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 interview (9)


My podcast interview on WritersMarket about writing and illustrating children's books

Thanks to Robert Lee Brewer and Brian Klems of Writer's Digest for inviting me to be on their new WritersMarket.com podcast! I talked about how I started writing and illustrating books for young people, what I've learned so far, my middle grade novel, meeting Judy Blume, how much I love illustrating Michael Ian Black's stories for kids, board gaming, musical instruments and much more.

I was nervous but ended up having a lot of fun; both Robert and Brian are such nice guys. I used to work with both Robert and Brian for Writer's Digest (a daily publishing news column as well as articles for the magazine) and I hope to finally meet them in person someday!

Link: How To Be A Children's Book Author & Illustrator With Debbie Ridpath Ohi on the WritersMarket.com podcast.


Behind-the-scenes: How new picture book PIRASAURS! was created, with insights from author Josh Funk and illustrator Michael Slack


Back in May 2013, I posted an interview with Celia Lee, an editor at Cartwheel Books / Scholastic, and Celia invited Inkygirl readers to submit manuscripts for a limited time; apparently Celia received over a thousand submissions (!). A couple of years later, I met Josh Funk at nErDcampMI and found out that he had sold one of his picture book manuscripts to Celia as a result of my Inkygirl post, and it was being illustrated by Michael Slack.

Click to read more ...


Advice For Young Writers, Tea, Books and Office Owls: Three Questions With Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple


Today, I'm delighted to have Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple visiting Inkygirl. Jane and Heidi are co-authors of YOU NEST HERE WITH ME, a new picture book that recently came out from Boyds Mill Press, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. I've also been a longtime fan of Jane's work, especially her fairy tale retellings.

I asked both Jane and Heidi to answer Three Questions for me, and here are their answers:

Three Questions With Jane Yolen

Three Questions With Heidi Stemple



My interview on Simply Messing About: How Inkygirl.com was born, my writing/illustration career, time management and more

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Thanks to Renee Kurilla for interviewing me on Simply Messing About, a wonderful blog about creating children's books.

Topics covered include:

- How I ended up selling my website for writers and moving to Philadelphia for six months (away from my husband!)

- How Inkygirl.com got started

- Time management

- Why I encourage aspiring children's book writers and illustrators to attend SCBWI conventions

- Introverts and networking

- How to get out of a creative rut

- How to maintain a positive attitude

Read the full interview on Simply Messing About.


Interview with Adrienne Kress about THE FRIDAY SOCIETY: creative process & advice for writers

Photo of Adrienne: Tanja Tiziana. Steampunk background: http://valerianastock.deviantart.com

I met Adrienne Kress through the Toronto MG/YA Author Group (Torkidlit). She's smart, funny and passionate about her craft, and I've appreciated her advice and encouragement over the years. I interviewed Adrienne about her middle grade novels last year, and I can't wait to buy her new YA steampunk novel, THE FRIDAY SOCIETY (Dial, Dec/2012). More info on her website: AdrienneKress.com.

If you're in the Toronto area, I encourage you to go to Adrienne's book launch on Fri. Dec. 7th at the Gladstone Hotel. Check out this VERY cool event launch poster (click to see the bigger version):

Summary of the plot from a starred Quill & Quire review of THE FRIDAY SOCIETY: "The steampunk adventure novel, set in Edwardian London, follows the lives of three very different teenage girls, each of whom works for an important man but also maintains a life of her own. The three strangers – Cora (the lab assistant), Nellie (the magician’s assistant), and Michiko (the Japanese fighter’s assistant) – find themselves thrust together as the result of a horrific unsolved murder and quickly discover that, by combining their special skills, they can accomplish more than they ever thought possible."

Above: BookEnds interviews Adrienne about steampunk fiction, writing & THE FRIDAY SOCIETY.

Q. What was your creative process for The Friday Society?

The creative process for THE FRIDAY SOCIETY was very similar to the process for my writing in general.

It starts with thinking. Normally I get a cool basic idea. In this case it was a team of female Steampunk superheroes. Then I start to problem solve: how many should there be? Who are they? How do they meet? What is the basic plot that drives them? What are the supporting characters? Etc. The more I think, the more comes to me. It's all a bit of a logic exercise, "If they are like this, then this means that. If this is their job, that means that they probably live here. . ." and so on.

I really do just think about it for a good while. If the idea sticks with me, if it gives me butterflies still a week later, I take that as a sign that the idea has staying power. That's the key with writing for me. The act of writing is not glamorous. It's hard work. You aren't always inspired to write. In fact many days you feel a bit like a little kid who doesn't want to get up in the morning: "I don't wanna!!" So you need to have a project that you are completely passionate about. That you are willing to work through the rough patches for. At least I do.

Then comes figuring out the voice. This usually begins by jumping into the deep end and just starting writing. For THE FRIDAY SOCIETY it took a bit more effort than usual coming up with the voice. I started out writing it oldy-timey - a bit like the voice I used in my short story in the anthology CORSETS & CLOCKWORK - but it didn't really suit the light irreverent tone I was going for. Eventually the idea of writing the book in a contemporary voice came to me, and it made SO much sense. After all, the key to Steampunk is that it is anachronistic - a story set in the past but with futuristic technology and attitudes. Well why couldn't the actual act of telling the story be anachronistic too?? (if you want to read a post on the subject of anachronisms in Steampunk and why I chose the voice I did, check out my blog here). Once I had the voice, I could really get going on the story.

Photo: Tanja Tiziana

Now back when I was younger when I wrote just for fun, I realised I was the kind of person who enjoyed starting to write and seeing where the story took me. If I planned something out too much I got bored. I would feel, "Well, I already know what happens, what's the point in me writing it?" But I quickly learned that if I didn't do any planning whatsoever I would paint myself into a corner that I just couldn't get out of. So what I tend to do is a combination of both. I come up with a very basic plan, and then I fill in the blanks in the moment as I write. I also tend to plan in phases. So I'll plan the first fifth of the book, and when I'm coming to the end of that, I'll stop and plan the next fifth. Etc. As an example: with the beginning of THE FRIDAY SOCIETY I decided I wanted three chapters of introductions per girl and then I wanted my girls to meet up at a gala where they would come across . . . something mysterious. Seriously, that was it. Not much to go on, but still enough that I knew where I was going.

I should add at this point that I do tend to have a very basic idea of what the novel will be on the whole. This is part of what I think about during the thinking phase. But again it's very basic. In the case of TFS it was, "I want a Steampunk superhero origins story where my three girls defeat someone intent on destroying London for some reason. Also there will be subplots." :)

As I continue to write my book I, of course, come across bumps in the road and face difficult problem solving. This is always tricky to manage but I have learned that if I just stick with it I can get out to the other side. Sometimes it means moving onto something else or just going for a walk to clear my head. Sometimes it means sitting there and figuring it out one word at a time. And it's kind of amazing the direction your brain can take you. The characters of Hayao and Dr. Mantis were meant to be small one offs, but as I wrote them they just took on a life of their own and became integral to the story. This is why I enjoy not planning every little thing as I write, I love being surprised by my own story.

Now my method is simply mine. It certainly does not work for everyone. The most important thing is for a writer to find what works for him/her and be confident in that technique. So many blogs will tell you absolutes. But here's a secret: whatever works for you, works for you. Try different methods, see what sticks and discard that which doesn't. Don't be afraid to fail, and don't second guess when something is working for you.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Unfortunately my advice in not particularly glamorous nor original. It is: Read and Write. Ta da! To elaborate. . . Read. Read a lot. Read every genre and every medium. Read novels, non-fiction, plays, poetry, graphic novels, picture books etc etc and so forth. Everything you read will inform what you write. It will teach you the writing rules, it will teach you how to break those rules. It will teach you what you like, it will teach you what you aren't a fan of.

And then you have to write. You just have to write. A lot. You never really learn until you do. And you never really improve until you do a lot.

Q. Any upcoming events or current projects you'd like to share?

Well, the book launch for THE FRIDAY SOCIETY is this Friday at The Gladstone Hotel in Toronto

I am also doing a Steampunk event at Words Worth Books in Waterloo on December 12th with the wonderfully talented Morgan Rhodes (author of the upcoming FALLING KINGDOMS). 

Related links where you can find more info about Adrienne:

Adrienne Kress media kit

Adrienne Kress author website (Adrienne's also an actor, director, playwright & teacher)

On Twitter: @AdrienneKress, on Facebook

Inkygirl interview with Adrienne last year

Review of THE FRIDAY SOCIETY by Quill & Quire, Steampunk Canada

Some related interviews:

Avery's Book Nook: "The Friday Society" by Adrienne Kress

The Friday Society: A Chat with Adrienne Kress (The Book Smugglers)

Manga Maniac Cafe interview with Adrienne




My Toasted Cheese interview on NOT being bored: my unusual career path, time management, working with Simon & Schuster and more


Thanks to Erin Bellavia for interviewing me for Toasted Cheese, a writing community and literary journal. I had lots of fun answering these questions. :-)


Interview with Joanne Levy, author of SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE


I met Joanne Levy through the Toronto Area Middle Grade & Young Adult Author Group (Torkidlit), and was excited to hear about her upcoming book, Small Medium At Large, published by Bloomsbury. If you're in the Hamilton area on July 14th, do check out Joanne's book launch party. (Note: there will be CUPCAKES!)

You can follow Joanne on Twitter, on Facebook and on her website: Joannelevy.com.

About SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE: After she’s hit by lightning at a wedding, twelve-year-old Lilah Bloom develops a new talent: she can hear dead people. Among them, there’s her overopinionated Bubby Dora; a prissy fashion designer; and an approval-seeking clown who livens up a séance. With Bubby Dora leading the way, these and other sweetly imperfect ghosts haunt Lilah through seventh grade, and help her face her one big fear: talking to—and possibly going to the seventh-grade dance with—her crush, Andrew Finkel.

SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE comes out June 26 in Canada and July 3 in the U.S.

Could you please tell me a little bit about your book? What inspired you to write it? What it's about?

The story of what inspired SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE isn’t all that exciting—it began as a title. Normally, I get about halfway through a book before I come up with something to call it, but this title came to me fully formed one morning when I woke up. I was working on other projects at the time, so I tucked it away, but it nagged at me for about a year until I figured I’d better just sit down and write it. The title pretty much dictated what it would be about. 

Wow, it began as a title? That's great! Has this happened to you before or since? Do you keep a notebook of title ideas?

Thanks, Debbie! I actually have another really great title that popped into my head one day, but I have yet to write the book, so I’m going to keep that one under wraps for now. That said, it’s usually through writing the book that I come up with a title. I try to come up with something that’s catchy but has a lot of meaning at the same time—stuff with multiple layers/meanings are always good. But I will say that it’s nice when my subconscious does the heavy lifting for me and gives me something great to work with!

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

I do zero outlining. I usually start with about four or five plot points in my head and just sit down and start writing. I’ve tried to force myself to become an outliner (which would save me a lot of trouble down the road) but my brain just doesn’t work that way. As for my work day? Well, I do have a full-time job to work around, so much of my writing is done in big chunks on the weekend and sometimes in the evenings, if I have time after Tweeting and Facebooking. ;-)

Do you do much revision? What's your revision/editing process?

 I’ll be honest: I don’t love editing. For me, the love is in the drafting and discovery of the plot and the characters, so the editing is the really hard work. I edit a lot as I go, so generally my first completed drafts are pretty clean.

BUT, when you don’t outline, editing for content beyond the first draft is really necessary to get everything in order and layer in details.  That means several drafts. I do try to put my first drafts away for a bit (and send them off to beta readers) so I can look at them with fresh eyes after some percolate time.

Then I pull them out and start with big picture stuff, much of which will have come from beta readers. Does the story work? Any big inconsistencies or holes? Are the characters’ motivations realistic? That’s usually two or three passes, especially if I’m adding/deleting scenes.

Then I start in a little closer with the detail work—names, events, timelines – does everything line up? After that, I do a final ‘find and replace’ to get rid of my overused words like ‘that’ and ‘just’ and my many physical tics – head shaking, nodding, winking.

Joanne's office

You originally began SMALL MEDIUM as a YA. What was your reaction when your editor suggested it would work well for a younger audience? 

The first time she came to me to ask if I would consider rewriting it, (and just to be clear, this wasn’t the editor who ended up buying the book) I was flattered that she loved it so much, but I thought someone else would like it as it was, so I respectfully declined.

The second time she came back and asked, nearly a year later, after we hadn’t sold the book, I figured why not? I really had no idea what I was doing, but she suggested some reading and had faith that I could do it. She was obviously right, and although she didn’t end up being the editor who bought the book, I’m grateful for her vision.


Do you have any advice for writers who aren't sure whether their work-in-progress is MG or YA? 

Read a lot of both and get a good ear for the voice. I wasn’t familiar with MG, (other than what I read as a kid)  until I started reading it for research, but it made a lot of sense once I got a good really good taste of it. Here’s an excellent list of differences – I particularly like #3 about the focus.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

 Read a lot. Write a lot. And prepare to toughen up your skin—this is a tough industry where heartache, rejection and bad news are pretty much guarantees. BUT if you are passionate, willing to put in the time and effort, and can stick it out, the rewards can be amazing!

What books are you reading right now?

 My tastes are very eclectic—as much as I love books for kids, I also enjoy grown up escape reads, too! I just finished an ARC of IN A FIX by Linda Grimes – a book for grownups, but filled with lots of laughs and was great fun. As for MG, I recently read THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate and loved it a lot. Up next is the YA, THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT by Jennifer E. Smith – I’ve really been looking forward to reading this one for a while and I’ve been hearing lots of great things about it.

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

I’m working on several different projects: more middle grade and a funny YA that I’m hoping will be a great follow up to SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE as my readers get a bit older. Nothing I can talk about specifically just yet, but I can tell you, all the stuff I’m working on will make you laugh! 

Where can people find you online?

I’m all over the place!

Web: joannelevy.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JoanneLevyAuthor

Twitter: @joannelevy

Also see other Inkygirl Interviews.


This week on MiGwriters: meet our agents from Transatlantic, Curtis Brown, Jennifer DeChiara and Jennifer Lyons

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Today's MiGwriters blog interview is with Andrea Cascardi of Translatlantic Literary Agency.

Tomorrow: my agent, Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown!


My interview on Raychelle Writes | The Writer's Block


Thanks to Raychelle Muhammed for interviewing me on her blog today as part of her Writer's Block interview series.

In this interview, I answer the questions:

1) Tell us a bit about who you are, and where you live and work.

2) Describe your journey to becoming an author/ illustrator.

3) Describe your body of work. Which have been some of your most meaningful projects?

4) Tell us about your upcoming release, I’M BORED.

5) What is Inkspot? How did you develop the concept for it?

6) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?

7) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

8) How has music played a role in your life?

9) How have your professional associations enhanced your career?

10) What are your upcoming plans for 2012?

11) What advice would you offer to aspiring author/illustrators?

Fun questions to answer. Thanks for the interview, Raychelle!