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 archives, 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 YA (7)


One thing books teach us is that if your life sucks right now, you just haven't gotten to the good part. - Tim Federle

One of my favourite Tim Federle quotes:

One thing books teach us is that if your life sucks right now, you just haven't gotten to the good part.

You can get the above image as a free, print-ready poster in my Free, Print-Ready Archives.


FIFTEEN LANES by S.J. Laidlaw (Tundra Books, launching April/2016)

Just finished FIFTEEN LANES by S.J. Laidlaw (a.k.a. Susan Laidlaw), which comes out from Tundra Books/Penguin Random House on April 5th, 2016.

An intense and compelling read, FIFTEEN LANES follows the lives of two teenage girls from very different backgrounds.

Click to read more ...


Christina Farley on writing YA, GILDED and SILVERN, plus advice for aspiring YA authors

June 5, 2017 Update: Christina Farley now has a wonderful middle grade novel out from Scholastic! See her website for more info about THE PRINCESS AND THE PAGE as well as her GILDED trilogy.

I met Christina Farley through my critique group, the MiG Writers. Christy's one of the most productive writers I know, and she recently left her teaching job so she could write fulltime.

Christina's contemporary fantasy novel for young adults, GILDED, launched from Skyscape earlier this year. Its sequel, SILVERN, launches on September 23rd, 2014. You can read the first chapter of SILVERN here.

Other places to find Christy:

Website - Twitter - Facebook - YouTube - Tumblr - Pinterest

Synopsis of GILDED:

Sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee is a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself. When her widowed dad uproots her to Seoul from her home in L.A., Jae thinks her biggest challenges will be fitting into a new school and dealing with her dismissive Korean grandfather. Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she's next.

But that’s not Jae’s only problem.

There's also Marc. Irresistible and charming, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae's heart. As the two grow closer, Jae must decide if she can trust him. But Marc has a secret of his own—one that could help Jae overturn the curse on her family for good. It turns out that Jae's been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she's always been looking for.

Q. What was your writing process for GILDED? 

Coming up with ideas for books can be a challenge, but the idea for GILDED stemmed from the Korean myth of Haemosu and Princess Yuhwa. It left me wondering what happened after Princess Yuhwa escaped Haemosu’s clutches.

The what ifs inspired me to write the story of GILDED. But to writing a full length novel isn’t easy.

1. First I plotted out the story.

See my plot grid for GILDED here:

I also did a blog post on more specifics on how to plot out books here and you can use my templates to get you started here.


2. Next, I prepare to write the book.

I often use aromatherapy (a scented candle) to write as well as create a soundtrack for each book. I love keeping a journal for each book as well. This will have all the names of my characters in it, nuisances, research I’ve done on the book, notes, and illustrations. The journal became extremely useful when I went to write the sequel and had to remember all the small details for characters or the rules of my world. For more ideas, you can check this video I made here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3chpYaMLYxg

3. Once everything is prepped, then I write my first draft. It’s sloppy and a complete wreck, but the structure of the book is in place.

For GILDED I had to do a lot of research of Korean mythology. I also found that since Jae Hwa was a martial arts expert, I had to learn Korean archery and taekwondo because I wanted the book to be as authentic as possible.

4. Revision is where the book comes to life. I revised GILDED so many times I’ve lost track. But each time, I strengthened the book’s structure, working on characterization, description, subplots and the arc of the book.

5. After I think the book is in good shape, I have my critique partners take a look. Debbie Ohi and I are part of the MiG Writers ( www.migwriters.com). I’m indebted to her and the rest of the group for their hard work in helping GILDED shine.

Q. How did GILDED get published?

Finding an Agent:

Once I finished GILDED, I realized I needed an agent for this book. So I did my research mainly on querytracker. I’d look up agents in my field and then research everything I could on them before I queried them. My agented friend’s warned me that a bad agent is worse than no agent, so I when I received offers of representation from agents, I made sure I had a phone conversation with them to see if they were the right fit. I talk more about that here: http://youtu.be/5Kebg57lUJs

Finding a Publisher:

I like to say it was tough work, but my agent, Jeff Ourvan of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, LLC, is completely responsible for selling GILDED. He found the perfect editor for me and I’m thrilled to be working with Miriam Juskowicz.

Christina with her editor, Miriam Juskowicz.

The biggest difficulty I had was decision making. Before signing with Amazon Children’s, there was another unexpected option with a different project. Jeff provided invaluable guidance of what to do for my career long term rather than just signing with the first book offer I was given. I think this all goes back in finding the right agent because the right agent looks out for you not just for the one book, but for your career.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring YA writers? 

My advice for writers is to focus on your craft. Become not only a master of weaving words, but tap into your creative self. If others are writing it, you shouldn’t. Trend chasing will only leave you frustrated. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Challenge yourself to write outside of your comfort zone because in doing this, you are pushing yourself to become everything you can be as a writer.

Don’t base your success on others. You have your own path to follow. It won’t be all grassy fields and stunning mountain peaks. The writer’s journey is a lot like the path through Mirkwood in the HOBBIT. You may feel lost, confused, trapped in the feelings of depression; and if you, don’t be afraid to take a break. Follow Bilbo’s example and climb a tree, leave the forest behind, and breathe in the fresh air.

As Gandalf says, “DON’T LEAVE THE PATH!”

Q. How did the launch for GILDED go?

My launch was amazing. I actually had two launches, a virtual and a physical launch. The reason I did this is I have so many friends from all around the world, including my critique partners! This allowed me to celebrate this special day with them because they have been there with me every step of this incredibly hard journey. It meant so much to me to have them 'there' after all we've been through together. Link for the virtual launch: http://christinafarley.com/the-dream-team/

For my physical launch, I had it at the Windermere Library since it was the perfect location for all of my friends and family to come together. We had 120 people show up and it was overwhelming how kind everyone was to show their support of the book.

After I did a power point presentation about the history of how GILDED came to be, I read a portion of GILDED and then we ate cake and celebrated! While I was signing books, my husband gave away books and swag. It was definitely a day I will never forget. More photos from the physical launch: http://christinafarley.com/gildeds-launch-party-recap/

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

I’m thrilled to say the sequel to GILDED is coming out this fall! SILVERN delves deeper into Jae Hwa’s world. You’ll find out more about the workings of the Guardians of Shinshi and new twists on the Spirit World.

Currently, I have three projects I’m playing with. I’m revising the third book in the GILDED series, drafting a new YA unrelated to the GILDED series, and researching for an historical adventure MG set in the early 1900’s.

View of Seoul from Christina's desk where she wrote Gilded.


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.


Interview: YA author Nelsa Roberto and THE BREAK

 I met Nelsa Roberto through the Toronto Middle Grade and Young Adult Author Group (a.k.a. Torkidlit). I love Nelsa -- she's so positive and funny and encouraging; I've appreciated her encouragement of my own writing.

I enjoyed Nelsa's previous book, Illegally Blonde (Great Plains Teen Fiction, 2010); I interviewed Nelsa for Inkygirl about how she wrote and sold her first book. Thanks to Nelsa for agreeing to answer some questions about her second YA novel, THE BREAK, which launched in this Spring.

Nelsa posts about the writing life, kidlit/YA & her work in her blog, Out Of The Wordwork. You can also find her on Twitter at @nelsaroberto, Pinterest and Facebook (and she's currently using a photo that I took for her Pinterest & Facebook user icon, yay :-).

Could you please tell us about your book, THE BREAK?  

THE BREAK began with a simple thought, one that came into my head as I saw my mom interacting with my kids in that completely unselfish, completely there, unconditional love she and my dad have for them. “This is the purest kind of love”, I thought. From there came the less happy thought, “What would my kids life be without their grandparents in it? What would they lose? What would my parents lose?”

Once those thoughts start happening then, if you’re a writer, you know a story line will surely follow. So Abby Lambert and her beloved, Nonna, were born.

Around the same time that I was thinking about writing a love story about a girl and her grandmother, I also decided to bring the aging theme – and all the constraints and difficulties aging creates – into sharp focus by making Nonna be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Memory - and all that means to relationships and family and the passing down of family history from grandparent to grandchild – is a fascinating thing. Without it we have no connection to each other.

How does the loss of memories affect relationships? How do family members react when this starts to happen? I knew so many people whose lives have been impacted by various forms of dementia. So many times I heard people say it was almost harder to deal with seeing their parents/grandparents/spouse etc. losing their memory than if they were dealing with a physical illness.


As for a plot summary for THE BREAK, I just had my first review in The Winnipeg Free Press and I thought they did a fabulous job of summarizing what the book is about:  

“…in The Break (Great Plains, 204 pages, $15 paperback), Roberto has written (about) … a teen who refuses to accept that her beloved grandmother is suffering from dementia. It is also a novel about guilt and the devastating effects of regret. Abby Lambert is furious with her mother, who has accepted a position with Doctors Without Borders for the very week of spring break, when Abby has planned to join a ski trip. Abby is left to look after her grandmother, whom she soon realizes may be having some severe problems. Her Nonna also wants to visit the Sunny Haven home, which Abby avoids at all costs. Abby's life becomes more complicated when she gets to know a boy whom she has always thought of as arrogant and unfriendly -- until she sees a sensitive side of him as he works with seniors at the nursing home. Abby must face unwanted truths and make important decisions. This is a realistic novel with a dash of romance that teens will find appealing.”

  How did THE BREAK get published?  

Research into Alzheimer’s was easily done as there are many websites and articles about this devastating illness. I also, unfortunately, knew friends and family who had had to deal with a loved one going through this illness.

I began writing this book as a follow up to my first novel, ILLEGALLY BLONDE (Great Plains Teen Fiction, 2010) – in fact, I began writing it while IB was still on submission. Once Great Plains bought my first book I knew I’d have to submit an option book.

Knowing Great Plains preferred contemporary realistic stories I knew the idea and themes of THE BREAK would appeal. Yet, as per my usual process, I wrote about 100 pages then stopped (that dratted murky middle again!) and I started another book that was calling to me – a YA paranormal.

My then agent looked at both partials and encouraged me to focus on THE BREAK. Good thing she did! Great Plains released it in March, 2012 and I had the launch April 20th at TYPE Books in Toronto where I did my very first public reading and didn't collapse from nerves!

  How much outlining do you do? What is your typical work process or work day?

For this book, I actually outlined the whole thing! That deserves an exclamation remark because that is not the usual process for me. Usually I outline the first half or do a back-cover kind of blurb/synopsis then jump right in to writing.

Funnily enough, I always thought that because I don’t usually outline the whole book, that was one of the reasons I get stuck in the murky middle – I haven’t plotted the rest of the book out so I need to stop and think! Yet, with THE BREAK I had plotted it all out and I still stopped in the middle.

When I look back on the outline now, I do see some plot lines that didn’t branch out in the final product so I know when I actually start the writing, regardless of whether or not it’s plotted out, the pantsing takes over and I may veer off in another direction that may or may not slow me down (usually it slows me down!)  

My typical work process is to write when and where I can. With a full time job and a busy family life, I usually write on the subway, or at home late at night. But my life the last year has been unusual since we’ve undergone a massive home reno so all my routines went out the window (along with the old windows!).

I’m hoping to get back into at least an hour’s worth of writing a night again. I’ve discovered that not writing is not making me feel good (writers understand). I’m only 20,000 words away from finishing a WIP that I started back in 2008 and shelved.

When I looked at it again last fall, the spark lit up for me and I added another 10,000 words on it relatively quickly so I’m hoping now that I’m settled in my home life (somewhat) I can finish this one and make headway on another one that I just started and start querying agents with it in the fall.

Any words of encouragement for writers who keep getting rejection letters?

Rejection letters are what you make them. If you are getting form letters congratulate yourself on having the courage to send your writing out there. That is no small thing. If you are getting personalized rejection letters it shows you are developing as a writer.

Your story, your writing, your characters - something has made an editor or agent connect enough with your words for them to write something to you. Appreciate the compliments and learn from the comments.

If you keep getting rejection letters it means you have perseverance. You cannot become published if you don't have that. 

Bravery, talent, knowledge, persistence.  What's so bad about rejection letters again?

What are you working on now?

I've completed a YA fairy-tale inspired romance that is out for critique with some writers I trust. It may need to be reworked again before I decide if it is good enough to query.

I'm also trying to finish another YA contemporary that I began several years ago. I'm hoping to get that done over the summer. The thing I've learned is that not every book you finish writing may be good enough to go out there. But every book you finish writing is a victory because you finish.  

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?  

Always write a book you feel passionate about. Don’t worry whether it’s not the ‘in’ thing that will land you a publishing contract. Worry about whether your main character is appealing. Worry about whether he/she has a goal/problem worth writing (and reading!) about for 200+ pages. Worry about if you have enough conflict.

Worry. About. The. Story. Not about whether you are going to be published or not. That worry comes soon enough after you’ve written this book you are passionate about. Until that time comes, concentrate on the writing and the story. The rest will follow.


Find out more info about Nelsa at her blog: http://out-of-the-wordwork.blogspot.ca/

Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.

With YA author Nelsa Roberto


Interview: YA Author Deborah Kerbel & UNDER THE MOON

I first met Deborah Kerbel through the Toronto Middle Grade and Young Adult Author Group (a.k.a. Torkidlit) - Deborah's so fun to talk with, and I've also been enjoying her books over the years. Deborah's teen novels include Under the Moon (2012), Lure (2010), Girl on the Other Side (2009), and Mackenzie, Lost and Found (2008). Her personal essay, The Curtain, is included in the YA anthology, Dear Bully (HarperCollins, 2011) and her novels have been shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association’s YA Book of the Year Award and the Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award. A native of London, U.K., Deborah now lives and writes in Thornhill, Ontario.

Her website: http://deborahkerbel.com

Tell us a little bit about your new book, UNDER THE MOON. 

Under the Moon is a YA novel about a girl who’s lost her sleep, a boy who’s lost his dreams and the twenty-six nights that change their lives. It’s about grieving, friendship, and first love. And at the heart of the story lies a question: what do we, as human beings, really need in order to survive in this world?

Despite the serene looking cover, this book was born out of chaos…specifically the chaos of my life. I started writing it in the spring of 2010 – at that time, my children were aged 7 and 4 and, between the daily demands of motherhood and writing, there was never enough time to give proper attention to everything. To put it bluntly, most of the time I barely had a spare moment to scratch an itch. During my busiest moments, I secretly resented having to give up so many precious hours to sleep and a strange fantasy began working it’s way through my exhausted brain: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I didn’t have to sleep at all? Imagine all the things I could accomplish?’

I actually came out and spoke about this weird little fantasy one night at a Torkidlit meeting…in fact, I think I said it to you, Debbie! And of course, uttering the words out loud immediately sparked an idea for a new book. Sure, I knew what I would do with all those extra hours in a day. But what would a teenager do if she didn’t have to sleep? How would she fill the long, dark hours of a sleepless night? I wanted to find out. That’s where the idea for Under the Moon came from.

When was UNDER THE MOON published? 

Under the Moon was published in March 2012 by Dancing Cat Books (an imprint of Cormorant Books). Barry Jowett is the publisher and editor there and he’s so wonderful to work with. He was the acquiring editor of my very first YA novel, Mackenzie, Lost and Found (which came out with Dundurn in 2009) and I was really hoping for the chance to do another book with him. I submitted this manuscript to Barry exclusively and crossed my fingers. Luckily for me, he liked it.

How much outlining do you do? What is your typical work process or work day?

 I confess, I don’t have a standard approach to writing books. Sometimes I outline meticulously, other times I fly by the seat of my pants. This book was a pantser. I started out with the premise of a sleepless girl (whose voice was already very loud and clear in my head). I didn’t really know where I was going with the story when I started writing, which was a bit scary and a bit exciting at the same time. But I kept pushing my main character forward through the plot and ultimately, the story revealed itself.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

 Read every day. Write every day. Absorb all the details, from the beautiful to the hideous, in the world around you. Be mulishly stubborn, fearless, and committed. Write stories that move you. Don’t take criticism of your writing too much to heart. Same thing with compliments – they can be equally destructive. Connect with other writers…ultimately, they’re the only ones who’ll understand the ups and downs of this crazy roller-coaster business.

What are you working on now? Anything else you'd like people to know?

 My kids are a couple years older now, so lately I’ve got more time and I’m starting to get more done (read: no more insomnia fantasies). I’m actually working on several projects at the moment, each in various stages of completion and revision: a picture book about memory; a middle-grade novel about the evil eye; and an urban fantasy YA novel with a bit of a horror edge. On top of all that, I’m also co-authoring a non-fiction book about kids and money. There’s a little something for everyone in the works.

For more info about Deborah Kerbel and her work:

Website: www.deborahkerbel.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authordeborahkerbel

Twitter: http://twitter.com/deborahkerbel

Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.


Inkpop: HarperCollins’ community YA site


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Publishing Perspectives has an interesting article today called, Are Social Media Sites the New Slush Pile?

Debut author Leigh Fallon, discovered on HarperCollins’ community YA site, is one example about how the path to authorship is changing, according to the article.

Quote from the article: "Launched by HarperCollins in 2009, Inkpop combines community publishing, user-generated content, and social networking to connect aspiring writers of teen literature with talent-spotting readers and publishing professionals. Fallon uploaded her manuscript and almost immediately it caught the attention of readers – within three weeks it had risen to the site’s 'Top Five' most read and highly rated manuscripts."

You can read the full article on Publishing Perspectives.



Video for teens from authors & illustrators: It Gets Better