Debbie Ridpath Ohi writes and illustrates books for young people. She is represented by Ginger Knowlton at Curtis Brown Ltd.




Debbie's blog post: Why Picture Books Are Important

Just launched: NAKED!


Out in bookstores now:

I'M BORED. Written by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. A New York Times Notable Children's Book and Junior Library Guild selection. Teacher's Guide (K-5) now available.



Before using my comics

Creative Commons Licence

Writer comics by Debbie Ridpath Ohi are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

More details: Comic Use Policy

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


Interview with Patricia Storms: Process, Personal Growth and NEVER LET YOU GO (Scholastic Canada)

I met Patricia Storms through her Booklust blog and then the National Cartoonists Society, and have enjoyed watching her children's book career blossom. She has illustrated 20 books, three of which she is author as well as illustrator. Patricia says she was twelve when her first cartoon was published in a Toronto newspaper. She got paid five whole dollars for that cartoon, and has been inspired to write and draw ever since.

Where you can find Patricia: Website/Blog - Facebook Fan Page - Pinterest


"I have described NEVER LET YOU GO as ‘The push and pull of parenthood’. Amazon’s description is quite nice, too: “Tender but never cloying, Never Let You Go gives a great, warm hug, followed by an encouraging pat as it sets up young readers to take their first big steps on the path to growing up. This story is destined to be a favourite read-aloud for parents and children alike, as the simple but powerful message of enduring love and support is one little readers will take to heart.”"

Q. What was your writing/illustration process for NEVER LET YOU GO?

I wish I could say my creative process was smooth and organized. It is not. So often things just kind of ‘happen’ for me. The idea for this book came to me about 3 years ago. I was feeling really down in the dumps at the time, to be honest. And I had a massive migraine. I tried to take a nap to relax, and I was in this odd dream/awake space and that is when this image of a penguin parent and her child popped into my head.

Click for bigger image. ©2013 Patricia Storms.

I had just recently read the novel ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro, so I guess that title was sifting in my head. I kept seeing this image of the child going back & forth to the parent, with the refrain ‘Never Let You Go’ playing over and over. After that the rest of the words starting flowing in as well. It really was one of those rare times when the book came almost fully formed like a gift from the stars. I was so tired I didn’t even have the strength to write down the story, so I called out to my husband (who was in the computer room across from the bedroom) to write down my idea before I forgot it.

Click for bigger image. ©2013 Patricia Storms.When I felt better, I worked on creating a tight storyboard on large newsprint, and then I scanned the storyboard sketches and using Photoshop, I put the text in where I thought it would flow best. And then I promptly...let it sit on my desktop for a year.

The story was so different from anything I have ever worked on before, that I simply could not believe that anyone would like it. One of the reasons I was so uncertain about the story was because it was so personal and, well – ‘straight from the heart’.

Over the years my cartoon/illustration work has been cynical, angry, snarky, cheeky and silly, but I’ve generally avoided the heartfelt stuff. It’s not that I’m not capable of doing that work, but I was burned big-time when I was a young naïve teenage artist, and I’m still not sure if I’ve ever gotten over those experiences.

Click for bigger image. ©2013 Patricia Storms.Creating this book was a very cathartic experience for me, I must say. Let’s just say the story is a lot about working out childhood issues. I suspect this is the case for many artists and writers in this business.

Q. What was your publication process?

Once again, my process is not, I think the ‘the norm’. But perhaps there is no ‘norm’?

The only reason that any editor ever saw this manuscript is because someone approached me. An editor at Scholastic had been looking at my old blog ‘BookLust’ (which now no longer exists) and was intrigued my some of my artwork.

Since we were getting along in our emails, I figured, what the heck, and asked if I could send her this manuscript I had sitting on my desktop. There aren’t very many words in the story (112), so it didn’t take long for her to read it. Basically, she wrote to me that she was very excited about the story and that’s when the whole process began.

Click for bigger version of colour work. ©2013 Patricia Storms.After that it was a matter of getting the rest of the editorial team excited about the idea, and after that, was a matter of convincing the next various levels to get excited about the idea, too. I had only sent black & white sketches to my editor, so at this stage I did some basic colour work in order to give the folks at Scholastic an idea of how I envisioned the story to be, with both words & colour.

It was almost exactly a year later before Scholastic finally offered me a contract. I don’t have an agent at this time, so I hired a literary consultant to negotiate my contract, and then the real work began. Because I had sent such a tight manuscript, there really wasn’t a lot of editing of words or layout that needed to be done. The major work was really getting the colours just right.

Click for bigger version of final art. ©2013 Patricia StormsI had a lot of help from my art director as well as my editor. I was terrified most of the time, but it was a very supportive, nurturing environment. It was particularly scary because I was trying out some new styles. Usually I just hand-draw my art, ink it and then colour it in Photoshop. But this time I wanted to create a more warm and organic look, so I outlined the penguins with charcoal pencil (something I’d NEVER done before!) and I experimented with new brushes in Photoshop, and even added Japanese paper in the background for a wee bit of collage effect.

It was quite a growth experience for me, both artistically and personally.


Q. What advice do you have for aspiring children's book writer/illustrators?

Don’t be like me! Ha. What I mean is: be more proactive, get your work out there, don’t wait a YEAR before sending something out. I still struggle with this issue – a great deal of my success is because others have found me, not because of me ‘getting my stuff out there’.

I find it SO easy to just talk myself into the blues and thus not send work out because I figure, who the heck is going to like it? It’s a terrible battle I have in my brain. I would also recommend seeking out people who are also interested in writing and/or illustrating for children, be that writer’s groups in person or online, as well as organizations such as CANSCAIP or SCBWI.

I would also add something that I think is pretty important, and it’s an issue that I still grapple with, too – try not to be too obsessed with what is selling in ‘the market’. There is SO much information out there right now, it’s pretty overwhelming.

Be aware of what appears to be selling, but I think what will serve aspiring writers & illustrators best is the strength & confidence to discover one’s own voice, and to develop one’s own unique path & stories. Ultimately there is no ‘set way’ to be published.

It’s really about discovering who you are, and what stories you want to tell. I’m still working this out for myself.

Cake from Patricia's Toronto book launch. Photo: Dorothy Kew.

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

I’m working on a couple of picture book stories that are very close to my heart – one about a super cute monster and another about a girl & a rhino. I hope they eventually see the light of day. These stories also have a lot of heart and emotion. I think it’s where I’d like to go, if the universe will allow it. Plus I have a lot of picture book ideas which my husband keeps nagging me to develop.

It’s the same old problem for me – I keep thinking they are silly and dumb and no one will like them. I’ve really got to get over it. Regarding upcoming events, well – I’m hosting a launch of my new book, NEVER LET YOU GO at A Different Drummer Bookstore in Burlington on Sunday November 10th at 2:00pm. There will be homemade cupcakes at that event!

Patricia doing a drawing demo at her book launch, ably assisted by her husband. Photo: Dorothy Kew.

Where you can find Patricia: Website/Blog - Facebook Fan Page -Pinterest

Related links:

Quill & Quire's review of NEVER LET YOU GO

49th Shelf review of NEVER LET YOU GO

Scholastic Canada page about NEVER LET YOU GO


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.



Goodreads Choice Awards voting now open; list of children's/YA categories

Since Amazon announced its acquisition of Goodreads back in April, those of us who have been using Goodreads have been waiting in semi-dread for the inevitable sweeping changes that would end destroying a once-thriving book community. Except they haven't happened. So far, Amazon appears to be wisely playing it cautious when it comes to messing with what is already a Good Thing (knock wood).

Anyway, voting is now open in the 5th annual Goodreads Choice Awards! You have three chances to vote, and the Opening Round lasts until November 9th. Semifinals take place Nov.11-16 and Finals are Nov.18-25.

Here are the nominees in categories for children's and YA:

Picture Books - Middle Grade & Children's - Young Adult Fantasy - Young Adult Fiction

Have to admit I'm baffled by the "& Children's" in the second category. So picture books don't count as children's books? Hm.

Hovering your mouse over any of the covers will pop up the "Want To Read" option, so browsing the nominee lists are a great way to help you decide what to read next.


Comic: Daylight Savings Writer


Comic About Writing Challenges: Remember Why You Do Them

Speaking of more writing challenges, there's also Robert Lee Brewer's November "Poem A Day" Chapbook Challenge, which is lots of fun. Guidelines here.


NaNoWriMo: Should You Participate? My Answer Plus NaNoWriMo Comics, NaNoMusicals and Songs About NaNoWriMo


For those of you who don't know, every year there are thousands of people who participate in National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo. The Goal: to write 50,000 words during the month of November. NaNoWriMo has grown over the years, and now includes a special section just for young writers.

I participated for a number of years and have had a lot of fun with it. Some experienced writers sneered about the event in the beginning, saying that it was only for amateurs, that a book written in 30 days is going to be garbage, etc. Now more professional writers are participating, some to jumpstart current or new projects. I checked the official NaNoWriMo site just now, and over 190,000 people have registered for this year's NaNo-extravaganza so far.

I completed one novel at an early NaNoWriMo which I ended up revising heavily before sending out through my agent. Although I had quite a few editors say they liked my writing, it never found a publisher and I ended up pulling it out of circulation.

This year I'm not participating because timing isn't right. NaNoWriMo's great for hammering out a first draft of a novel, but right now I'm immersed in writing and illustrating picture books. I do plan to participate again someday, though.

If you have problems motivating yourself to write and have no interest in socializing with other writers, then I'd advise against participating in NaNoWriMo. If you expect NaNoWriMo to be some kind of shortcut for you and have misguided plans to send out your novel right after NaNoWriMo without taking the time to revise, DON'T do NaNoWriMo. Let your mss cool off for a while, then do NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) in March.

If you're the type to get depressed and disillusioned if you don't make the 50,000 wordcount goal by the end of the month, then try my 250, 500 and 1000 words/day challenge instead.

However, if you're looking for a fun motivational writing event and enjoy commiserating with other writer-types online or in person, I heartily encourage you to give NaNoWriMo a try. If you'd like to participate but need to bend the rules (e.g. you've already started your novel, you're writing nonfiction or a bunch of picture book mss instead of one novel, etc.), you can still participate as a NaNoRebel.

If you plan to turn this into something you'd like to submit to agents or editors in the future, I also STRONGLY recommend doing some outlining ahead of time. Even just a one page summary to give yourself a rough idea of the story, especially the ending. This will save you much angst later, trust me.


Another piece of advice: Have some fun! On social media like Twitter, you can easily find others talking about NaNoWriMo by searching for the #NaNoWriMo hashtag. Many are blogging about NaNoWrimo. Some, like my MiGWriters critique partner Christy Farley, are vlogging about their NaNoWriMo experience.

My friend Errol Elumir has a been huuuuuuge supporter of NaNoWriMo for many years, so you should definitely follow some of the projects he's involved with, such as:

(1) NANOTOONS - Daily comics about NaNoWriMo!

(2) If you missed NaNoMusical last year, you can watch it now! All six video episodes are on the NaNoMusical website. I was an extra, and you can see me dancing with my iPad in the first episode here:

(3) If you're on Facebook, check out WrimoSongs. You can listen to NaNoWriMo-themed songs throughout the month plus have the option of purchasing some if you like them (proceeds go to NaNoWriMo).

Related links:

Official NaNoWriMo website




Debs & Errol - Errol's band website, where he posts daily comics related to whatever is on his mind (nowadays, that's mostly NaNoWriMo). Debs = Deborah Isaac, not me. :-)


250, 500, 1000 Words A Day Challenge


Will Write For Chocolate archives: not the greatest Halloween idea

(click image for bigger version)


November is Picture Book Month and PiBoIdMo! There's still time to register for both.

November may be NaNoWriMo month for some, but it's also Picture Book Month and Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo).

Picture Book Month is an international literacy initiative that celebrates the print picture book during the month of November. Every day in November, there is a new post from a picture book champion explaining why he/she thinks picture books are important. Founded by Dianne de Las Casas, Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Tara Lazar and Wendy Martin. Logo by Joyce Wan. You can register here.


Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) focuses on writing picture books. The challenge: to come up with a picture book idea every day during November. Get daily inspiration through the guest blog posts by authors, illustrators and picture book professionals on Tara Lazar's blog. Founded by Tara Lazar. Logo by Joyce Wan. You can register here.

I've registered for both. Although I already have picture book projects lined up, I'm always thinking about new book ideas and PiBoIdMo is a good way to get extra-inspired. For Picture Book Month, I'm going to be reading a new or older picture book every day and will also post about why I believe picture books are important.


I won't be participating in NaNoWriMo this year, though I'll be cheering on everyone who is. For those of you doing NaNo, do check out my friend Errol Elumir's NaNoToons, being posted daily. I had to opt out of co-authoring NaNoToons this year because of scheduling, but I'm looking forward to seeing what Errol posts. :-)


Will Write For Chocolate: Technology and Rejections

For more, see Will Write For Chocolate.


All Hallow's Read: Give A Scary Book This Halloween!  #AllHallowsRead


I'll bet some of you hadn't heard about the time-honored tradition of All Hallow's Read, whose origins some scholars have traced back as far as this Neil Gaiman post. Basic idea: In the week of Halloween, give someone a scary book.

Here are just a few deliciously scary books for young people that I've mentioned in my blog in the past year:

DOLL BONES, a middle grade novel written by Holly Black and illustrated by my friend Eliza Wheeler, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. Read my interview with Eliza here.


THE MONSTORE, a picture book written by Tara Lazar and illustrated by James Burks, published by Aladdin. Read my interview with Tara and James here. (Pssst: Don't worry -- this picture book isn't REALLY scary, so it's safe for even the most timid young readers. :-))


GOBLIN SECRETS and GHOULISH SONG are middle grade books written by William Alexander, published by Margaret K. McElderry Books. Goblin Secrets won the National Book Award For Young People's Literature and its companion novel, GHOULISH SONG, came out earlier this year. Read my interview with William Alexander here.

Speaking of Halloween, feel free to download/print some new Halloween-themed activity sheets I recently uploaded to the I'M BORED Bonus Page.


Learning new digital techniques from observing non-digital process, Richard Jesse Watson inspiration and some Tiffanny Varga watercolor tutorials

Although I primarily illustrate using digital methods (Photoshop CS6 with a 7.5" x 11" Intuos Wacom tablet), I'm starting to experiment more with non-digital media on the side. Partly because I like to always be learning something new, to try different techniques, but also because I'm often inspired to try new digital techniques after observing non-digital process.

To illustrators: whether you use digital or non-digital techniques, don't turn your nose up at The Other Side. In my experience, you can always learn something from how other creative types work.

Richard Jesse Watson at the 2011 SCBWI-LA Conference

In 2011, for example, I was super-inspired by the Illustrator Intensives at the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles. That year, a bunch of experienced children's book illustrators demonstrated their techniques in a hands-on demonstration; you can see my reports about the sessions on

Richard Jesse Watson gives a demo

Kudos to the SCBWI Illustration Board and artists involved for providing this amazing opportunity for illustrators to observe. There were two rooms set up so that while the attendees were in one room, the next artist could be setting up, PLUS cameras set up so we could see a close-up overhead view on a screen as each artist worked. There were a wide variety of techniques and styles from renowned children's book illustrators like Paul O. Zelinsky, Marla Frazee, Richard Jesse Watson, Kadir Nelson, Denise Fleming, David Small and Jerry Pinkney.

I learned from everyone, though I was especially inspired by Richard Jesse Watson's demo because his approach felt closest to mine. I loooved how he used different techniques to add texture to his color, his frenzied creative energy. After seeing his workshop, I started experimenting with how to add more texture to my digital illustrations, including learning how to create my own custom-made digital brushes in Photoshop. I ended up using a lot more interesting textures in illustrations for NAKED!, a new picture book written by Michael Ian Black that comes out from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers next year:

Anyway, I recently came across some fascinating watercolor tutorials by Tiffanny Varga. I love the way she how lets different hues of the colors mingle instead of mixing them completely. I'm so going to try this with my real-life watercolor experiments as well as figuring out how to do this effectively with digital watercolor.

Thanks to Children's Illustrators On Fire for the video links!

You can find Tiffanny Varga on YouTube and Twitter, plus her sketchbook blog and portfolio.

© Tiffany Varga.


2013 TD Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards: Photos, List Of Award Winners

What was in my swag bag from the TD Canadian Childrens' Book Centre Awards event Untitled Had a great time celebrating Canadian children's books at last night's TD Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards gala! This was my second time attending the event, and it was just as fabulous as last year's. Lots of great conversation with kidlit-types before the ceremony began, lots of yummy food and drinks, cheering on the finalists/winners, inspiring speeches. And then champagne and decadent desserts!

I opted to leave my regular camera at home and just use my iPhone 5s to take pics this time. I was pretty happy with how most of them turned out (much better than the flash photos my old iPhone took), though I had to warn people about the double small pre-flash then the main flash along with the photo being taken. The first flash helps the phone camera determine color temperature.

Anyway, you can see my photos on Flickr and on Facebook. So great to see some of my Torkidlit friends again, plus I enjoyed some new kidlit-types as well. My children's book author-illustrator sister (Ruth Ohi) was there, too:

With my sister Ruth, whose KENTA AND THE BIG WAVE (Annick Press) and FOX AND SQUIRREL (Scholastic Canada) came out earlier this year. KENTA got a starred review in Kirkus!

I also ran into some of the Simon & Schuster Canada team:

Had fun chatting with some of the Simon & Schuster Canada team!

Speaking of which, I'm looking forward to attending a mega-celebration bash tonight to celebrate Simon & Schuster Canada's new publishing program!


TD Canadian Children's Literature Award: ONE YEAR IN COAL HARBOUR by Polly Horvath (Groundwood Books)

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award: MR. ZINGER'S HAT written by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Dusan Petricic (Tundra Books)

Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children's Non-Fiction: KIDS OF KABUL: LIVING BRAVELY THROUGH A NEVER-ENDING WAR by Deborah Ellis (Groundwood Books)

Geoffrey Bilson Award For Historical Fiction For Young People: THE LYNCHING OF LOUIE SAM by Elizabeth Stewart (Annick Press)

John Spray Mystery Award: THE LYNCHING OF LOUIE SAM by Elizabeth Stewart (Annick Press)

Monica Hughes Award For Science Fiction and Mystery: SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman (Doubleday Canada)

There was also a special TD Canadian Children's Literature Fan Choice Award given to Polly Horvath for her novel, ONE YEAR IN COAL HARBOUR. And Loris Lesynski (author) and Michael Martchenko (illustrator) gave a short speech about their Annick Press picture book, BOY SOUP, being shared with first grade students across Canada as part of the TD Grade One Book Giveaway. That's 500,000 copies!!

Thanks to TD and the Canadian Children's Book Centre for a fine event, and congrats to all the finalists and winners. You can browse the list of all the finalists at the Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards on the CCBC website as well as more detailed info about the awards, jurors, etc. in this CCBC press release.



International Caps Lock Day began as a parody holiday by Metafilter user Derek Arnold but has since been embraced by one and all. 

Well, at least by one. :-)

See more WWFC strips at my Will Write For Chocolate blog.


Second Life, Inkygirl Haven and DOLL BONES: when virtual/real-life worlds collide

My writer's cottage in Second Life

I've always been a fan of online communities, and used to be all over the virtual world of Second Life. I rented a virtual cottage, bought virtual land, built a virtual community for writers where I had an educational center that included resources for aspiring children's book writers:

With the SCBWI's blessing, I even created a virtual book with some of their basic info for newbies, and users could actually page through the book and read the contents. Keep in mind that this was BEFORE digital readers became popular.

I also created and sold virtual writing supplies and tools for people's virtual offices. This was way fun because it was sort of like programming (I used to be a programmer/analyst way back) mixed with sculpture and a lots of creativity. You basically took geometric objects and then combined and manipulated them, adding your own textures and scripts. 

I made writer-themed jewelry, a portable writing desk and easel, writergeek clothing, a customizable book, laptop whose screen would display a different partly-typed manuscript each time you touched it, and so on. Some I gave away for free, some I sold through the Second Life Marketplace.

Updating the gallery

Above: One of the rooms in my Inkygirl Haven For Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, where I hosted chats, helped promote other people's children's books (touching any of the book covers above in-world would take the user to the book's website as well as give out a notecard with info). Here's a shot of Inkygirl Haven from the outside:

Inkygirl Haven For Children's Book Authors & Illustrators on Second Life

I later built a river that ran beneath the building, with several small waterfalls and a secret underground cavern. I also set up sounds as well so that, depending on where your avatar was standing, you could hear the water, birds in the trees, etc.

The challenge, I found, was convincing children's book types outside of Second Life to learn how to use the interface well enough to be able to participate in-world. There's a steep learning curve that was a real barrier. I also found that as fun and full of creative potential as Second Life was, I very rarely ran into other kidlit/YA types in-world unless there were scheduled events.

McMaster Library on Second Life

And although there were (early on, anyway) many libraries and educational institutions who had set up buildings and sometimes entire campuses in Second Life, I never seemed to run into anyone when I visited. I always felt like I was wandering through a ghost town. Cool to look at and check out some of the exhibits, but after a while I got tired of never running into anyone.

Plus the lag was getting really, really bad. Sometimes I'd arrive in-world but not be able to do ANYTHING (I couldn't fully rez) because of the lag.

Daily Poetry Dash at Milk Wood Colony For Writers (Second Life)

Milkwood Writers' Colony (the group now has a website called Virtual Writers, Inc.) still hosts regular events, and I drop by from time to time; SL lag varies but seems to be improving. It's a lot of fun -- sort of like dropping by your favorite coffee shop for a short writing session with friends. Check out the Virtual Writers list of interactive social events for the upcoming schedule.

Virtual painting in a virtual world

I used to write during these sessions but these days I'm more likely to be illustrating in real-life while the others write. Check out the easel I created above, complete with paint stains, brushes and a rag. I didn't write the script but bought it from the SL Marketplace -- when I "wear" the easel, my avatar immediately starts going through the motions of painting. I update my virtual painting on whim.

I've also since created an artists' toolbelt and used it for some shameless promo for I'M BORED. Here's a close-up of a virtual book I had clipped to my belt along with a sketchbook and brushes:

Book promo on my writers' tool belt


But that brings to me to this afternoon, when I dropped by a Book Island booth I'm renting short-term to help promote my book projects. Just for fun, I browsed the list of upcoming Arts & Culture events on Second Life, and was delighted to find that the Senchai Library on Imagination Island was going to be doing a live voice reading from DOLL BONES by Holly Black, illustrated by my friend Eliza Wheeler!

Screenshot from Second Life

How cool and bizarre. Here I was, in a virtual world reading about an actual voice reading in a virtual library from a real-life book that was illustrated by someone I knew (!!).

I won't be able to attend the reading (the librarians at Seanchai are very kind and let my avatar paint quietly on my easel in the corner while they do their readings) because I'll be going to a Simon & Schuster event in Toronto, but I love the idea! If you're planning to attend, by the way, note that all times listed on SL are always PST.

Anyway, you can find out more about Eliza's illustrations in DOLL BONES and her own picture book book, MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS, in the interview she did on my blog a while back. 

Loved Eliza's creepy illustrations in DOLL BONES, by the way, and Holly Black's story is fantastic. Highly recommended.

But I digress...

I ended up leaving Second Life in favor of Twitter and Facebook because that's where the children's/YA writer community were hanging out, including my agent. I still love the creative potential of Second Life but now that I actually have book contracts (*gasp*), I'm having to pare down my social media time. I've also been shutting down most of my many blogs, including my Second Life blog:

I've started to gradually get vacation-type photos of my avatar reading I'M BORED in various places in Second Life. Like in Paris!

I'M BORED in Paris, France (sort of)

Is it worth it for writers and illustrators to check out Second Life? At this point, I'd say only if you can't help yourself, and if you have time to spare. It's not yet clear if Second Life has a longterm future, though the CEO claims they're still working on improvements.

If you're on Second Life, feel free to add me ("Inkygirl Omizu") as a friend...but be warned that I'm rarely in-world and when I am, I'm usually only online very briefly. Though who knows? Maybe we'll run into each other at a Milkwood Writer Dash or at one of the Book Island chats someday.


Poll Results: How Many Books You Read At The Same Time

Last week on Twitter and Facebook, I asked how many books people were reading right now. I specified books that you were at least partway through and planned to keep reading within the next month. What I hadn't taken into account: the number of editors out there -- several of you said you didn't answer the survey because you were in the midst of reading a LOT of manuscripts. :-)

I was relieved to find out how many others have multiple books on the go. I have at least one print book in pretty much every room in our house, plus I also read books on my iPhone, my Kindle and my iPad.

Most of you have at least 2 books on the go, with 3% having more than 20 (!!!). The majority are in the midst of reading 3-10 books.

@janhoffman29 says that all the book she's reading (5) are about improving her writing, illustrating or teaching methods stronger, or for her understanding of the app generation.

@edenza says she's actively into 3-4 and has at least 3 on "standby," which is her usual. 

From my friend @randbellavia: "26 on my Kindle alone -- I didn't even bother to count the physical books." The other respondent who checked the "More than 20" answer choice was @Aimeeereid.

@nobilis says he's reading 5 and adds: "It's really too many. Reading books by @planetx, @riznphnx, @teemonster and @philippajane, @cmpriest and LeGuin."

Several of you also posted comments on Facebook but I didn't include them here because I wasn't sure if you minded me sharing them. Always comment via my survey form if you don't mind your feedback being shared; you can remain anonymous or you can include your name/Twitter id/website.


You can also see other current and past surveys in the Inkygirl Survey Archives.


AFRICA IS MY HOME: A CHILD OF THE AMISTAD by Monica Edinger, illustrated by Robert Byrd (Candlewick, 2013)


Author: Monica Edinger / Illustrator: Robert Byrd

Publisher: Candlewick Press, October 2013

Recommended age range: 10 and up

How I wished a book like AFRICA IS MY HOME: A CHILD OF THE AMISTAD existed back when I was a student. Although I got good marks in history, it was only because I excelled at memorizing. And with a few exceptions, that's all history really was to me back in school: memorizing dates and dry facts. It was only years later that I began re-discovering history, mainly through creative nonfiction and videos/movies that inspired me to find out more about a particular period of history.

Monica Edinger'AFRICA IS MY HOME: A CHILD OF THE AMISTAD is a fascinating and moving account of the Amistad Africans from the viewpoint of the children on the ship. Based on the true story of a young girl who is taken from her home in Africa when she is only 9 years old and sold to slave traders, the first-person narrative is gorgeously illustrated by Robert Byrd and also enhanced with reproductions of archival images and documents. I also found the Author's Note interesting, including Edinger's note about why she decided to switch away from telling the story as straight nonfiction.

Anyway, now I want to find out more about the Amistad and that period of history.

Side note: I loved the typeface in which the bulk of text was set. Combined with the exquisite illustrations and thick off-white paper, it makes for a beautiful and satisfying tactile reading experience. 

Highly recommended.

Related links:

School Library Journal review

Publishers Weekly review

Goodreads entry 

You can find Monica Edinger online: blog - Twitter 


Interview: Greg Pincus on MG novel THE 14 FIBS OF GREGORY K. (Arthur Levine Books/Scholastic) & his book launch this Saturday

Photo: Rita Crayon HuangI first met Greg Pincus through #kidlitchat on Twitter, which he and Bonnie Adamson founded and co-host. 

His first novel, The 14 Fibs of Gregory K., is now available from Arthur A. Levine Books. You can attend the launch party in person or virtually this Saturday, October 19th (details near the end of this post).

This middle grade story is laugh-out-loud funny, sweet (especially the scrumptious descriptions of pie) but also full of heart and emotional truths. I especially recommend this book for young people who are torn between pursuing their own favorite hobbies/interests and that of the people around them. It's a story about being true to yourself.

Some extra background: Greg (the author, not the main character) came up with the six-line, Fibonacci-series-based poems (Fibs) mentioned in the book back in 2006, and his Fibs post garnered 400+ comments.

In addition to being a novelist, Greg's also a poet, screenwriter, volunteer elementary school librarian, and social media consultant. He is a blogger, writing about children’s literature and poetry at GottaBook and the social web at The Happy Accident. Through the wonders of social media, he’s sold poetry, helped himself land a book deal, ended up in The New York Times, The Washington Post, School Library Journal (multiple times), and many other interesting places… and also made friends and gotten free cookies on more than one occasion! 

Where to find Greg:

Website - Blog - Social Media site - Twitter

Q. What was your publication process for THE 14 FIBS OF GREGORY K?

My path to publication was pretty typical: my blog went viral while talking about poetry based on the Fibonacci sequence, it got written about in The New York Times, and then Arthur Levine called me up and asked me to write a novel based on the kid who seemed to be the "author" of many of my poems and with the tone of my query letters (for many submissions rejected by him in the past).

There was no manuscript when the deal happened... potentially why the book is just appearing now in 2013 when the deal happened in 2006. Arthur and I communicated mostly by email, with notes coming on manuscripts from time to time. Again, with the unusual deal, we never had a firm publication date until, I guess I'd say, the book was ready.

Q. What was your writing process for THE 14 FIBS OF GREGORY K?

Arthur Levine with Greg's bookNon-linear. Long. Usually caffeinated. Because there was no manuscript or even a full story idea when we set the deal, Arthur and I did some separate and joint brainstorming and then... I wrote a first draft. Which we completely threw out! That was a fine day. Oh, yes. Waiting for notes and then... back to square one. The thing is... it was the right call, and I knew it then, too. After that, I wrote a draft that I threw away without showing Arthur and then finally a draft that became the base of what the book is today. And while I say we threw everything away from that first draft, that's not entirely true: there are a few actual lines that are the same, the basic family structure didn't change and even hints of the basic plot remain intact.

The key for me in the whole process was accepting the freedom that Arthur gave me, listening thoroughly to the notes of all my readers, and then trusting myself with the story I wanted to tell. When I treated notes as prescriptions, I wrote poorly. When I got to the meaning behind them, the writing became smoother and progress easier. When I added coffee and a quiet writing space, well, better still!

Greg with a mug featuring the cover of The Late Bird his poetry collection.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring children's book writers?

If you're going to be a writer, you gotta write. Yes, reading is good. But you gotta write. Yes, it's important to hone your observational skills, and it's wonderful to be able to see the world from different points of view. You need to work on your craft and understand how words work together. You want to be able to tell the story that only you can tell. And to do that... you gotta write. Then you have to re-write (which, of course, is writing). In between drafts, you might read and observe and think deeply. You might want to revisit books on craft or take classes or go to conferences. I know I do. Yet to finish a book? You have to write. Do it longhand or by typewriter or by dictation while you're standing or sitting or jogging or on the train. But seriously... my one piece of advice would be to write.

Stalking Greg Pincus at a #kidlitchat tweetup at SCBWI-LA 2010

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

I'm working on a second novel with many of the same characters as The 14 Fibs of Gregory K, as well as (always!) writing poems. I have a few picture books I hope to complete, other novel ideas, and even one story that might draw me back to my screenwriting past. I will be out and about with my book - school visits, a launch party (the 19th of October, if that matters!), Skype visits, a conference or two - and once I have time again, I plan to hold some online social media classes, too. Heck, I'll be everywhere, often without even leaving my office!

Q. So tell us about your upcoming book launch for 14 FIBS OF GREGORY K.

I'm excited to be doing my launch both in person AND live online simultaneously (Saturday, October 19th from 3-5:00 PM Pacific time). Flintridge Bookstore is hosting the launch, and Google+ is letting me broadcast live. You can find the stream at and, if all works right, on my blog at I'll post updates at my blog, too, so instructions will be there. Flintridge Books also has made it so you can buy my book on their site, and I'll personalize it at the launch - there's a place in the ordering to say who to sign it to and everything! I wish I could travel town to town and see friends, relatives and fans in person, of course, but in the interim I hope the live stream lets everyone be part of the fun. (Plus, yes, it satisfies my inner geek!) It'll be interesting to see how it all works - relying on technology can be dicey, of course. And, I'm sorry to say, I won't provide pie to the virtual guests. For that, you gotta show up!

Related links:

Publishers Weekly review of The 14 Fibs Of Gregory K

"Fibonacci Poems Multiply on the Web After Blog's Invitation" - The New York Times article about Greg in 2006

The 14 Fibs Of Gregory K: Greg Pincus - by Jen Robinson

The 14 Fibs Of Gregory K. by Greg Pincus - GuysLitWire review

For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.


I'm writing and illustrating two more books for Simon & Schuster!

Back home, and I HAVE NEWS.

I am delighted to announced that I am going to be writing AND illustrating two more picture books for Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Many thanks to Jeff, Ginger Knowlton, Mina Feig (who works with Ginger at Curtis Brown) and my MiG Writer critique partners (especially Andrea Mack) for helping me get my picture book dummy for SAM AND EVA polished. I sent it to my editor, Justin Chanda, around 10 pm and he responded at 8:30 the next morning:

Absolutely 100% love this!


Ginger… I'll be in touch.

When I read his reply, I yelled and jumped up and down in my office (no lie) and then ran upstairs to wake my husband up to tell him. Jeff is not a morning person, but I figured he wouldn't mind in this particular case. :-)

I'll be posting more about how I put together this particular picture book dummy in my "Writing & Illustrating A Picture Book With Simon & Schuster BFYR" series:

Justin was the first editor to ever offer me a contract for a children's book, and I continue to be grateful to him and Simon & Schuster Children's for their continuing support of my work.

SAM AND EVA (title likely to change) will be published in Fall 2016. The second picture book is yet to be written and illustrated, and is tentatively scheduled to be published in 2017.

You can see an updated list of my upcoming book projects at

On Facebook, you can be kept up-to-date on my writing projects at


Going offline for Canadian Thanksgiving

I'm going offline until next mid-week, so have a great weekend, all! Meanwhile, here are two comics for my fellow Canucks:



2013 SCBWI-Montreal Conference Report (Part 3): Jill Santopolo, Bonnie Bader, Linda Pratt, Silent Auction and the Illustrator Sketch Crawl

Continued from Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

(Check the SCBWI Canada East website for info about upcoming events; see my conference photos on Flickr and Facebook)

The fabulous Lizann Flatt during the morning announcements.

Continuing my report about the SCBWI-Montreal conference, we're now up to the Last Day. Not having to worry about a keynote talk, I was able to sleep a bit longer before heading down for breakfast. Had a delightful conversation with Linda Pratt and Michelle Jodoin about children's/YA books. Ended up buying Linda Urban's A Crooked Kind Of Perfect for my Kindle as a result. :-)

Philomel/Penguin editor Jill Santopolo talks about her list & what she's looking for

Sunday's sessions focused on wishlists: an open discussion about what Jill Santopolo, Bonnie Bader and Linda Pratt would love to uncover in their submissions pile, plus extra tips for authors and illustrators. 

Bonnie Bader talks about what she's looking for at her Penguin Random House imprints

And no, I'm not posting that info here --- that was for conference attendees only. :-)

I will, however, be posting a few of my conference takeaways tomorrow on the MiG Writers blog.

Literary agent Linda Pratt talks about what Wernick & Pratt Agency is looking for.

After the three sessions, there was a general Q&A with some of the faculty, and attendees were invited to ask anything:


Then we found out who had won various Silent Auction items. Earlier on, the organizers invited everyone to submit items for an auction whose proceeds would be used to help offset the cost of the event. I had (stupidly) missed seeing this notice, else I would have contributed something. :-( 

I bid on a bunch of cool stuff that others had generously donated but got outbid on everything except for these two items:

1) A cuuute weiner dog sculpture made by Michelle McKeon

And (2) this great Chris Jones print:

Photo: Chris Jones.

Chris, by the way, provided the fabulous illustration of the pensive artist at the top of the SCBWI-Montreal conference brochure (the brochure was designed by Peggy Collins):

I also bid on a piece of original art by Niall Eccles, but the fiendish Hilary Leung outbid me AT THE LAST MINUTE. (Insert image of me shaking fist at sky) ;-)

David Diaz contributes a sketch he did at the conference to the Silent Auction.

After that were closing remarks from the organizers, and they also presented everyone on the faculty with gifts. Check out the Thank You card illustrated by Peggy Collins:


Inside, a gorgeous hand-blown pen made from Czech glass, created by Canadian artist Asem Nada:


So beautiful! And what a wonderful souvenir of the weekend.


Some attendees had to leave at that point because of travel plans, but others enjoyed their boxed lunches in the conference room while doing more chatting. Here's what came in the boxed lunch:


Yum! I was so tempted to decorate the blank box but resisted because I wanted to chat with Jasmine (who flew from Newfoundland to attend the conference!!) instead.

After that, people could opt for group manuscript critiques or the Illustrator Sketch Crawl. I opted for the latter, and we decided to settle in Chinatown to do some sketching:


Sooooo fun! Thanks so much to Peggy Collins, who organized the Sketch Crawl. She also invited members of a drawing group in Montreal to join us as well (the woman in the red coat above was from that group, for example).


A few of us took a break during the session to check out a nearby shop that had art supplies as well as some souvenirs, and I bought these sweet silver fish earrings:

Silver Fish Earrings from Montreal

I chose fish because they remind me of the NEW BOOK CONTRACT I received last week, for illustrating Aaron Reynolds's SEA MONKEY AND BOB picture book for Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers (comes out in 2015). They'll also remind me of this wonderful weekend.

Christine Tripp and Ellie Arscott.

Huge thanks to SCBWI Canada East, Lizann FlattAlma FullertonPeggy Collins, Michelle Jodoin and Rachel Eugster. I had an amazing time and will never forget my very first SCBWI faculty position. The other faculty members (Laurent Linn, David Diaz, Jill Santopolo, Linda Pratt and Bonnie Bader) were fantastic, and so was Jennifer Lanthier in her Crystal Kite acceptance speech. I also enjoyed meeting new writers and illustrators as well as reconnecting with those I've met in the past.

Do visit the SCBWI Canada East website for more info about its members and upcoming events.

With Tom McGranaghan.

And here are some other SCBWI-Montreal conference reports I've found online (if you have one, too, please do post the URL in the comments):

2013 SCBWI Canada East Conference report by Chris Jones


2013 SCBWI-Montreal Conference Report (Part 2): Peggy Collins, Illustrator Critiques with Laurent Linn & David Diaz, Crystal Kite Presentation, Faculty Dinner, Sat night Schmooze

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

(Check the SCBWI Canada East website for info about upcoming events; see my conference photos on Flickr and Facebook)

So yesterday, I inadvertently omitted Peggy Collins from the Bookstore Book Bash collage. This is especially embarrassing since Peggy was one of the people I most enjoyed meeting in person at SCBWI-Montreal! Not only did she design the great-looking conference brochure (with art by Chris Jones), but she's such a positive and enthusiastic person, working so hard throughout the weekend despite gradually losing her voice.


Do check out Peggy's blog and website to find out more about her and her work!

Simon & Schuster BFYR art director, Laurent Linn

But back to the conference. After my opening keynote, programming split into a For Authors and a For Illustrators track. I opted for the latter because two of my favorite illustrator types were on the faculty: Laurent Linn (my art director at Simon & Schuster) and David Diaz (one of my SCBWI Illustration Mentors).

Laurent Linn describes the illustrator choice process using THE SCARECROW'S DANCE as an example. Author: Jane Yolen. Illustrator: Bagram Ibatoulline.

Laurent discussed the anatomy of a picture book with some behind-the-scenes examples of where picture books are today. He also analyzed popular book genres and demonstrated how writers and illustrators brought new ideas to well-trodden territory.

I've worked on two books (I'M BORED, NAKED!) with Laurent so far and am now working on a third (WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?), but always learn something new whenever I attend his sessions. One of the things I love most: how his focus is always on the young reader, and how we (as illustrators/writers) can best serve young readers.


David Diaz was next. David's illustrations for Eve Bunting's SMOKY NIGHT won the Caldecott Medal in 1995, and his illustrations for Gary D. Schmidt's MARTIN DE PORRES: THE ROSE IN THE DESERT won the Pura Belpré Award this year. I met David through the SCBWI Illustrator Mentorship program; he's on the SCBWI Illustration Board and has been generous in his time/efforts re: supporting the Mentees.

After talking about his technique as well as showing examples through photos, David asked us all to write questions down on pieces of paper. Then he collected the slips and spent the rest of the session answering them. We learned more about his techniques and process, agents and illustrators, and much more.

After that was the Crystal Kite Presentation. Earlier in the year, I had been delighted that my Torkidlit friend Jennifer Lanthier had won the America's Division Crystal Kite for her picture book, The Stamp Collector (illustrator: Francois Thisdale, published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside):

It was the first time I had seen the Crystal Kite award being presented up close -- I hadn't realized it came with white gloves! Loved Jennifer's acceptance inspiring.


After a tasty buffet lunch, programming again split up into Author and Illustrator tracks. Most of the illustrator attendees had already been working on an assignment; Laurent Linn had provided a manuscript that had been acquired by Simon & Schuster Children's as an exercise. For those interested, the manuscript was for WAKE UP, RUPERT!, a book that was written and illustrated by Mike Twohy and is coming out from Simon & Schuster Children's in February 2014:

Peggy Collins had set up an online mini-community where attendees had already been discussing and critiquing each other's work pre-conference in a friendly and supportive environment (also, what a great way to "meet" each other before the event!), and they presented their final illustration in Montreal.


I sat in on David's group and was so impressed by the overall calibre of the pieces. Wow. Afterward, we talked over other aspects of the craft and business of children's book illustration, including comparing experiences using Twitter vs Facebook for children's book illustration promo.


Here's a photo I took of Laurent's critique group:


Afterward, both Laurent and David browsed the work of the other group as well. After the conference, Laurent said he would look more closely at digital scans of everyone's art as well as check out their websites. What an opportunity for illustrator attendees!

Here's a photo I took of the whole group:

IMG_6682 - Version 2

After the portfolio one-on-one critiques: dinner. I was invited to join the Faculty Dinner. (WOW, MY FIRST FACULTY DINNER!!!) While I waited for the others to arrive, I hung out with Hilary Leung (NINJA COWBOY BEAR series co-creator) and Ishta Mercurio at the bar, and sampled some of Hilary's uniquely-shaped snack thingies. Despite their appearance, they were actually really good! Or maybe it was because I was really hungry. Anyway, they tasted like Cocoa Puffs.


The faculty dinner was at Modavie, and it was excellent. PLUS the place had great live music: the Dray Wood Blues Band. The drummer came over after one of their sets; he said he could tell I was enjoying their music and wanted to say hi. He was curious about our group and asked who we were, was fascinated by the fact that we were all children's book creators. Look! He posed for a picture with me:


While we were waiting for our food, some of us started sketching on the paper table covering. Check out Peggy's cool sketch of the lead singer (which she later presented to the band):


David Diaz's table sketch:


Dinner took longer than we expected, so we were late arriving for the Schmooze, originally scheduled for 9 pm. Some people (like Hilary Leung and Chris Jones) had already gone to bed. BUT we text-harassed them into coming back down, yay!


Again, I should point out one of the advantages these smaller regional conventions have over the national conventions: smaller size = easier to find opportunities to chat with faculty.


I went around at one point and just start snapping random photos with my iPhone. In the photo below, by the way, Ellie Arscott isn't being anti-social. We were all taking turns trying out some of the children's creativity apps by Hilary Leung's company, Sago Sago. Way fun! You can see a demo video on their site.


I ended up crashing earlier than the others, so I have NO IDEA how late the Schmooze went...

With Chris Jones, Hilary Leung and Kelley Fairbank.

Speaking of which, I need to crash now so will have to finish up my convention report tomorrow.

Continued in Part 3...

Laurent Linn and Jill Santopolo