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 teachers (4)


Summer reading, access to books and Donalyn Miller's post on the Nerdy Book Club

If you enjoy books for children and young adults, then I encourage you to go visit the Nerdy Book Club blog, if you haven't already. I enjoyed Donalyn Miller's recent post about how to increase book access for all children. Enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I was inspired to drawing the image above. Although the tips in the article are geared mainly toward educators, I found them informative and motivating for book creators as well.

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Children's Book Finger Puppets: tips for children's book creators, teachers and parents

I've added some free print-ready templates for creating finger puppets related to I'M BORED and WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? You can preview the I'm Bored puppets here and download here. You can get the Where Are My Books? puppets here: Spencer & Mom preview/download, Sis and Dad preview/download and Squirrel/Narwhal/Book preview/download. For all my free, print-ready material, see my Print-Ready Archives.

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Pernille Ripp's Reading Myth #1: "This is a girl/boy book"

I was so inspired by Pernille Ripp's talk at Nerd Camp earlier this year and just discovered (duh, why didn't I look for this earlier?) that she has a blog! I was inspired to illustrate a quote from her recent piece, "Stop Feeding The Beast - The Reading Myths We Pass On As Truth."

You can find out mroe about Pernille at PernilleSRipp.com, on Twitter at @pernilleripp and on Facebook at Passionate Learners.


Gratitude, Encouragement and Inspiration: My Eighth Grade Teacher, Mr. David Smallwood

So much goodstuff has happened to me since 2010, when I was offered my first book contract. This is one of a series of blog posts (in no particular order) about people to whom I am grateful. Posts so far: My career-changing SCBWI conference - My thank you letter to the SCBWI - A thank you to Justin Chanda and Simon & Schuster Children's.

Above: My eighth grade teacher, David Smallwood, surprised me (and yes, made me weepy) last year by attending my very first book launch, for my illustrations in I'M BORED.  Not only that, but he gave me a folder full of my writing back then, which he had kept all these years:

Most of these stories and poems were written solely to show my teacher for the pure fun of it, NOT because they were assigned. All were typed manually (with mistakes laboriously fixed with correction fluid), and a few illustrations. Back then, I mainly wrote science fiction, horror and mystery, and was fond of twist endings.

David Smallwood (I still can't help but think of him as Mr. Smallwood, though he encourages me to call him David now) is the first teacher who ever encouraged me in my creative writing. I loved his sharp wit and the way he noticed individual students, no matter how quiet or shy. I clearly remember how much his comments about my writing made me more confident, drew me out of my shell.

We used to have a "who can be more witty/snarky" letter war going on that I hugely enjoyed. I used to spend hours with a thesaurus in my efforts to find longer and longer words in our literary one-upmanship contest:


I'm still fascinated by words, slightly off-beat humor and snark.

After I graduated from grade school, my friend Cathy and I used to go back and visit Mr. Smallwood from time to time. As high school students, we felt so sophisticated and grown-up as we reminisced with our former teacher about our year, exchanged gossip about what others from our class were up to. Sometimes Mr. Smallwood would ask me about my writing.

Visits grew less frequent once I started attending university. I reveled in my new independence. Unlike high school, I found boys that interested me AND were interested IN me: geeky nerdboys who liked the same books and movies as I did, who didn't think me odd for not wearing makeup and hating clothes shopping. I had a boyfriend.

Earnscliffe Public School seemed so very distant, though from time to time I found myself thinking of Mr. Smallwood because none of the profs I had in university inspired me the same way. Mr. S and I would exchange snailmail letters, but the time between our letters grew as I got distracted by my studies and then by work.

Years passed, and we eventually lost contact until we found each other on Facebook. Last Fall, I sent him an invite to the launch of I'M BORED at Type Books in Toronto on whim, not really expecting that he'd be able to attend since he lived out of town and we weren't really in touch. 

At the launch, he hung back behind most of the people, so I didn't see him until I signed books. Even then, he was one of the very last people in line. I can't remember what he said, but I recall recognizing the voice and looking up. Then screaming, "MR. SMALLWOOD!!!"

I was SO incredibly touched that he had made the trek out to attend my very first book launch, and proudly introduced him around. My husband had heard many stories about my favorite teacher, so it was a special pleasure to finally be able to have them meet in person.

Side note: Although I've gotten close a few times, my agent and I haven't yet found a home for my middle grade novel manuscripts. I've shelved two so far and I keep working on my craft. Some of my Torkidlit pals, the MIGWriters critique group and friends/family help me finetune my stories. I'm much more confident about my writing now than I was in the beginning, and continue to work on getting better.

When I updated Mr. Smallwood on what was going on with my writing, he encouraged me not to give up on getting my novels published.

And I won't. 

It WILL happen.

To Mr. David Smallwood and all the school teachers out there who continue to encourage young people in pursuing their creative passions: THANK YOU. You make more difference than you can possibly imagine.

(Thanks to my friend Walter K. for the book launch photos.)