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INKYGIRL: Daily Diversions For Writers is maintained by Debbie Ridpath Ohi offers writing-related cartoons, writing tips, highlights other writerly blogs and blog entries, and also delves into certain writer obsessions. Debbie is author of The Writer's Online Marketplace (Writer's Digest Books) and was creator of Inkspot. She is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Toronto.
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1. SIX by M.M. Vaughan

I cannot resist a middle grade novel with unique/cool technology as a hook, so was intrigued by the basic synopsis of SIX by M. M. Vaughan (Margaret K. McElderry, 2015): Parker and his sister Emma, with the help of secret advanced technology, can communicate between themselves through their thoughts. When their father is kidnapped a few years after their mom's death, Parker and his sister are determined to find him.

Loved the mystery and action in SIX, the unexpected plots twists, and especially liked Parker's sister Emma. While Emma's deafness plays a role in their mystery-solving (she's very good at lipreading, for instance), it's not an Issue. Also loved the humor.

I'd like a SEQUEL, please!

You can find M.M. Vaughan (a.k.a. Monica Meira Vaughan) at http://www.mmvaughan.com/, on Facebook and on Twitter at @NoSleepNeeded.

Monica shared some excellent advice in Chuck Sambuchino's "7 Things I've Learned So Far" blog series, including:

No news means...absolutely nothing.

Don't send your manuscript out to every agent at once.

Use your time well while you're waiting to hear back. Read the article to find out more.


More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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2. Don’t wait for your Muse. Be there every day & eventually she'll start showing up.


I love what Stephen King said about not waiting for one's Muse to show up.

“Don't wait for the muse. As I've said, he's a hardheaded guy who's not susceptible to a lot of creative fluttering. This isn't the Ouija board or the spirit-world we're talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you're going to be every day from nine 'til noon. or seven 'til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he'll start showing up.”

- Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

The comic above is also available as an Unhappy Muse greeting card in my online card shop.

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3. Golden Marmot Award: Chuck Wendig's "If you like a book" tweet


 It's been a while since I've awarded the Incredibly Prestigious and Exquisitely Ephemeral Golden Marmot Award, but this week it NEEDS to go to Chuck Wendig for this wonderful tweet:


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4. Three Questions For Christian Trimmer: Advice For Young Writers, Ben Clanton and SIMON'S NEW BED

Christian Trimmer photo credit: Walker Brockington.

In addition to being a debut picture book author, Christian Trimmer is an editor at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. I love his enthusiasm for kidlit/YA on his Twitter feed, plus he's edited some pretty amazing books. Like THE DEATH AND LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH by Daniel Kraus (here's what I posted about the book), which comes out from S&S BFYR this October.

You can find Christian Trimmer on Twitter at @MisterTrimmer, his website at Christiantrimmer.com and the Simon & Schuster BFYR team page.

Synopsis of SIMON'S NEW BED, written by Christian Trimmer and illustrated by Melissa van der Paardt:

"After a lazy afternoon of watching cat and dog videos, I was inspired to write this harrowing tale of the deep-rooted tension that exists between siblings. Much like Cal and Aron Trask or the daughters of King Lear, Simon and Miss Adora Belle are in a never-ending battle for supremacy. Also, cats stealing dog beds!"

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

I’m a huge Ben Clanton fan. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers recently published his Something Extraordinary, which I was very fortunate to inherit from Julia Maguire (who is now at Random House). Ben’s stories are so sweet and playful, and his art is wonderfully expressive. He and I are working on a bunch more books together. He happened to be in New York for BEA this year, and we hung out at the Art Auction. He had donated a fantastic piece to the auction, and I put in a bid on it—I was desperate for more original art for my office, specifically Ben Clanton art. Ben saw my name on the sheet, and he was all, “Christian, you really don’t have to do that” to which I responded, “Ben, I want to do it” and he said, “I mean, you really don’t have to do that.” I thought he was just being modest or shy. At the last minute, someone outbid me. But as it turns out, which I discovered when we met at the S & S offices the next day, he had packed a different piece from the same series—this one—for me. All together now: Awwww!

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

1. Be nice. To everyone.

I know that this is advice you give to a small child, but it’s really applicable when you’re an aspiring writer. Because when it’s time for your book to come out, the book that you’ve spent years perfecting, the story you’ve cried over and on, the manuscript that represents everything good about your mind and soul…you want people to think of you fondly. Because when people like you, they want to support you. So maybe they buy your book. Maybe they talk about your book with their teacher friends. Maybe they share your Facebook status update. More than that, you never know from where the next great opportunity is going to come. As an example, I recently ran into this restaurant manager that I’ve known for a couple of years. He’s a great guy and so good at his job, and I’m always happy to see him. This most recent time, I mentioned that my debut book, Simon’s New Bed, was about to come out. He was so genuinely excited for me, and not only that, he reached out to his mom who oversees the nursery division at one of the best schools in New York. Now, I’m scheduled to read to her students in October!

2. Everyone has her/his own path.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed in our glorious industry. Advice is flying at you from every direction, advice from editors and agents and other writers, published and not. But it’s important to regularly remind yourself that this is your journey, and it’s not going to look like anyone else’s. For a long time, despite hungering to create something, I resisted writing. As a book editor, I’m surrounded daily by gifted writers, many of whom have studied the craft for years, who have masters degrees, who have written for TV shows, who have won awards. I often thought, Don’t bother. Leave it to the real professionals. But something clicked one day, this acceptance that I had something worthwhile to say. So I finally took the chance. And I sold the first picture book manuscript I wrote, and then the second, and then the third. I still have moments of insecurity, but I’m getting better. So, listen to the advice that others are giving you and take the advice that makes sense to you. Then, go create!

Q. What are you excited about right now?

My Fall 2015 list is AWESOME. I’m, of course, excited for all of those books, which you can find here. But I’d like to single out a novel that my colleague Ruta Rimas is editing called The Way I Used to Be. It’s by Amber Smith, and it’s beautiful and devastating and empowering. It comes out this March.


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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5. Font Nerd Table comic, thoughts on font faces and my favorite Comic Sans song ever

For those interested, the Font Nerd Table comic above is now available as a greeting card in my card shop.

I do admit that I over-used Comic Sans and Papyrus when they first came out. Fontfaces are so much like fashion, aren't they? You have the basic fontfaces which never seem to go out of style, like Helvetica and Times Roman. But then there are the trendy fonts which are massively popular for a short period of time but then fall by the wayside.

Like Comic Sans. And speaking of Comic Sans, here's my favorite Comic Sans music video ever:

Insider kidlit trivia: Andrew Huang, who makes a guest appearance as a rapper in the video above, is also the voice in Greg Pincus's book trailer for The 14 Fibs Of Gregory K.

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6. Three Questions with Patricia Newman: Advice For Young Writers, Penguin Paintings and her new EBOLA book


Patricia Newman is the author of fiction and nonfiction titles, and magazine articles for children. She writes what she wants to know and has covered topics as diverse as ocean plastic, trains, fighter pilots, and Ebola. Although many of her books have received critical acclaim, she writes for the kid she was to hook the next generation of readers. She is a frequent speaker at schools, libraries, and conferences.

You can find more info about Patricia Newman on her website - Facebook - Twitter and Pinterest.

Synopsis of EBOLA: FEARS AND FACTS (Millbrook Press, Oct. 1, 2015):

"From 1976 to 2013, the virus killed about 1,500 people. So why in 2014 did it kill nearly seven times that number? Ebola: Fears and Facts takes kids behind the sensational headlines to address their questions and concerns about the virus. What are the symptoms? Can we catch the virus? How does it spread? Find out how the 2014 epidemic compares to past Ebola outbreaks, and outbreaks of other infectious diseases. Ebola: Fears and Facts will help kids better understand this most-feared disease."

Ebola: Fears and Facts Book Trailer from Jim Bentley @Curiosity_Films on Vimeo.


Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

I love this picture! You might think it's a finger painting from my kids' preschool days, but it's not. My daughter is a zookeeper, and one day, she "asked" her penguins to paint me a picture. They walked across the canvas as an enrichment activity-can you see their footprints?-because they would do anything for my daughter. They loved her (as do I!). So, their artistic efforts hang in a place of pride. Her penguins even inspired a picture book that I'm currently revising.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

When I was a kid, it was hard to get excited about writing prompts. I never felt like I had good ideas, or perhaps I was too afraid to commit them to paper. So even though I was a good student, I guess you could call me a reluctant writer. Now, I love to write because I'm writing about the things that matter to me.

I know several schools encourage students to keep journals in which they write a few lines every day. If kids don't know what to put in their journals, I suggest making a list of things they love, and then choose something from the list to write about--even if the grammar and the spelling aren't perfect. Every day, go a little deeper into the topic. For example, ice cream would be on my list of things I love. On day one, I might write whether I like cups or cones (wafer vs. sugar vs. waffle) and why. On day two, I might write about the flavors I like. On day three, I might explain how I eat an ice cream cone, i.e. whether I eat the point off first or lick all the ice cream off the top and how I control drips. It doesn't matter what you write about, but you do have to be interested in it.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I love writing about the natural world because whenever I take a close look, something fascinating is happening. Currently, I'm hard at work on two books about different aspects of the ocean. One of the books will feature epic photos from PLASTIC, AHOY! photographer Annie Crawley.


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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7. Poll Results: Do You Dog-Ear Pages In Books?

Thanks to those who answered my dog-earing survey! Exactly 100 people responded. I know the percentages don't add up to exactly 100; I think SurveyMonkey was rounding up or down.

It was fun to see how OPINIONATED many of us are about dog-earing pages in books; non-readers just wouldn't care, would they?

Most of the pro-dog-ear comments focused on the "books are made to be loved" theme, said that the content is much more important than the appearance of the book. Some said that while they don't dog-ear pages themselves, they love coming across dog-eared pages in used or library books because they're like clues left behind by previous readers.

Those against tended to regard the practice of dog-earing pages in other people's books as a form of vandalism.

Some dog-ear their own paperback books but prefer keep some (like rare or autographed editions) in good condition. Some only dog-ear their books that they know have a short shelf life and will be replaced with updated versions, like school textbooks.

Here are just a few of the comments about dog-earing books while reading:

"I hate dog-ears, because when they inevitably tear off, they take words and page numbers with them!" - @IshtaWrites

"Dog-earring a book is like marking a Rembrandt with a magic marker just to remember where you left off on your museum tour!"

"Dog-ears, margin notes, post-its... all signs I love a book. Autographed books are the exception; I like to keep those in good condition."

"I was shocked to learn that people deliberately dog-eared books to mark pages. I thought dog-ears were just remnants of unhappy accidents by careless readers."

"I unfold them whenever I find them!"

"You can always find a bookmark. A receipt, a bit of ribbon, a business card. To me, a dog-eared page indicates a certain lack of imagination." - Marty Coady Fabish

"I've seen too many older books with the once-dog-earred corners now falling off."

I do not loan books to people who will not take care of them. One should not write in or dog ear or otherwise damage someone else's books ( or public library books).

"I used to - and lay them face down, too. Don't know why I stopped, but now it bothers me when people crack the spines...I don't lend to people who dogear, at all." @jjmcgaffey

"I did until I discovered Post-It flags! My dog-earing days are over." - @adams_jac

"I can't stand reading a book that has been dog-eared."

"NEVER NEVER NEVER ... and don't you dare put a pencil mark in any of the books either ... unless it is one of mine and you are signing the book! Books are like a newborn - pristine and untainted!"

"When I read books I view it as a whole and I think that people who dog ear pages view books as parts of a whole. I highlight non-fiction but never dog-ear...just who I am!" - @dad2ella

"I don't even crease the spine!" - Tuhin Giri

"Dog-ears are my waymarkers to significance/brilliance. Like the X on a pirate's treasure map that denotes: here be the gold! :)" - @KathyHolzapfel

"Post-it notes are my most common form of bookmarks. I've been gifted others, magnets that fold over the edge of a page, standard cardstock or leather bookmarks, a decorative rubber band like dealio. I still usually revert to blank post-it notes. - Jen Distad, avid reader (="

"Absolutely, never, ever, ever! As an elementary library specialist this is one of my pet peeves. I always have slips of paper or bookmarks available for the students to use. It's my attempt to stop dog-earring from happening."

"Will dog-ear paperbacks that I throw away after I've read them. I will never ruin a proper book."

"Books have always been special to me. They are my friends, especially during life's lonely times. I try not to scuff up my friends." - @cherylreads

"I will sometimes dog ear nonfiction books (that I own) that I'm reading for research to help me find key pages later. For some reason that feels okay, but dog earring novels doesn't." - @megancrewe

"I occasionally dog-ear library books if they're already battered and manky, but wouldn't do it to a new book. (The same goes for my own books, actually; it depends how manky they are to start with, and whether I bought them second-hand or not.)" - @miriamjoywrites

"I try to never dog-ear someone else's copy of a book, (including library copies), but I dog-ear my books all the time. I don't mind reading dog-eared books -- in fact I'm fascinated by the places where people have stopped reading. If they dog-eared at a critical point, I think, "How could you actually set the book DOWN at this point?" What could have drawn a reader away? Perhaps they will be returning to that spot to savor an author's words? Maybe they didn't understand something? So many interesting questions come with dog-eared pages! Fun poll, Debbie! :)" ~ Patricia Toht

"I don't understand why anyone would dog-ear the pages in SOMEONE ELSE'S book. That's like visiting a friend's house and deliberately sprinkling grape juice all over the living-room carpet. I once loaned my copy of the fourth Harry Potter book to a number of friends. One of them apparently felt it was okay to correct one of the errors in the book (in pencil, but still) and hand it back to me without a word. I'm still not sure who it was." @angrykem

"Don't lay the book open or fold the front over the back. Breaks the binding and the book wears out FAST." - @deoris1

"I also read books in the bath."

"I think dog-earing books that aren't yours is really rude. If they're yours, I don't care, but I don't do it to mine."

"I don't mind if other people dog-ear their personal books. It is annoying if it is a library book!" - @lehmanac

"I use to dog ear pages but I don't anymore. I'm a recovering dog ear pages person. ;)" - @daydreamreader

"I used to hate and avoid it, but a few things changed that. I started reading masses of ARCs (which fall apart after two reads) and I'd go through them so quickly and switch books so often that I'd start trying to use pens or hair ties or other books or whatever I had on hand to mark my place, and some of those things can warp the book or break the binding if you're not careful, which to me is worse than a dogeared page. Around the same time came a pretty heavy rise in ebooks, whose sterility I dislike. You CAN'T dogear an ebook. I love the realness of touching pages. So yes, now I'm willing to fold down a tiny corner if I don't have a bookmark, and I unfold it when it's time to move on." - @infamousfiddler

"Gah! Dog-earing makes me twitch. - @joannelevy :)"

"I buy a lot of used books and it's interesting to see what's been dog-eared. I use post-it tabs." - @joyjoycorcoran

"I try not to if they're not my own but sometimes I just can't help it ;)" @almemoore


Curious about my other publishing industry surveys? Feel free to browse current and past Inkygirl Surveys online.

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8. Free print-ready poster: "Be A Reading Ninja!"


I've added a new print-ready poster to my For The Love Of Reading page: "Be A Reading Ninja!" It prints on an 8.5 x 11" sheet of paper.

Download it here. This is also now available as a "Be A Reading Ninja!" greeting card.

You can find ALL my free, print-ready bonus material in my print-ready archives.


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9. Be aware when research and prep become a crutch. At some point, you need to actually start WRITING.


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10. A Reminder To Aspiring Writers and Illustrators

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11. Three Questions For Josh Funk: Advice For Young Writers, Scott Pilgrim and LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST

Josh Funk lives in New England with his wife and kids. He is the author of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (launches Sept 1st from Sterling) and the upcoming Dear Dragon (Viking/Penguin, 2016), Pirasaurs! (Scholastic, 2017), and more. Find out more info about Josh at his website, Twitter, Facebook.

Me, Josh (on rock) and Jess Keating at Nerd Camp. Photo: Justin Keating.

I met Josh at Nerd Camp earlier this year. Such a fun and funny guy, and so supportive of his fellow kidlit authors and illustrators!

Synopsis of LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST (written by Josh Funk, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, published by Sterling)

"The race is on … Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are the best of friends until word gets out that there’s ONLY ONE DROP OF SYRUP left. Only one of them can enjoy the sweet, sweet taste of victory. Is their friendship toast?"

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

I don’t actually have an office. I pretty much do all of my writing from a laptop while sitting in bed (as I am right now). And I often throw on a movie I’m comfortable with in the background, something I know well enough so I won’t get distracted from the writing, but maybe it’ll inspire me. And my favorite movie to throw on is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (it’s on right now). So here’s the ‘not yet worn out’ disc:

This movie has everything: humor (Michael Cera, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Schwartzman), music (songs by Beck), action (actors who played Superman, The Punisher, & Captain America on the big screen), video games (fighting, music, skating), romance (love story with a pink/blue/green-haired girl), vegans, fantastic cast (at least one Oscar nominated actress), special effects (see: action), based on a graphic novel (KaPow!), one of the best directors out there (Edgar Wright can do no wrong), and it takes place in Canada (who doesn’t love ketchup chips?). It may not be for everybody, but if I were to make a movie, this would be it. And it’s been on in the background while I’ve written many a manuscript.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

I’m not a teacher. But I’ll tell you why I write, and I think it applies to any human: I write to entertain myself.

So write something you find fun.

Write what you’d want to read.

Write something to make your family and friends laugh.

Write a play you and your siblings can act out at the next family reunion.

Write a song!

And if it’s a writing assignment for school, put your own twist on it. Only you can write like you. So put a little of yourself into everything you write.

Obviously there are times when writing assignments have to be taken seriously, but there’s usually a way to make writing enjoyable.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I’m really excited about graphic novels, as you might have guessed from my Scott Pilgrim obsession. But here I’m referring to those for children (and adults like me). There are so many amazing choices out there that we’ve devoured over the last few years. Lunch Lady, El Deafo, Squish, Babymouse, The Flying Beaver Brothers, Ricky Ricotta, Rutabaga the Adventure Chef, Comics Squad, Astronaut Academy, Sidekicks, Smile, Sisters, Drama, Rollergirl, Amulet, The Chronicles of Claudette, and more.

I have personally seen children learn to read (and learn to love to read) by way of the GN. The combination of art and writing makes for an amazing storytelling (and story consuming) experience. The abundance of talent developing graphic novels today is mind blowing. And I don’t see it slowing down any time soon!


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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12. A survey: Do YOU dog-ear pages in books?

After posting the found object doodle below on FB, a flurry of comments (turns out I'm not the only one who has a strong emotional reaction to dog-eared pages in books :-)) prompted me to post this anonymous 1-question survey:

How do you feel about dog-earing pages? After you answer my anonymous 1-question poll, you'll see what others have said.


Curious about my other publishing industry surveys? Feel free to browse current and past Inkygirl Surveys online.

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13. Am going to try hard NOT to be like these writers while I'm on vacation

Have a great week, everyone!

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14. Survey Results: "How Did You Find Your Agent?" "What Resources Did You Find Useful In Researching Agents?"

In my recent survey, I asked those of you working with agents to answer a few questions about how you got your agent. First off, thank you SO MUCH to those who took the time to respond in order to help others in the community. These include: Hayley Chewins, Julie Glover, Kellie DuBay Gillis, Michael Wayne, Anne Marie Pace, Kristin Gray, Denise Gallagher, Corey Schwartz, Beth Ferry, Julie Dao, Stephanie Diaz, Russ Cox, Sarah Albee, Stephanie Fletcher-Stephens, Ashlyn Anstee, Melissa Caruso, Julie Falatko, Bruce Hale, Mike Jung, Heidi Schulz, Amy Lozier, Josh Funk, Jim Averbeck, Edward Willett, Kelley McMorris, Annie Cardi, Carter Higgins, Susan VanHecke, Jennifer Gray Olson, Andria W. Rosenbaum and Juana Martinez-Neal. Others responded anonymously.

74 people responded and almost all were children's/YA book writers or illustrators. Most got their agent through an email query.

 While researching agents and given the choices in my survey, respondents said the most useful resources of the ones I listed were Twitter, Publisher's MarketplaceAgentQuery.comSCBWI conferences and Literary Rambles, followed by Writer's Digest resources like the annual Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Guide and Chuck Sambuchino's Guide To Literary Agents. This survey was mainly conducted through Twitter, so it's not surprising that Twitter came out on top. 

Do scroll down to read some of the info-packed comments about other useful resources like QueryTracker, agency blogs and websites,  AbsoluteWrite forums, SCBWI BlueBoard forums. Comments also include info about people got their agents, such as getting noticed during the 12x12 Picture Book ChallengePreditors & Editors, #PitMad on Twitter (Pitch Madness - learn the rules before participating!) and #MSWL on Twitter (Manuscript Wish List - learn the rules before participating!).

Here's a further summary and breakdown of the results as of today (August 14, 2015).

As you can tell from the above, most of the respondents' represented work focuses on children's/YA writing. About 25% had agents representing their children's book illustration work.

Approx. 70% of respondents said they were working with their first agent. The others had worked with other agents before.


Here are some of additional comments about useful resources while researching agents:

"Online searches about what agents said and represented, conversations with authors already in the publishing business." - Julie Glover

"The SCBWI blueboard! Also, agent's blogs and agency websites." - Kellie DuBay Gillis

"Author friends - individual agent google searches which often bring up a variety of insightful blog interviews - agency websites." - Michael Wayne

"Probably most helpful was just googling agents to find interviews and other information, especially agency websites. Facebook was helpful mostly because of a private Facebook group of PitchWars '14 mentees that I belong to--networking with other writers is a big help. I also used QueryTracker. The AbsoluteWrite forums are usesful too."

"When I signed with my agent in early 2007, Facebook was just catching on and I don't think anyone had Twitter yet--okay, I checked Wikipedia--it was very small at that time! The Children's Writers and Illustrators Market was only in hardcover, not online! Much has changed, very quickly!" - Anne Marie Pace

"Recommendations from other agented writers, and recommendations from my former agent."

"12 x 12 picture book challenge submission."

"Also Querytracker." - Kristin Gray

"Pitch Madness on Twitter!" - Denise Gallagher

"I also learned about a lot of agents and agencies through other writers and through contests. (This is mostly where Twitter comes in... as a vehicle for word of mouth.) I used Publisher's Marketplace and AgentQuery more as a secondary reference to look up more info on agents, rather than a place to find them in the first place." - Melissa Caruso

"Querytracker.com, pred-ed.com." - Russ Cox

"General online research, agent interviews, etc."

"One of her clients gave me a referral." - Corey Schwartz

"Google. And, of course, the official agency websites are huge sources of information."

"Blog post loutreleaven showing a list of literary agents."

Additional comments about how they met their agent:

"We had never met face to face, but she contracted me after seeing my work in the Portfolio Showcase. Then we met (face to face) a few weeks later. A month or so after that, I signed with her agency. We have seen each other a few times since I signed, but mainly we communicate via email (and occasionally phone)."

"We met through the #PitMad Twitter pitch contest where she requested my work!" - Julie Dao

"I heard her speak at an SCBWI Editor's Day. The following year, I had her critique one of my manuscripts for SCBWI Agent's Day, and was signed soon after." - Stephanie Fletcher-Stephens

"Online via Verla Kay's Blueboards and my blog. Joan contacted me to request pages." - Mike Jung

"It was a case of right match, right time. I liked what he said in his talk, took advantage of his offer to submit stories, and found that he really liked one of my pieces -- enough to represent me." - @storyguy1

"I was referred by another agent."

"I queried her by email before an SCBWI event that I was volunteering at and she was speaking at." - Jennifer Gray Olson

"Personal reference from one of her existing clients." - Josh Funk

"Answered request from Manuscript Wish List (#MSWL)."

"They noticed me because I won the SCBWI Student Illustrator Scholarship." - Kelley McMorris

"Through my MFA program (VCFA)- she was a fellow student at the time." - Amy

"I met my agent through a #PitMad twitter pitch event."

"I had planned to query her based on research I'd done, but she invited me to submit my query letter, synopsis, and first 3 chapters from a Twitter pitch."


Again, THANK YOU SO MUCH for those who took the time to respond! 

If you have comments or suggestions, including your own experience with researching and finding an agent, I encourage you to post below.

If you haven't already, feel free to also check out my list of agents on Twitter who represent kidlit/YA as well as my FAQ post about finding an agent (and how I found mine).

Curious about my other publishing industry surveys? Feel free to browse current and past Inkygirl Surveys online.

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15. Three Questions For Alice Ratterree: Advice For Young Illustrators, Office Pencil Shavings and LILLIPUT

Alice Ratterree loves illustrating books for the young at heart. She is represented by Marietta Zacker of Nancy Gallt Literary Agency and is currently working on a picture book about the life of Jane Addams. She finds adventure in Greenville, South Carolina with her husband, their two children, and a beloved adopted sidekick, Sam the cat. To learn more about Alice, visit her at her website, and on Twitter and Facebook.

I met Alice through the SCBWI and adore her art. Did you know that Alice started her career as a classical singer? You can find out more about Alice's background as well as art process on Peachtree Publisher's blog.

Synopsis of LILLIPUT (written by Sam Gayton, illustrated by Alice Ratterree):

"Inspired by Gulliver’s Travels, LILLIPUT is an exhilarating adventure filled with cunning escape plans, evil clock makers, and talkative parrots. Join Lily as she travels through eighteenth-century London – over rooftops, down chimneys, and into chocolate shops – on a journey to find the one place in the world where she belongs…home".

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

This small, red cup sits on my drawing table and holds my pencil shavings.

The picture on it is of my grandfather, Bill Thomas, who was a true renaissance man. After serving as a pilot in WWII, he sang opera and worked in education. This memento is from his time singing the role of Count Almaviva in Barber of Seville. I love how each cast member’s photo is lovingly cut and arranged around the cup. Before embarking on my journey as a children’s book illustrator, I was fortunate to have a successful career as an opera singer also. My grandfather and I always had a special bond through music that has informed my life as an illustrator. My first voice teacher, Jane Rolandi, is even pictured here too as Rosina!

Q. What advice do you have for young writers and/or illustrators?

Learn from the masters, but then respectfully ask them to leave your studio.

It’s important to recognize the family tree of artists you belong to. Discover your heroes, and embrace the process they used to they create their work. Soak up everything about their lives and their technique…then, go beyond it. Imitation is a powerful teaching tool, but practice it wisely because it can limit your vision and ultimately squander your potential. How you see the world is uniquely yours. Take what you’ve learned from the masters, make it your own and strive to do it even better!

Q. What are you excited about right now?

My next project! I will be illustrating a picture book biography on the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams, the pioneer of social work in our country and founder of Hull House.

I am in awe of this amazing woman and it such an honor to take on the responsibility of introducing on a non-fiction character to a new generation. I will be travelling to Chicago in a couple of weeks to visit the Hull House and I cannot wait to take my sketchbook with me and spend the day walking where she walked!

Here is a recent sketch:

Thank you, Debbie, for inviting me to chat today!


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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16. 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.

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17. Quickie anonymous poll for those of you with agents

I've been getting more people asking me for advice about how to get an agent, so in addition to updating my FAQ post about "Any advice on how to get an agent? How did YOU get your agent?", I've also posted a new survey.

If you're a children's/YA author or illustrator currently working with an agent, I'd very much appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to answer this quickie (multiple choice) anonymous poll about how you got your agent.

Results will be included in a future Inkygirl post.

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18. Updated: Will Write For Chocolate

I figure it's time I add a children's book illustrator to my Will Write For Chocolate household.

You can browse older strips in the Will Write For Chocolate archives.

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19. Tip for writers/illustrators: Intelligent perseverance will get you far. Take a break if needed but then try again!

To aspiring book authors and illustrators out there: Intelligent perseverance will get you far. Take a break if needed but then try again!

If you like my found object doodles, you can browse more on Instagram at @inkygirl.

0 Comments on Tip for writers/illustrators: Intelligent perseverance will get you far. Take a break if needed but then try again! as of 8/2/2015 3:01:00 PM
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20. #BookADay: CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley (Dial Books For Young Readers)

‪#‎BookADay‬: CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley ( Dial Books for Young Readers, June 2015). Finished this middle grade book on the weekend. It was one of those experiences where I was enjoying the book soooo much that I began reading slower when I got to the last few chapters because I DIDN'T WANT IT TO END. This would make a fantastic read aloud.

I was also lucky enough to meet Cassie at Nerd Camp in June. She's so easygoing and friendly, plus drew me a picture of an elephant butt! She says it's the only thing she knows how to draw. grin emoticon I keep her drawing in the front of my copy of her book.

More about the book - More about Cassie

p.s. If you have a copy of the book, don't forget to look under the dust jacket!!!!


More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts


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21. Back Burner Writing, Essential Apps and How I'm Squeezing In Extra Writing Every Day

Morning writer.

Since I started getting picture book contracts (yay!) I've put my novel writing on the back burner. Then last summer at SCBWI-LA, I was talking with my editor at Simon & Schuster (Justin Chanda) about my middle grade novels and time management. Justin said that if my novel writing was important to me, I needed to set aside some regular time to work on it...no matter how much other work I had going on.

Absolutely! I said. I am SO going to do this. And yeah, well. I was right on top of that for a few weeks and then the reality of work deadlines plus personal commitments pushed my novel projects onto the back burner again.

I've since come to terms with this. I am having SO much fun with my picture book projects these days and things are very busy for me in a good way. To those who didn't know: I used to write nonfiction while I worked on middle grade novels; Writer's Digest even asked me to write a book for them. I met my wonderful agent because of my middle grade writing, through children's book writer, Lee Wardlaw; Lee critiqued one of my first MG novels (thank you, Lee!). The two middle grade manuscripts that Ginger and I sent out never found a home, though we got close a couple of times near the end. I could tell from the rejection letters that my writing was improving. I shelved the older mss and began working on new stories. One of my new manuscripts that never got sent out was nominated for the SCBWI Sue Alexander "Most Promising For Publication" Award; it didn't win but the nomination was encouraging; I could tell I was getting closer.

Then my picture book illustration career took off, thanks to the SCBWI and Simon & Schuster Children's. My heart is in picture books now, and I always want to help create them...I love this genre SO MUCH and connecting with the young readers continues to be one of my greatest joys.

There is still a part of my creative soul, however, that is still drawn to middle grade novels. I read middle grade constantly; not for market research but because I've always enjoyed reading them. It's okay that my novel writing on the back burner right now, but that doesn't mean I can't still keep writing! Even if it's only for a few minutes a day. 

So I decided recently to get back on my own 250, 500 and 1000 Words A Day Challenge.

 I created this challenge for those who are looking for extra motivation to get back into a daily writing habit but who also need some flexibility. Challenges like NaNoWriMo are wonderful (I've done Nano in the past and had great fun) but can sometimes be discouraging if, for whatever reason, you start falling behind.

Anyway, I have been trying something new which has been working pretty well, so I thought I'd share it. Here's what I do:

I bought the iAWriter app for my Mac and iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) and use it for my daily morning writing ritual. I've played around with MANY note-taking apps on my iOS devices ever since the first iPhone came out, and this remains one of the favorites because of its minimalist approach.

No settings to fiddle with, which means I'm not as likely to procrastinate. I love the easy-to-read monospaced font. 

I find using my iPad with my external keyboard works the best for this. Why not my Mac? Because I do most of my book illustration project work on my Mac, doing morning writing on a separate and very portable device helps deceive the "oh my gosh I can't work on my novel I need to get back to contracted paying work" part of my brain. Sounds stupid, I know, but I find it helps me focus. I can also take my iPad outside of the house at a moment's notice and work on my writing ANYWHERE.

When it comes to later revisions, I'll probably go back to my desktop computer so I can take advantage of the bigger screen space and two monitors. For a first draft, however, my iPad is perfect. I also tend to be the kind of writer who over-edits as she writes, and I'm finding that writing on a smaller screen encourages me to keep writing (editing is more of a pain). I know I will revise later. 

After I finish my session in iAWriter, I send the document to my Evernote account; happily, I can do this from within the iAWriter app. I know there are many other means of backing up my data and getting writing snippets to my desktop computer. I have tried many of them. This is the way that seems to work best for me, mainly because I don't need to open any other app that may possibly distract me. Did I mention that I'm easily distracted?

From the iAWriter app, I can share directly to Evernote and even choose the receiving project folder. I figure that I can always organize later on; I try to put a note at the beginning like "near end of book" etc. I also tend to write in scenes and snippets rather than from start to finish, and will organize them later. I *used* to write from start to finish but found that I tended to overedit and spend way too much time near the beginning.

I use Evernote for so much more, of course. Two of my favorite features: (1) with the paid version of Evernote, you can email anything to your Evernote account, and (2) when searching for a word or term in Evernote, the search will include any scanned documents...including business cards and handwritten notes (!).

I also use the Day One app for my Mac and iOS devices. I've tried other journaling tools before but like Day One the best because of its super-simple interface without all the bells and whistles.

As with iAWriter, I'm drawn to the minimalist interface because it makes it very easy for me to just open and use, without being tempted to tweak settings. 

I've been using the app to quickly record ideas and thoughts and character/title ideas as well as other personal observations, and I use tags (like "goals", "bookidea" etc.) so I can access them more easily later. One of my tags is "happy," by the way...whenever I'm feeling down, browsing all my "happy" entries always cheers me up. Another is "thanks", which I also try to use each day, to write down people and things and events I'm grateful for. 

I also use the DayOne app to quickly snap photos, which is great for grabbing a reference photo for illustration, character idea, a friend's book I want to read, etc. You can only take one photo per entry, though. If you plan to do this a LOT, I'd recommend Evernote instead. Also, you can share DayOne photos/text to social media as well! I don't do this, though; I'm too worried about accidentally sharing a post that's meant to be private. :-)

I do love Scrivener, by the way, and use it for many of my book projects (more on this in a future post), but the lack of easy syncing across all my devices makes it tough to count on Scrivener for my daily writing exercise.

Do you have any tools or tips to share that you've found useful in your writing? Feel free to share them below.

Good luck with your writing!


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22. For those of you who said my previous image should have had to cat lying ON the writer's papers, not beside :-)

Posting this comic for my friend Joanne Levy and others who just told me that the image at the top of my previous post should have had the cat lying on TOP of the writer's papers, not beside. You cat people! ;-)

0 Comments on For those of you who said my previous image should have had to cat lying ON the writer's papers, not beside :-) as of 8/4/2015 1:47:00 PM
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23. Bad-Poem-A-Day, Where Are My Books?, Sherlock Holmes, Music and the Brilliance Of Kari Maaren

I've been a fan of YA writer Kari Maaren fan ever since I heard her perform Kids These Days, a song from the viewpoint of a traditional vampire complaining about the Twilight generation of vampires. The song in the video above, Being Watson, is one of my favorites of Kari's; Kari is a Sherlock Holmes fan but is especially fascinated by Watson. You can hear the song and read the lyrics on Kari's Being Watson page. Do check out Kari's other songs, which range from Everybody Hates Elves (one of her extra-popular songs, especially with her kazoo solo!), a musical plea to George R.R. Martin to finish his Game Of Thrones books, a song about YA book clichés, an unusual take on Disney princesses, and a song in praise of Voldemort.

Anyway, Kari recently launched a tongue-in-cheek Bad Poem A Day blog and GUESS WHAT? Her poem today mentions my picture book, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? woohoooo!!!

Check out Kari's poem today, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?

You can find out more about Kari and her projects (including upcoming book projects) at Karimaaren.com.

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24. #BookADay: NINJA BUNNY by Jennifer Gray Olson (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children's)

#BookADay: NINJA BUNNY by Jennifer Gray Olson (Alfred A. Knopf Books For Young Readers). Such a fun picture book with adorable and eye-catching illustrations. Also love the underlying positive message about collaboration and friendship. A great read for little ninjas everywhere!


More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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25. Three Questions For Arree Chung: Advice For Young Writers and Illustrators, Gonzo and HOW TO PEE

Arree Chung wrote and illustrated the picture book “NINJA!” and is also a founding member of Live in a Story, which offers wall decals created by children's book illustrators and designers. When he's not creating, you can find Arree riding his bike around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Where to find Arree: Website - Facebook - Twitter - Instagram.

Synopsis of How To Pee: Potty Training For Boys (written by Todd Spector, illustrated by Arree Chung, published by MacMillan):

"Out with the old and in with the new! Family physician Dr. Todd Spector presents a fresh and outrageously fun way to encourage little boys to give up their diapers. They can try it freestyle (in the backyard!), or give the potty a try with the help of a few props and plenty of imagination. Peeing in the potty is a lot more fun if you do it rocket style, cowboy style, or superhero style!"

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

This is one of my favorite toys. Gonzo. This doll is probably older than I am! This doll is special, because Jerry Houle, my licensing mentor gifted this to me. Jerry spent years working with Jim Henson in building a licensing program for the muppets. I am a huge muppets fan and have always admired Jim for his storytelling and the art he has put in the world. Jim changed the way people looked at puppets.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers and illustrators?

As a creative person, the thing I love doing the most is creating something new out of thin air. It maybe a story that becomes a book, a doodle that becomes a painting or an idea that becomes a business.

Making something new can be hard but I find that there are two really hard points: starting and finishing. Here are some tips on how to make it.

GET Excited.

Start right away.

Attack it.

Do it NOW. Get it down.

Scribble. Let yourself go. There is no wrong.

Don’t listen to your inner critic. Listen to your gut instincts. Work fast and intuitively.

Get your first draft done.

Accept that it’s a process. It’s okay that it’s not perfect. You’re making building blocks and you don’t know what pieces you need yet.

Look at the work again. You’ll probably see things you want to change about it. Change it.

Keep working on it. Identify what the heart of your idea is. It should be specific and feel honest.

Now reduce.

Keep reducing until you’re left with just the essentials.

Sketches for FIX-IT MAN (Author: Susan Hood, Publisher: HarperCollins).

Q. What are you excited about right now?

So many things!

Books! I love storytelling. I have three books coming out next year.

I’m excited about so many things right now. I have three books coming out next year. NINJA! Attack of the Clan (publisher: MacMillan) which is a sequel to my first book, NINJA! I'm illustrating a book called FIX-IT MAN (author: Susan Hood, publisher: HarperCollins), which is about being helpful and inventive. It has a very fun collage style to it. My third book out next year, is HOW TO PEE: Potty Training for Girls (author: Todd Spector, publisher: MacMillan) - which is a sequel to the potty training for boys book I illustrated. I'm really excited about all of the books.


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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