Welcome to Inkygirl: Reading, Writing and Illustrating Children's Books (archive list here) which includes my Creating Picture Books series, Advice For Young Writers and IllustratorsWriter's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, my poetry for young readers, #BookADay, writing/publishing industry surveys, and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives,  and comics for writers (including Keiko and Will Write For Chocolate). Also check out my Print-Ready Archives for Teachers, Librarians, Booksellers and Young Readers.

I tweet about the craft and business of writing and illustrating at @inkyelbows. If you're interested in my art or other projects, please do visit DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Thursday
Mar182010

Hey, I'm "Blog Of The Week" at Profwriting!

Wednesday
Mar172010

WWFC: Michael Finds A Niche

Wednesday
Mar172010

iPad anticipation cartoon

To see a bigger version of this comic, see My Life In A Nutshell.

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Monday
Mar152010

Weekly Wordcount Check-in: 250, 500, 1000 wds/day

Do you need a wordcount challenge with some leeway? Check out the challenges below: 250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in?

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Mar102010

Taskpaper: minimalist note-taking PLUS other favorite organization/writing apps

I'm a big fan of lists, and have been experimenting with various To Do list systems for quite a few years. Recently I've been using Culturedcode's Things, which syncs between a desktop version and my iPhone. While I like Things, in the past year I've found myself relying more on a plain text file. I suppose part of it is feature overload -- there are SO many great apps out there with all kinds of cool features, but sometimes I find myself spending way too much time fiddling with the settings. I started a plain text file for daily tasks out of a need to see just the bare content without the distractions of other stuff. Which brings me to Taskpaper, which was developed by Jesse Grosjean. Jesse is also the developer behind Writeroom, a minimalist writing environment. Taskpaper works like a simple text editor. From the website:

Works like a text editor Type your lists into TaskPaper and each line is formatted into a project, task, or note. TaskPaper doesn’t force a particular system on you; it provides you with basic to-do list elements and then you use them as you see fit. Feels like a magic piece of paper TaskPaper has a magic trick. It can instantly filter your entire list to show only items of interest. TaskPaper’s filter system is simple to use—focus on a particular project or tag with a single tap. It also supports advanced searching if need.
I've been using Taskpaper heavily on my desktop and iPhone lately, and am excited to hear that Jesse is working on an iPad version. After reading SimpleText, TaskPaper, WriteRoom, Notational Velocity – Going minimalist with my notes from Dougist.com, I decided to adopt some of his strategies. What I'm trying now: For longer writing projects, I use Scrivener. Not sure what will happen with that when I get my iPad, since it doesn't look as if there will be an iPad version of Scrivener. If I end up using my iPad for doing a lot of writing outside of my office, then I'll probably have to look for an alternative. For pure writing (not outlining), my favourite so far is WriteRoom. WriteRoom has improved its features and flexibility a great deal since it first launched; although the green text on black was cute, I found it hard on the eyes. Now that I can write on a lighter background, WriteRoom is back in my favourites list. WriteRoom also has an iPhone app. I use Evernote as my catch-all for everything: important e-mails, maps, audio notes, business card scans, screenshots, etc. plus a reference library for my comics. What I like best about Evernote: (1) search recognizes text and handwriting in images, (2) I can e-mail items directly to Evernote, (3) it syncs with my iPhone, (4) an iPad version will be available and (5) it's actively seeking partnerships with other app companies, making it more useful to me. I use Zengobi's Curio for visual brainstorming. What I like best about this product: (1) the drawing feature supports my Wacom Intuos tablet, (2) Evernote integration, (3) an iPad version will be available, (4) the wide variety of supported media appeal to my packrat nature, and I find it a huge creative boost. I've also just started checking out Notational Velocity and SimpleNote, mainly because they seem to work so well with Taskpaper and Writeroom. But back to Taskpaper... One of my only quibbles about Taskpaper is that the sync process is a bit of a pain. It took me a little while to get everything straight and I'm used to it now, but I suspect this is the factor that will keep Taskpaper from appealing to a wider audience. Anyway, in case there are other Mac users who are syncing between their desktop Taskpaper and the iphone app, I've put together a basic overview in laymen's terms of the process. I spent some time looking in vain for this kind of document when I first started using Taskpaper, so figure it might be useful to others out there: Taskpaper Syncing Tips For Mac Users with iPhones INSTALL SIMPLETEXT All the synching goes through SimpleText, so you need to install and run the SimpleText client from: http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/simpletext. When you run SimpleText, it may seem as if nothing happens. Look at the navigation bar at the top of your screen; the SimpleText icon is the black circle with the small white pencil inside. Click on it and choose "Open SimpleText folder" from the drop-down menu. Move any Taskpaper docs you want to sync into the SimpleText folder. TO GET CHANGES FROM YOUR DESKTOP TASKPAPER APP TO YOUR IPHONE TASKPAPER APP: After making your changes, save your Taskpaper document. If you followed the instructions above correctly, this document should reside in the SimpleText folder on your desktop. Click on the SimpleText icon at the top of your screen and choose "Sync" from the dropdown menu. This sends changes to SimpleText. On your iPhone Taskpaper app, go to the main Documents screen. Click on the icon on the top left corner: it should look like a small piece of paper with lines on it. Choose "Sync" from the drop-down menu. TO GET CHANGES FROM YOUR IPHONE TASKPAPER APP TO YOUR DESKTOP TASKPAPER APP: After making changes to the document on your Taskpaper iPhone app, make sure you click "Done" to save it. Go back to the main Documents screen. Click on the icon on the top left corner: it should look like a small piece of paper with lines on it. Choose "Sync" from the drop- down menu. This sends the changes to Simpletext. Back on your desktop computer, open Taskpaper. Click on the SimpleText icon at the top of your screen and choose "Sync" from the dropdown menu. NOTE: If you already had Taskpaper open, with the SAME document open that you've been changing on your iPhone, then you'll also need to go to Taskpaper on your desktop computer, click on the File menu and select "Revert to Saved." To other Taskpaper users: dod I miss anything? Feel free to point out corrections that need to be made to the info above. Many thanks to Lawrence, Elastic Threads, Eugene, Doug and others for their help. Related helpful docs and sites: Main Taskpaper website Developer's tips on how to sync Taskpaper to the iPhone Taskpaper overview video How other people are using Taskpaper Hog Bay Software blog Taskpaper forum

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Tuesday
Mar092010

New version of Black Mana Studio's Manuscript fixes import/export issues

Last month, I posted a review of Black Mana Studio's Manuscript app for the iPhone, saying it was a disappointment. The developer has released an update which appears to fix the import and export issues from an to Google Docs. I've only had a chance to do some preliminary testing, but so far everything appears to be working fine now. From Black Mana Studios:

Hi Inkygirl, We have just released a new version of Manuscript that deals with the points you’ve mentioned. It should be live on the app store within a few hours (or days, depends totally on Apple). After installing this new version (v1.1.3), you will be able to start documents on Google Docs and import them to the iPhone, as well as edit existing documents so they can be imported into Manuscript (even if they were not written on Manuscript). To do so, follow these simple guidelines (after you download v1.1.3): 1. First line is the Manuscript name 2. Second line is the author name 3. Each chapter starts with a number and then a dot, like “1. Chapter one”, “2. Another chapter” and so on. 4. Four lines of space before each chapter header will signify it is a chapter header. I have posted a document template on our support forums, under the Manuscript announcement section. We are always open to feedback and comments, and wish to constantly improve our app. Thanks, Aki, Black Mana Studios.
I still find the user interface takes a little getting used to, but at least I'll be able to save files into Google Docs.

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Monday
Mar082010

Interview with Mahtab Narsimhan: The Silver Anklet

THE SILVER ANKLET is a sequel to Mahtab Narsimhan's THE THIRD EYE, which won The Silver Birch award in 2009. For those who don't know, The Silver Birch Award is a province-wide honour given by Grade 3, 4, 5 and 6 Ontario students. Although administered by the Ontario Library Association and run by teacher-librarians and teachers in schools and by children's librarians in public libraries, the final choice is made by the young readers. The trilogy follows the adventures of Tara, a young Hindi girl who lives in the village of Morni in India. When Tara's brother Suraj and two other children disappear from a local fair, Tara and her friends set off to find them. I enjoyed THE SILVER ANKLET even more than the first book in the Tara trilogy. Like its predecessor, the story kicks off with immediate action and suspense, with a chase and a mystery, grabbing the reader and not letting go until the very end. Mahtab's vivid descriptions add rich detail to the exciting story, weaving in Hindi colour and flavour that bring scenes to life for the reader. My mouth watered for biryani wrapped in banana leaves and spicy papads, and I shuddered as Tara and her companions trudged through the dark forest, batting away clouds of mosquitoes. Tara is an appealing protagonist, fighting her private fears and insecurities to save her brother. This is a story full of secrets and discovery, betrayal and mercy. Fans of the first book will love THE SILVER ANKLET.

Q&A with Mahtab Narsimhan:

How long have you wanted to write? Writing was definitely not a life-long wish, though I’ve always been an avid reader. I felt the desire to write only when my father passed away in 2003. I wanted to keep a record of incidents that happened back home so I would never forget the fun times we had as a family. These initial jottings, along with my love for fantasy and adventure, morphed into the idea of writing a children’s book in early 2004. THE THIRD EYE’S gestation period was longer than a whale’s; four years and twenty rewrites before it was published in the fall of 2007. And now, writing is all I want to do. Was THE THIRD EYE your first writing sale? If not, what was your first sale? How did it happen? I did manage to get a short story and an article printed in couple of magazines but, yes, this was my first “real” sale for which I was paid. I was so ecstatic to receive that cheque from Dundurn that I wanted to frame it and keep it in my office. My business-savvy husband suggested that I take a photocopy of it and cash the real thing! I love all the cultural details/flavour threaded throughout THE THIRD EYE. How much research did you have to do for this book? The cultural aspect, e.g. the food, clothing, locale etc was easy since I lived in Mumbai for most of my life. Indian Mythology can be quite complex and confusing and that took a fair bit of research. I’m still finding out interesting facts about the various Gods and Goddesses especially their Avatars. Only the very interesting bits make it into my books and are woven through the plot to make the narrative richer. What's your writing process for a book? e.g. outlining? how many drafts? etc. THE THIRD EYE was my very first attempt at writing a novel. It involved a steep and lengthy learning curve. Initially, I made a grid which listed all the chapters and jotted bullet points about the content and characters of each. This gave me a pretty good idea of how the story was progressing, and about pacing and structure. The first draft was a whopping 68,000 words and garnered many rejections. As I worked through it with my critique group, the story became leaner and more polished. It was 52,000 words when it finally made it to publication. As I mentioned before, from start to finish it took 20 drafts and 4 years of writing and rewriting. This was because each time I rewrote I could only concentrate on one aspect of the story; character, plot, pacing, dialogue, motivation. As I’ve gained experience, I can focus on two or three aspects simultaneously, greatly cutting down on the number of times I have to rewrite. For THE SILVER ANKLET, I wrote a synopsis and a very detailed chapter by chapter outline which gave me the framework. In the course of actually writing it, the story changed a fair bit but I always knew where it was going. The interesting part was that I wrote the first draft late 2007, early 2008, and put it away for a while. Then I took a Creative Writing course at the Humber College. My instructor was Tim Wynne-Jones. I worked on an entirely different manuscript with him but I learned many techniques which I was able to apply to all my writing. When I came back to this draft I didn’t like it at all. So out the window went 50,000 words and I started afresh. The new draft took about six months to write and another six to polish. So all in all, this one took a year. I worked with another wonderful writer, Uma Krishnaswami, on this manuscript and once again, gained some excellent writing tips. The final book in the trilogy; THE DEADLY CONCH(working title) took two months to write only because I had the plot already worked out, most of the characters were already fleshed out so the key things I had to focus on were pacing, consistency and the quality of writing. It took a month to finish the second draft. Compared to the first novel, this will be done in record time. Based on my six years of writing experience, I will say that practice does make perfect and the more you write the better you get. Writing bad stuff helps you get to the good stuff buried just underneath. Not a single word is ever wasted! You said that you're still finding out interesting facts about the various Gods and Goddesses, especially their Avatars. Could you please share a couple of these facts? Avatar is a Sanskrit word and literally means “one who descends” and the closest translation is “incarnation or manifestation.” Kali the evil Goddess of Death and Destruction is just another avatar of Goddess Parvati who is the wife of Lord Shiva and known for her kindness and gentleness. She is also known as the Divine Mother or Mother Goddess. Hanuman, the Monkey God, who helped Lord Rama rescue his wife, Sita, from the evil Ravana in the epic Ramayana, is also a very popular God in India. He is believed to be an avatar of Lord Shiva and is worshipped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion. In times of trouble, it is a common faith among Hindus to chant the name of Hanuman or sing his hymn - "Hanuman Chalisa". Hanuman temples are among the most common public shrines in India. 20 drafts and 4 years to write THE THIRD EYE, wow. Did you ever find yourself getting discouraged? If so, how did you get through the discouragement? Chocolate, Wine, and the Will to succeed. As the days, months and years rolled by, I realized that I had put in far too much effort and time to give up now. Though I was miserable doing the umpteenth rewrite with only rejections pouring in, I was even more miserable when I did not write. And so I kept going, trying to polish the manuscript till it shone. Then I got my lucky break and haven’t looked back since. Reminds me of a quote I’ve often heard; The harder I work, the luckier I get! What is your daily writing process? (e.g. mornings or evenings, setting daily goals, rituals, etc.) I write for at least a couple of hours in the morning to complete my allotted quota for the day. If it is a new draft, it’s a thousand words a day. If it’s a revision I break the manuscript up into pages or chapters and try very hard to finish the amount allocated for that day. Most days I can stick with it, some days it’s impossible so I try and catch up on the weekends when I put in four to five hours each day. All in all, I have daily, weekly and monthly goals on a bit of paper beside my laptop. It gives me tremendous pleasure to be able to tick off an item each day as I complete my quota. That’s why I love making lists! I listen to instrumental music when I write. My two favourites are: The Lord Of The Rings (Part 1) –Music composed, orchestrated and conducted by Howard Shore, and Dan Gibson’s Solitudes: Rocky Mountain Suite. Currently the soundtrack for Avatar-music composed by James Horner is also at the top of my list. I love everything by John Williams, especially Memoirs of a Geisha. I always focus better when I have something playing in the background, though it must be without words or I’m tempted to sing along and that would be disastrous for my writing. Most of my real work is completed in the morning when I’m fresh. In the evenings I revise, rewrite, research, catch up on my reading and spend time maintaining my online presence. What was the Silver Birch award ceremony like? FANTASTIC! It was a truly memorable moment filing onto the stage with the other authors, cheered on by thousands of screaming fans. It was so evident that these kids loved books, that they wanted to be here and were not shy about expressing themselves. It was a heart-stopping moment when the runner ups were announced. Since my name wasn’t mentioned, my heart sank a little. I was hoping THE THIRD EYE would be (at the very least) a second or third choice of the readers. Words fail me when I try to describe that ecstatic moment when they announced that THE THIRD EYE had won! I wanted to cry, faint and dance, all at the same time! I have no idea what I said in the acceptance speech except thank you…many times over. That feeling of euphoria, of a sense of unreality lasted all through summer. Even now, in the depths of winter when I am blue, I pull that memory out, examine it, remember it and inevitably…it lifts my spirits. Any news about upcoming projects you'd like to share? Penguin Canada will be releasing an anthology (to which I have contributed my own story) titled PIECE BY PIECE. STORIES ABOUT FITTING INTO CANADA on March 9, 2010. To celebrate the release of the book, Penguin is joining forces with the youth literary series Small Print to stage "The Piece By Piece Mash-Up," an event on Sunday, March 28, between 2:30-5pm, at Gladstone Hotel. A writing contest for high school kids will be organized ahead of time, asking them to contribute their own 500 word, Piece By Piece stories. The event will showcase the contest winners and feature a sound clash by teenage DJs from different communities. I’m really quite excited about this event and the book’s release because I believe it will be an eye-opener for many teens who believe that they cannot “make” it in a new country, far away from home. I hope it will inspire them to shoot for the moon! You can find more information about Mahtab at http://www.mahtabnarsimhan.com. You can also follow Mahtab on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mahtabnarsimhan.

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Monday
Mar082010

Weekly Wordcount Check-in: 250, 500, 1000 wds/day

Do you need a wordcount challenge with some leeway? Check out the challenges below: 250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in?

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Thursday
Mar042010

Happy National Grammar Day!

You can find more info about the song here.

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Monday
Mar012010

Weekly Wordcount Check-in (1000, 500, 250 wds/day)

Do you need a wordcount challenge with some leeway? Check out the challenges below: 250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in?

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb252010

Gail Carson Levine's blog

Sometimes writers get so caught up in promotion and networking that they forget about working on improving their craft. One of my favourite writing craft blogs is that of Gail Carson Levine. Gail has written many books for young people, including the Newbery-winning Ella Enchanted. I highly recommend a visit to her blog at: http://gailcarsonlevine.blogspot.com

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Wednesday
Feb242010

Phatitude Literary magazine relaunches

Phatitude Literary magazine has relaunched, and they're looking for submissions (Deadline: March 1st, 2010).

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Wednesday
Feb242010

Laura Resnick's Writer Resource page

You can find some great resources for writers on Laura Resnick's website, including agent-related tips, books and sites for writers. Laura is an experienced writer and author of Rejection, Romance and Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer, among other works. (Couldn't find this title through Indiebound, so had to link to Amazon).

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Wednesday
Feb242010

My interview on Novelists Inc

Thanks to Dara Girard for interviewing me about my comics at Novelists Inc. You can read the interview here.

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Wednesday
Feb242010

Curio for the iPad?

I was recently approached by a publisher who likes my illustrations, asking if I had any stories to go with them. I've started using Zengobi's Curio to brainstorm. LOVE this program. I'm also using it to brainstorm about my other writing projects, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as my cartoons. Curio's creator is unsure about whether to create an iPad-friendly version and is asking for feedback on the Curio forums:

I'd love to hear from some students given that we have a TON of college students using Curio. Are you going to be purchasing an iPad? To supplement your Macbook or for replacing it? Likewise, we have a ton of professional users (designers, filmmakers, and other creative types, and plus engineers, scientists, etc) using Curio. What are your thoughts on the iPad?
If you're a Curio user who love to see a version for the iPad, please do post your opinion on the Zengobi Curio forum! Here are some useful posts about how writers use Curio: Zengobi Curio : Project Central on my Mac Using Curio to plan a book Curio and Screenwriting Writer's Gem: Curio - by Angela Booth

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Tuesday
Feb232010

Survey: Do you outline or not?

Outlining Addict I've posted a new survey via Survey Monkey. Please do answer via this link rather than in the comments section for your results to be included in the summary. I'll post a follow-up on survey results next week. Thanks!

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Monday
Feb222010

Manuscript (Black Mana Studios) follow-up: a disappointment

NOTE: Black Mana released a newer version of Manuscript which fixes many issues mentioned before. Please see my updated post. I recently posted about an iPhone app I'd discovered from Black Mana Studios called Manuscript, and said that I'd test it out so the rest of you could decide whether it was worth the $7.99. Sadly, my experience has not been the greatest so far. I tried creating a document in Google Documents and importing it into Manuscript, but it didn't work. After reading this thread I tried making the first line in my Google doc blank, as above. Here's the image of the virtual cover that resulted: In the Manuscript library, I'm told that my document has no pages: And when I look in the Chapters section, I don't see any sign that any text has been imported: From the look of the Black Mana Studios forums for this app, it looks as though I'm not the only one who has been having problems: My advice to you? Save your money until the company has fixed the app.

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Monday
Feb222010

Weekly Wordcount Challenge Check-in (250, 500, 1000 wds/day)

Do you need a wordcount challenge with some leeway? Check out the challenges below: 250 wds/day | 500 wds/day | 1000 wds/day
So how did you all do with your daily wordcount challenges since the last check-in?

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Feb202010

Testing out Zengobi's Curio as a brainstorming tool for writers

Trying out Curio I've been working on more graphic illustration projects lately, and have been looking for a good brainstorming tool. Scrivener is good for text only but not as easy to use when it comes to combining images and text in different configurations on the fly. Corel Painter is great for pure illustration but not as good for illustration and text brainstorming. I was prompted to download a 60-day free trial version of Zengobi's Curio when I found out that it was hooked with up Evernote. I love Evernote and love the idea of having everything I send to Evernote immediately available to me within Curio. During my trial period, I'm going to try using Curio as a place to collect story seeds: clippings, thoughts, scribbles, photos, music -- pretty much anything that could come together to spark a story. When a story idea gels enough, I'll switch to Scrivener to work on the detailed outline and text. Though for picture books and graphic novel projects, who knows? Maybe Curio would be a good fit. If you're curious to find out more about Curio: Zengobi's Curio site Angela Booth's review: "Curio, Writer's Gem" New York Times review of Curio TUAW review of Curio

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Friday
Feb192010

iPhone app for writers: StoryPages

StoryPages could be a useful iPhone app for those working on picture books or graphic novels. The app lets you create storyboard style pages with your drawing in a top panel and typed text in a bottom panel, mimicking storyboards used in movie production. You can draw in fullscreen (landscape or portrait) and (if you want) add a background to set the scene or use as a tracing template with transparency control. From the website:

StoryPages can be used for sketching movie scenes, animations, and comics. Use it for keeping a record of your product ideas, visual instructions (for hardware, electronics, contractors and landscapers), help files, construction and restoration projects, teacher curriculum, travelogues, hobbies, dream recording and more.
Instead of drawing right the app, you can import an image/drawing from the Camera Roll. This could be a handy brainstorming tool for a picture book writer-illustrator. StoryPages is currently $2.99 in the iTunes store. You can find out more info as well as see extra screenshots on the SpinThought StoryPages website. I'll post a follow-up review once I've had a chance to use it for an actual project.

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