hwa’s world. You’ll find out more about the workings of the Guardians of Shinshi and new twists on the Spirit World.

Currently, I have three projects I’m playing with. I’m revising the third book in the GILDED series, drafting a new YA unrelated to the GILDED series, and researching for an historical adventure MG set in the early 1900’s.

View of Seoul from Christina's desk where she wrote Gilded.

------

For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

Wednesday
Jul022014

Tip for aspiring writers & illustrators: find a different way to tell or show your story, avoid the obvious.

2014 07 02 WilliamKass

When I especially enjoy reading a book or fall in love with a particular illustration, it’s usually because the author or illustrator manages to convey an emotion, scene or story in an unusual way, that spurs me to look at the world a little differently.

I try to remember this when writing and illustrating. It's one of my goals when I create found object art, trying to avoid the obvious.