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

Entries in networking (2)


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. 


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.


Found Object Doodles (a.k.a. Sometimes It's Ok To Play With Your Food Before Eating It) plus a print-ready template for young people

***For those asking whether I'm doing a found object book, please see About My Food Art, Found Object Book Update and Other Found Object Artists.

"A Portrait In Ink And Parsley": click image to see responses when I posted this Found Art doodle on Twitter.

(Edit: Thanks so much to Chicago Tribune website ChicagoNow.com and Tessa Wegert for highlighting this blog post in their Dec.27th, 2013 article)

As some of my Instagram followers may have noticed recently, I've been posting more Found Object Doodles...especially Food Doodles. This all began at a Lost Weekend With David Diaz, when I was intrigued by David's habit of drawing on found objects (such as promo postcards that came by snailmail).

David Diaz shows Alice Ratteree and other Lost Weekend attendees samples of his work

Earlier this year, I realized that I had been neglecting my daily doodle habit...which was having a negative impact on my other work. So I took advantage of a sale at DeSerres and bought a bunch of art supplies:

I purposely avoided getting the more expensive watercolor paints and sketchbooks so I wouldn't feel as inhibited when it came to artplay and experimentation. I did buy a ton of refills for my Pentel Brush Pen, however, because the latter has become my go-to sketching pen. For those interested in trying out this pen, the cheapest price I've found online is on Amazon.con so far, especially the refills. Price on Amazon.ca is much higher, so if you don't live in the U.S., I'd advise checking out sales at your local art shop first.

Anyway, I started doing a lot of sketching on found objects, like my husband's 2010 Royal Astronomical Society Of Canada Observer's Handbook (I intercepted its journey to the recycling bin):


and shamelessly vandalized my inflight magazine on the way to a board gaming convention last month:

(and yes, I left it in the seat pocket.)

Then I was having brunch with my husband and a friend, and there was a point in the conversation where they were talking about something very specific that didn't involve me...so I started doodling. Keep in mind that Jeff and most of our closer friends are used to me doodling at random times, so this wasn't quite as rude as it may seem. :-)

Anyway, I hadn't brought my sketchbook with me but had a couple of blank index cards, so I decided to incorporate my used mint tea bag into a doodle:

My Tea Doodle, created at Bestellen in Toronto.

On whim, I decided to post this to Instagram and Facebook, and was surprised at all the positive response. My author friend, Vikki VanSikkle, suggested on Instagram that I do a "tea doodle series." I didn't think that I'd want to restrict myself to tea but WAS intrigued by the idea of doing more Found Object doodles.

I love the idea of quickie doodles created with ink and found objects that are destroyed (or eaten :-)) afterward. Doing these will help me keep from being too "precious" about my art, I think. Plus they're FUN TO DO.

Recently, for example, Vikki challenged me to do one of my Found Art doodles while AT the Torkidlit holiday party:

And here's what I came up with:

I also created 7-Layer Dip Tyrannosaurus Rex, Meat Head Santa and Nice Puppy Snowman (using a real puppy)!.

Here's a photo that my YA author friend, Derek Silver, tweeted from the party:

And all this helps remind me of something I've learned since the whole I'm Bored adventure began and my career took off: that while the whole "being an anti-social introverted artist/writer who works away in isolation, creating stuff" idea may be fine for some, I have grown SO MUCH in my creative efforts as a result of meeting other children's book writers and illustrators in person and online.

YES, you have to make sure you don't let socializing and networking (networking is NOT a bad word, in contrast to what some people think! I could rant for an entire book on that topic) time take over your life, that you keep your focus on your creative work. BUT in my experience, the interactions I have with other children's book writers and illustrators online and offline has greatly helped me not only in my career, but also as a creative individual.

Another lesson I've learned: That there is potential art EVERYWHERE. You just need to look. I'm hoping that my doodles encourage some people to look at the world a little differently, to not take so much for granted. I also think that Found Object Doodles are a great way to inspire creativity in young people. I've created a print-ready PDF for those interested:

Click image for print-ready PDF

One last comment about Found Object Doodles: There are soooo many wonderful artists out there who work with found objects, and I encourage you to check out their work. Here are just a few:

Check out CintaScotch's creative ink and found object doodles on Instagram. Artist's real name: Javier Pérez.

Children's book illustrator Lori Nichols sometimes posts her found object doodles on Instagram as well. Her Instagram feed seems to be down right now, but you can see samples of her found object art on Seven Impossible Things.

Hanoch Pivan creates faces out of found objects.

I'm also in the midst of compiling a list of children's book illustrators who have published books using found object art. So far, I have Alma Fullerton, Suzanne Del Rizzo, Barbara Reid, Denise Fleming, Marthe Jocelyn, Lindsay Ward. I'll create a separate post on Inkygirl in the New Year; feel free to comment below if you know of any children's book illustrators I should add to this list.

Meanwhile, I'll be continuing to gradually add my Found Object doodles to:

My Food Doodles and other Found Object art on Flickr

My Found Object doodle portfolio section (selection)


Tumblr (selection)

Pinterest (selection)