Many thanks to my friend David Diaz for his friendship and mentorship. I got to know David through the SCBWI, when I was chosen for the SCBWI-LA Illustration Mentorship program in 2010. David has been recently touching base with many of the Mentees, past and present, to find out how they're doing...he is doing this on his own time and volition, not because it's an official part of the program. He and I chatted yesterday, and I had the chance to thank him again for his early advice. I also told him how my venture into found object doodles started because of HIM, at one of his Lost Weekends.
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 Illustrators, Writer'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
Entries in gratitude (4)
I've decided that the girl's name is Keiko. Haven't come up with a name for the baby yet, though.
A Happy Birthday (and THANK YOU) to my Simon & Schuster Children's editor, Justin Chanda, who helped me find my books
Since Justin Chanda "discovered" me at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles (and after many, many years of rejections), my children's book career has taken off. Every so often I still pause in the middle of whatever I'm doing and think to myself OH MY GOSH I'M ACTUALLY MAKING A LIVING WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING CHILDREN'S BOOKS and hyperventilate a bit but then calm down because I have upcoming deadlines and need to get back to work.
A photo posted by Jpchanda (@jpchanda) on Jun 6, 2014 at 4:37pm PDT
This past year has been especially crazygood, with my illustrations appearing in JUDY BLUME reissues from Atheneum (JUDY BLUUUUUUUUUME!!!!!!) as well as NAKED!, a second picture book with Michael Ian Black and Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. And then S&S sent me on my very first book tour!
A photo posted by Jpchanda (@jpchanda) on Apr 4, 2014 at 1:24pm PDT
Do you see that wand that Justin is holding in one of the photos above? A while back, I was posting about the Judy Blume illustration project as well as NAKED! coming out in 2014, and someone asked me if I had a fairy godmother. Yes, I told them, and my fairy godmother's name is JUSTIN CHANDA. I presented Justin with a labelled Fairy Godmother wand at the Simon & Schuster Children's meet & greeting with Michael Ian Black and me. Here's a photo that my husband Jeff took, just after I gave Justin the wand and was about to give him a big hug:
Apparently Justin has taken the Wand to several Simon & Schuster Children's meetings since. :-)
And just recently, I got to see the color proofs for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, which is going to be my very first solo children's book. I think it really didn't hit me that I'm actually going to be a children's book AUTHOR as well as illustrator until I saw those proofs. The book comes out from Simon & Schuster in May 2015, woohoo!
Now that I've been working with Justin for four years, I feel even more lucky. He's a brilliant editor. I'm learning so much from him about the craft and business of making children's books. Justin has the ability to bring out the best in those who work with him, pushing them hard but also trusting their creative instincts.
I'm grateful to SO many people who have encouraged me along the way and could not be where I am now without them. Justin Chanda was the first editor to give me my Big Break, to believe in me enough to offer me that first book contract, and mere words cannot express how much I appreciate what he did and continues to do for my career.
Happy birthday, Justin, and THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME FIND MY BOOKS!
A photo posted by Jpchanda (@jpchanda) on Aug 8, 2014 at 10:33pm PDT
So much goodstuff has happened to me since 2010, when I was offered my first book contract. This is one of a series of blog posts (in no particular order) about people to whom I am grateful. Posts so far: My career-changing SCBWI conference - My thank you letter to the SCBWI - A thank you to Justin Chanda and Simon & Schuster Children's.
Above: My eighth grade teacher, David Smallwood, surprised me (and yes, made me weepy) last year by attending my very first book launch, for my illustrations in I'M BORED. Not only that, but he gave me a folder full of my writing back then, which he had kept all these years:
Most of these stories and poems were written solely to show my teacher for the pure fun of it, NOT because they were assigned. All were typed manually (with mistakes laboriously fixed with correction fluid), and a few illustrations. Back then, I mainly wrote science fiction, horror and mystery, and was fond of twist endings.
David Smallwood (I still can't help but think of him as Mr. Smallwood, though he encourages me to call him David now) is the first teacher who ever encouraged me in my creative writing. I loved his sharp wit and the way he noticed individual students, no matter how quiet or shy. I clearly remember how much his comments about my writing made me more confident, drew me out of my shell.
We used to have a "who can be more witty/snarky" letter war going on that I hugely enjoyed. I used to spend hours with a thesaurus in my efforts to find longer and longer words in our literary one-upmanship contest:
I'm still fascinated by words, slightly off-beat humor and snark.
After I graduated from grade school, my friend Cathy and I used to go back and visit Mr. Smallwood from time to time. As high school students, we felt so sophisticated and grown-up as we reminisced with our former teacher about our year, exchanged gossip about what others from our class were up to. Sometimes Mr. Smallwood would ask me about my writing.
Visits grew less frequent once I started attending university. I reveled in my new independence. Unlike high school, I found boys that interested me AND were interested IN me: geeky nerdboys who liked the same books and movies as I did, who didn't think me odd for not wearing makeup and hating clothes shopping. I had a boyfriend.
Earnscliffe Public School seemed so very distant, though from time to time I found myself thinking of Mr. Smallwood because none of the profs I had in university inspired me the same way. Mr. S and I would exchange snailmail letters, but the time between our letters grew as I got distracted by my studies and then by work.
Years passed, and we eventually lost contact until we found each other on Facebook. Last Fall, I sent him an invite to the launch of I'M BORED at Type Books in Toronto on whim, not really expecting that he'd be able to attend since he lived out of town and we weren't really in touch.
At the launch, he hung back behind most of the people, so I didn't see him until I signed books. Even then, he was one of the very last people in line. I can't remember what he said, but I recall recognizing the voice and looking up. Then screaming, "MR. SMALLWOOD!!!"
I was SO incredibly touched that he had made the trek out to attend my very first book launch, and proudly introduced him around. My husband had heard many stories about my favorite teacher, so it was a special pleasure to finally be able to have them meet in person.
Side note: Although I've gotten close a few times, my agent and I haven't yet found a home for my middle grade novel manuscripts. I've shelved two so far and I keep working on my craft. Some of my Torkidlit pals, the MIGWriters critique group and friends/family help me finetune my stories. I'm much more confident about my writing now than I was in the beginning, and continue to work on getting better.
When I updated Mr. Smallwood on what was going on with my writing, he encouraged me not to give up on getting my novels published.
And I won't.
It WILL happen.
To Mr. David Smallwood and all the school teachers out there who continue to encourage young people in pursuing their creative passions: THANK YOU. You make more difference than you can possibly imagine.
(Thanks to my friend Walter K. for the book launch photos.)