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

Entries in scbwi (19)


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.


Thank you, SCBWI! (and why all aspiring children's book writers and illustrators should join SCBWI)

Earlier today, I posted about the book launches of my good friends Arree Chung (NINJA! from Henry Holt) and Brian Won (HOORAY FOR HAT! from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). And as some of you already know, my very  first chapter book illustration project launches in hardcover today, and the books are by JUDY BLUME (!!!). I posted about the Judy Blume project, including how I became a Judy Blume illustrator.

When the three of us discovered we all had books coming out on June 3rd, we decided to do some joint promotion. I met both Arree and Brian through the SCBWI: Arree through one of David Diaz's Lost Weekends (David is one of my SCBWI Illustration Mentors) and Brian through the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship program. We've since become friends and have exchanged mutual encouragement and advice.

Below: photo from the 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference, when Brian, Arree, Christina Forshay, Kimberly Gee and Jen Betton and I were hanging out in the hotel room. I had met Christina, Kimberly and Jen through the SCBWI Mentorship Program as well. They all kindly agreed to pose for one of my I'M BORED In The Wild photos. :-)

I'm grateful to the SCBWI for so many reasons. You can read the thank you letter I sent to the SCBWI a couple of years ago, and their response.

As I was putting together blog posts about Arree and Brian, I was struck the number of similarities in how we found out way to publication. All three of us found our agents because of the SCBWI or SCBWI connections. All three of us got our first "big break" in getting noticed in the kidlit publishing industry largely because of the SCBWI. And of course all three of us met through the SCBWI and SCBWI connections.

So on behalf of Brian, Arree and myself I'd like to send out a big THANK YOU to the SCBWI

To aspiring children's book writers and illustrators who have never heard of the SCBWI (Society Of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators): I strongly encourage you to check out all that the SCBWI has to offer. Do go over to the SCBWI website RIGHT NOW.

I went over just now to see what was up, and was delighted to find my friend Jessica Lanan is this month's Featured Illustrator! I met Jessica through the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Program.

And that's another reason I'm so glad I joined the SCBWI and have been attending their events. It gives me so much joy to watch the blossoming careers of children's book writers and/or illustrators I've met and befriended.

If you're nervous about attending your first SCBWI conference, please do read my SCBWI Conference Newbie comics (which I created when I was a nervous SCBWI Conference newbie). 

And I hope to see some of you at the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles this year! 

You can read my posts today about Brian's and Arree's book launches:

Inkygirl Profile: Brian Won and HOORAY FOR HAT! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Inkygirl Profile: Arree Chung and NINJA! (Henry Holt)


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 1): crepes, Bookstore Bash readings, comfort zones...and my opening keynote (!!)

Pin I designed for this year's conference, crafted by Alma Fullerton.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

I just got back from the SCBWI Canada East conference in Montreal. Huge thanks to Lizann Flatt, Alma FullertonPeggy Collins, Michelle Jodoin and Rachel Eugster for creating such a wonderful event! I've posted my photos on Flickr and on Facebook.

Peggy Collins, Alma Fullerton, Jennifer Lanthier (Crystal Kite recipient) and Lizann Flatt

This was my first time attending a SCBWI regional conference, which was much smaller than the national conferences in LA and NYC. To those of you who find the national events somewhat overwhelming, I strongly encourage you to attend regional events like this one. The size made for a less intimidating atmosphere, with more opportunities to meet industry professionals in a quieter setting.

Hanging out by the koi pond on Saturday night. This casual gathering (open to all attendees) included Laurent Linn (Simon & Schuster), Linda Pratt (Wernick & Pratt), Bonnie Bader (Penguin) and Jill Santopolo (Penguin).

After I arrived on the Friday, I met up with some of the organizers and faculty at Creperie Chez Suzette in Old Montreal:

Linda Pratt (Wernick & Pratt agency), Jill Santopolo (Philomel/Penguin), Alma Fullerton, Bonnie Bader (Grosset & Dunlap, Price Stern Sloan/Penguin), Lizann Flatt

I helped them finish a decadent caramel-ly crepe (yummmm).  My room was ready when I got back to the hotel, yay! I checked in, unpacked, and then headed downstairs to see who was around.

Top row, L to R: Lizann Flatt, Kelley Fairbank, Niall Eccles, Ellie Arscott, Caroline, Jasmine, Alma Fullerton. Bottom row, L to R: Alice Yen Yong, Robin Walton, me, Laurent Linn.

Some of us met in the lobby and introduced ourselves before having a fine dinner at a Chinese restaurant (Laurent Linn and I split a Magical Dancing Shrimp dish...ok, I can't recall the exact name) and then heading off to the Bookstore Book Bash.

SCBWI-Montreal conference attendees were invited (along with the public) to a book reading by SCBWI authors/illustrators at Babar-En-Ville, a children's bookstore in Montreal. I met Maya Byers, owner/buyer at the store, as well her son. Maya was already familiar with my sister and her books!


So enjoyed hearing readings from so many different types of children's and YA books, including authors Rachel Eugster, Jennifer Lanthier, Caroline Pignat, Urve Tamberg, Peggy CollinsJill Santopolo (who is also an editor at Penguin), Alma Fullerton and Lizann Flatt.

Also great to meet Carol-Ann Hoyte in person at last...


as well as other familiar names/faces.

I felt a bit of pressure reading I'M BORED in front of my art director for the first time! But Laurent said I did fine:


Thanks to all who came out to the Bookstore Bash! It was a great way to start off the weekend.

The next morning, I woke up extra early to test out my tech set-up before my opening keynote. I wanted to make sure my slides worked with the projector ... and they did (*whew*). I had a brief brain spasm at one point during setup and forgot how to assign Keynote presentation to a different monitor, so woke up Jeff with a phonecall to ask him something he had already explained the day before. I do have a patient husband. :-)

Registration table, manned by Ellie Arscott & Peggy Collins.

After the welcome and opening announcements, it was my turn! As some of you may know, I was nervous about my opening keynote. I've always avoided public speaking, mainly because I used to have a bad stammering problem when I was younger (it was a struggle even saying "hello" on the phone). Although I'm fine these days, it still crops up occasionally and especially when I get stressed or tired.

I started to say yes to public speaking invites, though, because I figure it's good for me and my career. I try to step out of my comfort zone on a regular basis, to do things that terrify me every once in a while, because it keeps me from getting too complacent.

Giving my opening keynote at SCBWI-Montreal! Photo credit: Urve Tamberg.

My sister, who is super-experienced at speaking in front of both grown-ups and young people, gave me some tips, and so did some of my Torkidlit friends. My husband helped me finetune my talk as well as providing tech support.

And guess what? Not only did my talk go well (according to later feedback), but after the initial few moments of sheer terror, I actually (*gasp) started HAVING FUN. I talked about my career path, what I've learned along the way, advice I wish I could give my younger self, and some tips on how to get the most out of the conference.

Here was an example of what NOT to do:

Above: one of the slide sequences I created for my keynote. J = Jill Santopolo and B = Bonnie Bader, the two editors on the SCBWI-Montreal faculty. :-)

Continued in Part 2


Registration now open for SCBWI-Montreal conference (Oct. 4-6, 2013). I'm giving the opening keynote!

I had a fantastic time at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA earlier this month and will be posting a bit about that soon, but I wanted to also announce that registration for the SCBWI Canada East Fall Conference in Montreal is now open. It's my first SCBWI faculty position, and I'm thrilled to be part of the event this year. I'll be giving the opening keynote! Nervous but also waaaay excited.

Conference promo above & conference info PDF put together by SCBWI Canada East Illustrator Coordinator Peggy Collins.

More info: SCBWI-Montreal conference brochure PDF - Registration

Here's more info some of the other faculty members and attendees:

I met David Diaz when I was chosen for the 2010 SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Program; he was one of my Mentors. In addition to being on the SCBWI Illustration Board, David's been hugely supportive of the Mentorship program, generous with his time and knowledge (including opening up his home to some of the Mentees once a year for a creative retreat). David won the Caldecott Medal in 1995 for U.S. picture book illustration in Smoky Night (HMH Books For Young Readers) written by Eve Bunting. He's illustrated many other books and won other awards since. You can find more info about David and his work:

NCCIL profile for David Diaz - Wikipedia entry for David Diaz - David Diaz on Facebook

Laurent Linn is my fantabulous Art Director at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Laurent was so patient with me as I navigated my very first book illustration project (I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black) and I had so much fun working with him on Naked! Just about to start work with Laurent on the very first picture book that I'm writing AND illustrating, Where Are My Books?

Laurent began his career as a puppet designer/builder in Jim Henson’s Muppet Workshop (how cool is that?!?), creating characters for various productions, including the Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island films. With Henson over a decade, he worked primarily on Sesame Street, becoming the Creative Director for the Sesame Street Muppets, winning an Emmy Award. Currently, at Simon & Schuster, Laurent art directs picture books, middle-grade, and teen novels, including I, Too, Am America, by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier; Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo by John Lithgow, illus. by Leeza Hernandez; The Scarecrow’s Dance, by Jane Yolen, illus. by Bagram Ibatoulline; Better Nate Than Ever, by Tim Federle; and the Rot & Ruin YA series by Jonathan Maberry. Laurent is Artistic Advisor for the annual Original Art exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in New York.

More info: On Twitter: @LaurentLinn.


Bonnie Bader is the Associate Publisher of Frederick Warne and the Editor-in-Chief of Penguin Young Readers/Early Readers, imprints of Penguin Young Readers Group. At Warne, Bonnie overseas the Peter Rabbit, Spot, and Flower Fairies publishing programs. She also oversees all of Penguin’s leveled readers, which fall under the imprint, Penguin Young Readers. In addition, she will be starting up an 8x8 picture book program, Penguin Core Concepts, which will launch in Spring 2014.

She continues to edit several bestselling series including George Brown, Class Clown and Magic Bone by Nancy Krulik, Almost Identical by Lin Oliver, and Here’s Hank by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, coming out in 2014. Bonnie is also a member of the SCBWI Board of Advisors.

Here's a great pre-SCBWI-LA interview that Jolie Stekly recently did with Bonnie.

On Twitter: @BonnieBader.

Linda Pratt, Agent, Werner and Pratt. After 20 years at the Sheldon Fogelman Agency, Linda Pratt and long-time colleague, Marcia Wernick, established the Wernick and Pratt Agency in January, 2011. The agency specializes in representing creators of children’s books. “Our philosophy is client care that focuses not just on individual books, but the long-term careers of our authors and illustrators in the ever-changing world of publishing.” Linda’s clients include LeUyen Pham, Richard Peck, Denise Brunkus, Sharon G. Flake, and Kathryn Erskine among others. She also enjoys introducing new talent. Two 2013 debuts are author/illustrator Aaron Becker’s JOURNEY (Candlewick) and middle-grade novelist Judy Hoffman’s THE ART OF FLYING (Disney-Hyperion). Linda is a member of AAR, SCBWI, and served on the planning board for the Rutgers Oneon-One Mentoring Conference for five years.

More about Linda:

On the Wernick & Pratt agency site - Agent Spotlight on Literary Rambles

Jill Santopolo is an executive editor at Philomel Books, an imprint of the Penguin Young Readers Group, where she edits everything from board books for the youngest of readers to edgy novels for teens. Her list of authors includes many award-winners and New York Times bestsellers, most notably Andrea Cremer, David Levithan, Jane Yolen, T.A. Barron, Felicia Bond, Olivier Dunrea, Lisa Graff, Alex London, Peter Abrahams, and Erin Moulton. Prior to coming to Penguin in August of 2009, Jill worked for seven years at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where she once had to dress in a pig suit and hand out cupcakes to booksellers (she edited a lot of books there, too). Jill holds a B.A. in English Literature, an M.F.A. in Writing for Children, and a Certificate in Intellectual Property Law. In addition to working as an editor, Jill is also the author of the Alec Flint series (Scholastic 2008, 2009), the Sparkle Spa series (Simon & Schuster, 2014), and the Follow Your Heart series (Puffin, 2014). In her spare moments, Jill teaches fiction writing online for McDaniel College and is an M.F.A. thesis advisor at The New School. Once in a while, she sleeps.

Website: - Twitter: @JillSantopolo


And ME!

Photo: Beckett Gladney is a writer and illustrator based in Toronto, Canada. Her debut picture book, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, will be published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in Spring 2015. Her illustrations appear in I’M BORED (NYTimes Notable Book) and NAKED! (comes out Summer 2014), both written by Michael Ian Black, published by Simon & Schuster BFYR. She also has upcoming book illustration projects with HarperCollins Children’s (RUBY ROSE books by Rob Sanders) and Random House Children’s (MITZI TULANE books by Lauren McLaughlin).

Plus a few other upcoming projects with Simon & Schuster BFYR she can't talk about yet. ;-)

Debbie is represented by Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown Ltd.

For more info, visit or @inkyelbows on Twitter.


In addition, there will also be a special presentation during the conference for: Jennifer Lanthier, a Canadian children’s author who recently won a Crystal Kite award for her wonderful book, The Stamp Collector (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012).

Jennifer's one of my Torkidlit friends, and I was thrilled to hear that she had won the Crystal Kite for our region. You can see the other Crystal Kite winners on the SCBWI site. Looking forward to seeing Jennifer at the event!


Inkygirl Golden Cupcake Winner: Kite Tails Newsletter


Congrats to the SCBWI Tri-Regions Of Southern California KITE TAILS newsletter for winning an Inkygirl Golden Cupcake Award!

KITE TAILS is a free online newsletter published by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. 

Each issue is packed with all kinds of useful info about the craft and business of writing and illustrating for young people, including interviews with agents and editors.

Some of the focus is on the West Coast, but there is still a ton of valuable advice and information of use to all children's writers and illustrators.

In the current issue, for example, you can find:

- What is a Sketchcrawl?

- Common Core State Standards: Education Reform and What It Means For Illustrators

- Report from SCBWI-L.A. Illustrator's Day includes useful details about what attendees learned. Advice from children's book writer/illustrator Dan Krall: "Don't try to second-guess what other people to see."

- If It's Work, Is It Supposed To Be Fun? A First Look At SCBWI-L.A.'s Working Writer's Retreat 2012

- On Queries - by literary agent Michael Bourret

- A Will Write For Chocolate comic by yours truly :-)

- Journey To The SCBWI Summer Conference - by my friend Maple Lam (who won a place in the SCBWI-LA Mentorship Program!)

- A Poet's Perspective - by Sheila Ellis

- The Hollywood Writer's SChmooze

- Profiles of local authors and illustrators

....and sooooo much more.

You can browse past issues in the Kite Tails archive online. And I should remind you again: all this info is FREE.

Congrats again to Kite Tails on winning the Golden Cupcake! :-)


Here is a list of other winners of the Inkygirl Golden Cupcake Award.


Look what the SCBWI Head Office sent me by snail mail...


As some of you already know, I've been hugely grateful to the SCBWI for the career-changing opportunities that have come my way as a result of attending their events.

I sent them a thank you letter back in May, and SCBWI President Stephen Mooser replied as follows:

 Hi Debbie—Wow and Congratulations—we keep a file and a posting of SCBWI Success Stories, and not only is yours one of the best, but it may also be the most entertaining of all time---you have made our day and we are so happy for your well deserved success—looking forward to seeing you again soon—all best wishes from all of us here at the office, Steve

Then in mid-September, The New York Times Sunday Book Review ran a very nice review of I'M BORED, and I sent out a public request for extra copies of the review, if anyone had it. 

Today I came home from the cottage to find a copy of the review and a nice note from Steve on behalf of the SCBWI waiting for me.


I continue to be so grateful to the SCBWI for its continuing support of children's book writers and illustrators. THANK YOU, SCBWI!!


Photos from SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles 2012

SCBWI Summer Conference in LA 2012

Recently came back from the annual summer conference in LA held by the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators). What an amazing, inspiring event! I'll be posting some personal takeaways and photo faces from the conference, but for now, here are links to my photo sets:

SCBWI Summer Conference in LA 2012


SCBWI-LA 2012 photos - Part 1

SCBWI-LA 2012 photos - Part 2

SCBWI-LA 2012 photos - Part 3


SCBWI-LA 2012 photos - Part 1

SCBWI-LA 2012 photos - Part 2

SCBWI-LA 2012 photos - Part 3

I've started to get a lot of requests for individual photos to be mailed -- I'm uploading my photos to both FB and Flickr, so please do feel free to scoop any for personal or self-promo use. If you post any publicly, I'd appreciate a photo credit (something like "Photo: Debbie Ridpath Ohi -; or "Photo: Debbie Ridpath Ohi (, illustrator of I'M BORED" or just "via @inkyelbows" on Twitter). Thanks! 

SCBWI Summer Conference in LA 2012


A Thank You Letter To The SCBWI

Back in May, I wrote a thank you letter to the Society Of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. Stephen Mooser wrote back the following:

Hi Debbie—Wow and Congratulations—we keep a file and a posting of SCBWI Success Stories, and not only is yours one of the best, but it may also be the most entertaining of all time---you have made our day and we are so happy for your well deserved success—looking forward to seeing you again soon—all best wishes from all of us here at the office, Steve

 As I was doing some prep for the SCBWI conference in LA next week, I realized that posting my thank you letter publicly might be of interest to some of you out there…especially those who have never been to an SCBWI event:

May 19, 2012


I’m writing to thank you all. Since I started attending your conventions regularly in 2009, so many opportunities have come my way.

I first heard about your organization and events from Santa Barbara area author named Lee Wardlaw, who was my writing mentor. Lee also introduced me to her agent at Curtis Brown, Ginger Knowlton, and Ginger eventually became my agent.

I was nervous when I decided to register for the Summer Conference in LA in 2009. I had attended many years before, but Lee had been there to introduce me around. This time I'd be going alone. What if no one talked to me? 


When I got to the conference, I was surprised and delighted to find out that my fears were unfounded. Everyone was friendly, and I met kindred spirits everywhere: sitting beside me while we were waiting for a workshop or keynote to begin, at the many social events throughout the weekend, even in line for the women's restroom. Especially in line for the women's restroom.



And the BNA's were friendly and talked with me. Yes, even Jay Asher

(You can see other comics I did leading up to the event here: )

I learned so much at that event and came away incredibly inspired plus during the year, I kept in touch with many of the people I had met.

Fast forward to the 2010 Summer Conference.

After I was rejected for the manuscript critique (it was my fault; I had misread the rules),  my illustrator friend Beckett Gladney suggested that I enter the SCBWI Illustration Portfolio Showcase instead. I thought she was crazy because (1) I had no art training and (2) I had no portfolio. Beckett went through sketches and doodles I had been posting on Flickr, and helped me put together my very first portfolio.



Not only did I win one of two runners-up in the overall Showcase, but I was also chosen for the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Program. In addition to one-on-one sessions with six industry experts during the convention, I also met a wonderful group of illustrators who have since become friends. 

We encourage and commiserate by e-mail, launched a SCBWI Mentees blog for children's book illustrators called , and joined forces with Mentees from other years. Late last year, some of us got together for an inspiring, informative and calorie-laden Lost Weekend at the home of Caldecott-winning artist and SCBWI Illustration Board member, David Diaz.


 (Photo from Lost Weekend with David Diaz in Nov/2011)



Back to the 2010 Summer Conference:

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One of the SCBWI Portfolio Showcase judges that year was Justin Chanda, publisher at Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, and he offered me a contract to illustrate Michael Ian Black's new picture book, I'M BORED. !!!

Working with Justin and art director Laurent Linn was amazing. Don't tell anyone, but I couldn't believe that someone was actually paying me to do something that was SO MUCH FUN. I'm blogging about the process at , and I can't wait until the book comes out this September.

But wait, THAT'S NOT ALL....

  Earlier this year, Simon & Schuster BFYR offered me TWO BLANK CONTRACTS (!!!). One is for the next picture book I illustrate for them, still to be determined. The other contract is for a picture book that I will WRITE and very first own picture book. I just recently had my first phone meeting about my story with Justin Chanda, who will be my editor on the project.

None of this would have happened had it not been for the SCBWI. 

6 I’m grateful to Lee Wardlaw (who is on the faculty for this year’s Summer Conference, yay!) for first telling me about the SCBWI.

And I’m especially grateful to the SCBWI Illustration Mentors who have given me advice and encouraged me: Priscilla Burris, David Diaz, Bridget Strevens-Marzo, Cecilia Yung, Pat Cummings and Rubin Pfeffer.

If I could send a message to my younger self, I would tell her the following...


As children’s book author Nancy Parish says: Writing may be a solitary endeavor, but trying to get published doesn’t have to be.

To everyone behind the scenes at SCBWI:



Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Twitter: @inkyelbows (my blog for those who write & illustrate for young people)


Advice for illustrators entering their first SCBWI Portfolio Showcase



 I tend to get the same sorts of questions in person and email over and over, so I've started compiling some of my answers in a FAQ, for those interested.

The latest is advice for those entering the SCBWI Illustration Portfolio Showcase. As some of you already know, doing this (with the help of my friend Beckett Gladney) resulted in my getting a book contract with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, second-place in the overall Showcase and an SCBWI Mentorship Award.

See my newest FAQ entry for portfolio showcase tips and a quote from S&S BFYR editor/publisher Justin Chanda about what he liked about my portfolio.


Writer/illustrator conferences, good news and a new Pixel Shavings post

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If I could give one piece of advice to my young writer/illustrator self, I would have said this: START ATTENDING CONFERENCES. And join organizations like the SCBWI and CANSCAIP.

I have learned so much, been incredibly inspired and met many creative kindred spirits because of these events. Not to mention three children's book contracts! (I'M BORED plus two more recently, yay!!). Speaking of good things happening at conferences...

Here's my post about Pixel Shavings friends Russ Cox and Hazel Mitchell, with their good news from the New England SCBWI Conference.


One Of My Favourite New SCBWI Friends: Mike Curato



Still catching up from my week-long trip in NYC. I've decided I'm more likely to actually post about the event if I write up some shorter pieces rather than attempt one mega-long report. So here's my first!

I love making new friends at these events, which is one reason I try very hard NOT to make too many plans in advance, or hang out with the same group of people throughout the weekend.

Anyway, thanks to my Pixel Shavings friend Russ Cox for introducing me to Mike Curato (who just launched a NEW BLOG).

Not only is Mike a funny and very sweet guy, he also won top prize in this year's SCBWI Winter Conference Illustration Portfolio Showcase!

On the last day of the conference, I went out for lunch with Mike, Russ Cox, Fred Koehler, Roberta Gallagher-Rivera and Wouter Bruneel:

During the meal, I nagged (yes, I'm embarrassed to admit I did NAG) Mike to start a blog. I pointed out that with his award win, lots of people would be checking out his website after the conference. And look, he started one!!! And he gave me credit. :-)

Afterward, we had some fun taking photos out in Grand Central Terminal. From left to right: Russ, Mike, Roberta, Fred and Wouter.

Anyway, I -love- Mike's work, and can't wait to see where his career takes him next.

Where you can find more info about Mike:

Mike Curato's website

Mike Curator's brand new BLOG

Mike Curato Illustration (Facebook Page)

Mike Curato Etsy Page


Comic: Back from a writer's conference…now what?

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Just posted a post-conference comic on the MiG Writers blog.

Still catching up on e-mail and other work but promise to post about my Simon & Schuster visit and the SCBWI conference very soon!


Comics for SCBWI conference newbies (or any writing/illustrating conferences)

I created this set of comics to help break the ice when I attended my first SCBWI conference (or at least the first in a long time) in 2009, knowing that 99% of the people there wouldn't know me. I was WAY nervous.

I'm reposting the comics here in case they help anyone else. Feel free to repost individually or as a set anywhere online, as long as the goal is to help promote the SCBWI or to help kidlit writers and illustrators new to conferences.

 My advice for anyone who feels nervous about attending for the first time, or is normally very shy and introverted and not great at meeting 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.

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.

Good luck!


Cuppa Jolie blog: SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview with my agent, Ginger Knowlton!

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Jolie Stekly has a great interview with my agent, Ginger Knowlton. Ginger will be sharing her views, along with three other agents, on the final panel of the SCBWI Winter conference. And Ginger mentions me in the interview, yay!!


Sue Alexander Award Nomination!


I know I've been scarce on Inkygirl recently, but it's been craaaazybusy around here with travel, work and prep for the SCBWI Summer Conference.

I attended as both a writer and illustrator, and have been posting my kidlit illustration info and reports over on the Where The Sidewalk Begins blog for children's illustrators (SCBWI Illustration Portfolio Mentees blog). I'll be posting writing-related reports here on Inkygirl when I have a chance, but first I need to announce that...

My new YA manuscript has been nominated for the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award!

Selected from manuscripts submitted for individual critique at the SCBWI Annual Conference in Los Angeles, the Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award is given to the manuscript deemed most promising for publication.

I feel deeply honoured to be nominated for an award named after such an amazing woman. Here's info about Sue Alexander from the SCBWI site:

Sue Alexander was the first member to join SCBWI and was vitally involved with the organization from its inception to her death in 2008. Her responsibilities for SCBWI included, among others, serving as Chairperson of the Board of Advisors (33 years), managing the office (20 years), coordinating -- with Lin Oliver -- the August conference in California (25 years), and coordinating the Golden Kite Awards (25 years). She was the author of more than twenty-five books for young people, including World Famous Muriel; Small Plays for Special Days; Witch, Goblin and Sometimes Ghost; Sara’s City and award-winners Lila on the Landing; Nadia the Willful; and Behold the Trees. In addition to her books, she wrote stories for magazines and for the Los Angeles Times "Kids’ Reading Room" several times a year. Sue passed away suddenly on July 3 at her home in West Hills, California. She was 74. For more about Sue, visit

(Photo, ©1998 Marilyn Sanders.)

Many thanks to the MiG Writers Critique group, Torkidlit, Jeff and Sara for helping me get my submission into shape before the conference.


2010 SCBWI Illustrator Mentorship Award Winners!

Many thanks to the SCBWI for the Illustrator Mentorship Awards; the six of us learned SO MUCH at our mentorship sessions on the weekend. We also had fun hanging out with each other, exchanging tips and advice, and we plan to keep in touch after we all go home.

In fact, we've decided to launch a joint online project soon...stay tuned!

In the photo above:

Debbie Ridpath Ohi (me!)
Ashley Mims
Andrea Offermann
Eliza Wheeler
Kimberly Gee
John Deininger

And many thanks to our mentors:

Cecilia Yung, Art Director and VP at Penguin Young Readers;

Pat Cummings, Illustrator, Writer, and Instructor at Parsons;

Priscilla Burris, National Illustrator Coordinator;

David Diaz, Award Winning Illustrator;

Bridget Strevens-Marzo, International Illustrator Liason; and

Rubin Pfeffer, Agent at East/West Literary Agency.


A Brief (And Somewhat Stunned) Post From The SCBWI Conference In L.A.

Illustration Friday: Robot

The image above was one of the pieces in my portfolio, and was displayed on the screen at the Golden Kites Luncheon, when the award winners were announced.


[August 21, 2010 update: WOW, Simon & Schuster wants me to illustrate a book! Author: writer/actor/comedian Michael Ian Black. Tentative release date: Spring, 2012.]

I'm writing this from a hotel room in the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in L.A., where I'm attending the SCBWI Summer Conference. It's been a FANTASTIC conference. I dare anyone to come to this event and not leave super-inspired, armed with new knowledge about the craft and business of writing and illustrating. I've been taking all my notes on my iPad.

This was also the first time I attended this conference where I attended some illustrator tracks in addition to writing tracks. My California illustrator friend, Beckett Gladney, convinced me to sign up for the Portfolio Showcase at the last minute. I was highly resistant, telling her my work wasn't good enough yet, that I wouldn't have the time to polish the pieces I wanted to include.

But (as good friends do), she pushed hard enough that I finally thought heck, I might as well. I'm always encouraging people to step outside of their comfort zones and push their own personal envelopes, so I should listen to my own advice. My mega-talented author/illustrator sister, Ruth Ohi, also encouraged me to enter, offering me portfolio and art tips.

When I almost pulled out because of lack of time, Beckett helped me by going into my Flickr set of illustrations online, picked out the pieces she thought would showcase my strengths, and printed them out for me. She also sewed a gorgeous handmade cover for my portfolio that attracted a lot of positive comments (to you artists out there: Beckett sells custom-made portfolio covers in her Etsy shop).

Photo by Beckett Gladney.

At the hotel, we spread all the pieces on the floor of our hotel room, and she helped me put my portfolio together. I was surprised by her choice of pieces -- they weren't the images I would have chosen. But I trusted her instincts, and I'm glad I did. Because...


Not only did I place in the top three (an Honor award) overall, but I was also selected by a second set of judges as one of the six Mentorship Award illustrators. The Mentorship Award is given to illustrators participating in the annual Portfolio Showcase "whose publishable work shows great promise and potential." Yesterday morning, I had individual critique sessions with six members of the SCBWI Board Illustrator Committee  as well as publishing industry pro, Rubin Pfeffer.

Mentor List (added later because some people were asking):

Cecilia Yung, Art Director and VP at Penguin Young Readers;

Pat Cummings, Illustrator, Writer, and Instructor at Parsons;

Priscilla Burris, National Illustrator Coordinator;

David Diaz, Award Winning Illustrator;

Bridget Strevens-Marzo, International Illustrator Liason; and

Rubin Pfeffer, Agent at East/West Literary Agency.

I was completely stunned, considering the level of craftsmanship I saw in the portfolios display in the showcase.

I'll post more info when I get back from L.A., but I had to post the news here because you've all been so supportive of my cartoons and doodles. THANK YOU! Special HUGE thanks to my friend Beckett and sister Ruth for encouraging me to do this.

After talking with the Mentors yesterday morning, I'm SOOOO excited about new possibilities in my creative work that I hadn't considered before.

Part of me is still wondering if I'm going to be waking up at some point.

Ok, so this post wasn't so brief after all. And AUGH, I can't believe it's already the last day of the conference!

Must log off now...



Countdown to the SCBWI Convention

I lack the time to do a SCBWI countdown comic for this year, but here are the comics I did for last year's conference:

Hope to see meet some of you at the conference!