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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. Comic: The Rejection

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2. Micropoem: Punctuation Rebel (for Day 12 of #AprPAD)

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3. Poem for writers about bad reviews

As I mentioned earlier, I'm having fun participating in Robert Lee Brewer's April Poem-A-Day Challenge. This poem was written in response to the topic "defence."

 

 

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4. Comic: Poet Fame #NationalPoetryMonth

Happy National Poetry Month

I'm participating in Robert Lee Brewer's April Poem-A-Day Challenge, and have been posting some of my poems on Twitter at @inkyelbows and have also been posting some on my Poetry For Young Readers page.

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5. Comic for other writers and illustrators working on their taxes right now

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6. Comic: Bilbiophile Angst

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7. THE DIABOLIC by S.J. Kincaid: Standalone, action-adventure thriller launching this Nov/2016

Wow, loved S.J. Kincaid's THE DIABOLIC so much. I strongly recommend this standalone action-adventure thriller, especially if you're a fan of Erin Bow's THE SCORPION RULES. Fantastic world-building and character relationships.

What I especially enjoyed about THE DIABOLIC:

- Wonderful world-building, as mentioned above. I'm a big sf nerd and come across lots of books with great world-building but whose characters are flat and seem to be mainly props to move the plot and support the world-building. With THE DIABOLIC, I fell in love with the main character right away ... despite the fact that she is a bioengineered killing machine (another fact I adore).

- The diverse and entirely believable character relationships. Especially enjoyed the complex bond between the main character and her friend Sidonia.

- There were strong female characters throughout.

- Plot twists and political intrigue. I've never considered myself a fan of political thrillers, but got totally sucked into the political maneuverings in this story because of the great characters.

Highly recommended.

You can find out more about how S.J. Kincaid's THE DIABOLIC got published in this Publishers Weekly article.

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8. Productivity reminder: When online, DON'T FALL DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE.

Of course, this isn't based at all from my own experience.

Ahem.

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9. Advice For Young Writers, Treadmill Desks and MISSION MUMBAI: Mahtab Narsimhan Answers Three Questions

Mahtab Narsimhan is the award-winning author of The Third Eye. Her realistic novel, The Tiffin, based on the dabbawallas of Mumbai, also received critical acclaim. Mission Mumbai and Looking for Lord Ganesh are coming out this year. Committed to diversity in her stories, Mahtab lives in Toronto with her husband, son, golden retriever, and far too many novel ideas. 

I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance reader's copy of MISSION MUMBAI: A NOVEL OF SACRED COWS, SNAKES AND STOLEN TOILETS. Mission Mumbai is a rollicking adventure packed with laugh-out-loud fun, dare-devil thrills and truly moving moments. A book nerd, foodie and aspiring photographer, the story's main character Dylan is irresistible. I loved his sense of humor! Also, the descriptions of Indian food had my mouth watering. Can't wait until this book is out in bookstores on March 29th! Highly recommended. 

You can find Mahtab at MahtabNarsimhan.com, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Synopsis of MISSION MUMBAI, which comes out from Scholastic Inc. on March 29th, 2016:

When Dylan joins his best friend, Rohit, on a family vacation to India, he’s excited! Mumbai is amazing but he’s always a step away from disaster. When Ro’s family problems threaten to cut the trip short, it seems their friendship might be shattered irrevocably.

More info about the book on Scholastic.ca and Scholastic.com (with teacher info).

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

The most recent addition to my office is the treadmill under my desk – a gift from my husband, Rahul. I have to thank award-winning author, Arthur Slade, for the inspiration. This little (actually, not so little because it weighs 114 pounds!) device has changed my life. Writers are normally sedentary so being active, while creating, is fun. And it's a cool way to exercise your head and heart! On a regular day, I get in three to four hours of writing and walking, simultaneously. When I’m done, I’m Done.

Typing on the move took some getting used to but after months of practice, I get into the rhythm within minutes. It keeps me alert and motivated to go just a bit further than I would. Instead of feeling tired, I’m energized at the end of a walking-writing session. Love it!

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

A walk starts with a single step. A book starts with a single word. Don’t be intimidated about a task, no matter how large. Break it up into small manageable chunks and get going.

When starting a new project, I give myself a daily goal of 1500 words. I adopted this practice after reading ON WRITING by Stephen King whose daily goal is 2000 words. It’s the best advice I ever got.

I try and hit that goal even on the days I don’t feel like writing. It all adds up and I have a draft (albeit not a very good one) at the end of 3-4 months. You can always improve on bad prose but not a blank page.

Of all the analogies I’ve read about writing, this one is my favourite:

When driving at night, your vision is limited to the distance illuminated by your headlights. You cannot see all the way home. By focusing on the short stretch of road you can see, you do eventually reach home.

Writing is very much like driving home in the dark. You can’t see the end of the novel when you begin. Even if you do have some idea, you’re not sure of the road you’ll take to get there. By focusing on a chapter, or even a page, at a time, and sticking with it, you will eventually get to The End.

Mahtab's launch of THE TIFFIN in Mumbai

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I’m always excited about my most recent work-in-progress . At the moment it’s a middle-grade science-fiction series set on Mars. This setting is a tad different from Mumbai, where I grew up, and needs a lot of research. And yes, there are mutants!

I’m thrilled about my novel, Mission Mumbai, A Novel of Sacred Cows, Snakes and Stolen Toilets which will published by Scholastic on March 29, 2016. Kirkus gave it a great review.

My first picture book, Looking for Lord Ganesh, is also out in April 2016 with Lantana Publishing of UK.  

I also have a short story, Wrath of Gaia, coming out in a speculative fiction anthology by Laksa Media, titled "Strangers Among Us".  So, this is a great year for me!

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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10. New comic: Zombie writers

Thanks to Traci Van Wagoner, who provided the winning caption for the challenge I recently posted in social media.

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11. 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. I found parts of the book difficult to get through because I felt so sad for the characters involved (one of the girls is the daughter of a sex worker in Mumbai, growing up in a brothel) but am so glad I kept reading. FIFTEEN addresses tough issues with honesty and hope.

It's no wonder the details and background are well-researched; the author herself works at an NGO facility in India, volunteering with sex workers' daughters in Kamathipura, the largest red-light district in Asia.

You can find out more about Susan and her work at SJLaidlaw.com, on Twitter at @SusanLaidlaw1 and on Facebook. I interviewed Susan about one of her other YA books, An Infidel In Paradise; you can read about her writing process and advice for young writers here.

Synopsis of FIFTEEN LANES from Tundra Books: "Noor has lived all of her fourteen years in the fifteen lanes of Mumbai’s red light district. Born into a brothel, she is destined for the same fate as her mother: a desperate life trapped in the city’s sex trade. She must act soon to have any chance of escaping this grim future. Across the sprawling city, fifteen-year-old Grace enjoys a life of privilege. Her father, the CEO of one of India’s largest international banks, has brought his family to Mumbai where they live in unparalleled luxury. But Grace’s seemingly perfect life is shattered when she becomes a victim of a cruel online attack. When their paths intersect, Noor and Grace will be changed forever. Can two girls living in vastly different worlds find a common path?

"Award-winning author S.J. Laidlaw masterfully weaves together their stories in a way that resonates across class and culture. Fifteen Lanes boldly explores the ties that bind us to places and people, and shows us that the strongest of bonds can be forged when hope is all but lost."

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12. A comic for other writers and illustrators who go through self-doubt during the creative process

A comic for other writers and illustrators who go through self-doubt during the creative process.

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13. Be aware when research & prep becomes a crutch. At some point, you need to jump in & WRITE.

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14. Picture books create readers from the ground up. Don't rush children out of them.

"Picture books create readers from the ground up. Don't rush children out of them." - Jarrett J. Krosoczka.

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15. Going undercover with CLAYTON STONE, AT YOUR SERVICE by Ena Jones (Holiday House)

As you can tell from the photo, I had fun going undercover with CLAYTON STONE, AT YOUR SERVICE (Holiday House Books for Young People), a debut novel from my Curtis Brown, Ltd. agency sister, Ena Jones. Looking forward to Clayton's second adventure in CLAYTON STONE, FACING OFF, coming fall 2016.

You can find a Teacher's Guide and other info on Ena's website, and you can also find her on Twitter at @EnaJones. Also see the Holiday House Books For Young People website page about the book.

Synopsis: "Twelve-year-old Clayton Stone is shocked when a top-secret government organization recruits him as a decoy in a kidnapping sting. Instantly, he gets drawn into the dangerous world of covert operations. Clayton's new life is full of excitement, with elaborate disguises and classified debriefings, but soon enough there's a gun against his neck. Clayton's transformation from middle-school lacrosse star to Special Service agent is full of suspense, humor and heart—a thrilling undercover debut!"

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16. Comparing yourself to others can suck joy out of creating. Find your own pace, savor the journey.

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17. TELL ME A TATTOO STORY by Alison McGhee and Eliza Wheeler (Chronicle Books)

I was excited to receive a copy of TELL ME A TATTOO STORY, a new picture book written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by my friend Eliza Wheeler (Chronicle Books, April/2016). What a deeply moving, tender story, and soooo much for young and not-so-young picture book readers to appreciate.  I teared up over many of the (beautifully illustrated) spreads as the father told his young son the story behind each of his tattoos. *snif*

Do check out Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things post where she shares some of the wonderful art from the book as well as sketches from Eliza. Also see Julie's post about the book on Kirkus Reviews.

You can find out more info about Eliza Wheeler at Wheelerstudio.com and more about Alison McGhee at AlisonMcGhee.com.

Synopsis of the book from the Chronicle Books website:

"A bestselling author-illustrator duo join forces to create a modern father-son love story. The father tells his little son the story behind each of his tattoos, and together they go on a beautiful journey through family history. There's a tattoo from a favorite book his mother used to read him, one from something his father used to tell him, and one from the longest trip he ever took. And there is a little heart with numbers inside—which might be the best tattoo of them all. Tender pictures by New York Times bestselling illustrator Eliza Wheeler complement this lovely ode to all that's indelible—ink and love."

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18. THE NIGHT GARDENER: gorgeously illustrated debut picture book by The Fan Brothers

Love the utterly *gorgeous* art in THE NIGHT GARDENER, a debut picture book by Eric Fan and Terry Fan (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). Every time I read through it, I notice something new. Beautiful details (just noticed the lovely illustrations on the cover beneath the paper jacket!), stunning illustrations, magical atmosphere throughout. Highly recommended.

Find out more about The Night Gardener on the Simon & Schuster website.

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19. Free, print-ready poster of Tim Federle quote about books

"One thing that books teach us is that if your life sucks right now, you just haven't gotten to the good part." - Tim Federle, author of the Better Nate Than Ever. His new YA, The Great American Whatever, comes out from Simon & Schuster in March. More info about Tim at TimFederle.com.

The above image ia also available as a free, print-ready poster for schools, libraries, bookstores and anywhere else where the message would be appreciated.

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20. Tips for SCBWI conference newbies, second-timers, plus a CHALLENGE for the many-timers

(modified from an earlier post)

The SCBWI Winter Conference starts in a couple of days! Even if you're not attending, you can follow the livetweet action via the hashtag #NY16SCBWI on Twitter.

If you're a conference newbie who is nervous, I encourage you to browse my SCBWI Conference Newbie comics. I created these when I was a nervous newbie as well! So many people think I'm an extrovert, but I'm actually very much an introvert and was terrified (to the point of sweating palms, pounding heart, hating the idea of having go up and introduce myself over and over) about attending my first regular SCBWI conference back in 2009.

(Edit re: above comic: I did end up meeting Jay at the conference and he was really nice! And he didn't mention his Amazon ranking EVEN ONCE! Heh.)

I've posted advice for first-timers before and will post it again at the end of this piece, but now that I've attended other SCBWI annual conferences (and had my career jumpstarted because of the 2010 SCBWI-LA Conference), here is some additional advice I have for those who have attended more than once:

Don't get offended or disheartened if people you've met before don't remember you.

This is something I've learned from both sides. As a 2nd- and 3rd-timer (and so on), I've sometimes gone up to a person or group I've met and had my confidence deflated when it becomes clear they don't remember me at ALL from the previous year. My inner reactions ranged from embarrassment, humiliation, irritation, frustration and even brief anger ("I guess I'm just NOT IMPORTANT enough for xxx to remember!! Hmph.").

Now that I have some experience at attending SCBWI conferences, I've learned the following:

- I'm terrible at remembering people unless I've had multiple conversations or interactions with the same person.

- Even then, especially if I'm tired or am in a noisy crowd (remember what I said earlier about being an introvert?) or have met many new people in a row just before, I may still forget having met someone before.

I still accidentally re-introduce myself to people whom I've met before, sometimes whom I've met EARLIER IN THE CONVENTION. I'm always horribly embarrassed when this happens. 

Make sure your name badge is easily visible.

Also, when I approach someone whom I've met before but with whom I don't have constant contact, I usually try saying something that will help remind them of our mutual context, or remind them of having met at xxx. Until I'm sure they actually do remember me, I try very hard NOT to put them on the spot (e.g. I don't say, "So, what did you think of my most recent post?" etc.).

When someone does this to me (subtly or unsubtly :-) setting the context and helping me remember), I immediately feel more at ease with them and am more likely to want to chat with them in the future.

Another tip: if someone DOES remember you, never assume that they're up-to-date on all your exciting news. I've had the occasional person react badly when they realize I'm not aware of their new book ("?? But I posted it all over Facebook!") I never assume anyone reads all my posts or keeps up with all my news. People have busy lives and different priorities.

Something else I've learned: even so-called Big Name authors and illustrators can be insecure. I am faaaar from being a Big Name, but having had a bit more experience at conference-going now, I also realize how some of the Big Name types who seemed standoffish to me actually weren't.

Be gracious, be forgiving and try very hard to assume the best about a person rather than the worst.

And I apologize ahead of time if I don't remember your name or re-introduce myself. :-\

And here some tips for first-timers who feel nervous about attending for the first time, or are normally very shy or introverted and dread the idea of having to meet a lot of new people:

1. Be brave and make the first move. You'd be surprised at how many other attendees feel exactly the same way as you do. Introduce yourself to people you sit beside, stand in line with, notice standing alone.

2. TAKE BUSINESS CARDS. Yes, even if you aren't published yet. We're all going to meet a lot of people over the weekend, and taking away a business card from an encounter or introduction will help the people you meet remember you. If you're an illustrator, take postcards or make sure a sample of illustration style is on your business card.

3. Have realistic expectations. Don't expect to be "discovered" at the conference.

4. In my experience, you're much more likely to meet new people if you're alone. If you're always chatting and hanging out with the same person or people, you're not as approachable. I'm not saying that you SHOULDN'T hang out with people you like, of course! Just keep in mind that as a group, you're probably not going to meet as many new people as someone who is by themselves.

5. If you're on Twitter, write your Twitter handle on your name badge somewhere.

But most of all: TRY TO HAVE FUN. 

***** A CHALLENGE TO THE "MANY-TIMERS" OUT THERE ****

Try to remember what it was like when you attended your very first event, or how insecure you felt in the beginning. Then make it a personal challenge to find at least one lost-looking or nervous conference newbie who is sitting or standing alone. Introduce yourself, chat with them, find out what they're working on, perhaps (if appropriate) offer some advice.

Give good karma and it WILL come back to you.

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21. Valentine's Rejection

I'm heading for NYC for the SCBWI Winter Conference and meetings. If you're on Twitter, you can follow the action via the #NYC16SCBWI hashtag. If you see me there, please do say hi!

Happy writing and illustrating, all!

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22. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Just finished THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, loved it. This  historical fiction novel for middle grade is such a satisfying read, full of adventure and heartbreak and compassion. I loved the characters in this book SO MUCH, and desperately want a sequel.

I confess that I held off reading this book because its premise sounded too depressing but I am soooooooooo glad that I got over this and strongly encourage others who have held off for the same reason to get over it as well. Highly recommended.

Find out more about Kimberly Brubaker Bradley at her website.

More about the book on the Penguin Random House site.

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23. On Libraries and Bicycles

"My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. Both move people forward without wasting anything." - Peter Golkin.

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24. Advice For Young Writers, Wonder Woman and PUNK SKUNKS: Three Questions with Trisha Speed Shaskan

Trisha Speed Shaskan has written over thirty books for children, including her latest picture book, Punk Skunks. Trisha has an MFA in creative writing. She’s been a bookseller, educator, and youth worker. Trisha lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband Stephen, and their cat Eartha, and dog, Bea. 

Punk Skunks is written by Trisha Speed Shaskan, illustrated by her husband Stephen Shaskan, and was published on February 9, 2016 by HarperCollins Children’s Books.

You can find out more about Trisha on her website, on Twitter and Facebook.

SYNOPSIS: Kit and Buzz are BSFs—best skunks forever. They play everything together, including music, until one day they clash.

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

When I was a child, Wonder Woman (from the live action TV show of the same name) was my hero. She had brown hair like me. And she was a woman who could do anything. And I do mean anything! Fight. Sling a lasso. Fly an invisible plane. She was strong, athletic, and fierce. For my sixth birthday, my parents gave me Wonder Woman Underoos™. But they also gave me Wonder Woman bracelets and a crown my father had crafted out of sheet metal at the shop where he worked in the heating and ventilating business.

He didn’t usually make bracelets, but I wasn’t surprised he created them. Whenever he wanted to do anything, he figured it out, worked at it, and went for it. As a young man, he earned a technical college degree, apprenticed as a sheet metal worker, and worked for a heating and ventilating business until he was ready to launch his own business. What started as a storefront in downtown Winona, Minnesota, later became a bigger business, with more than one building.

We always called our family business “The shop.” My father’s you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to attitude always inspired me. As a teen, I holed up in my room reading Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems, which I wanted to emulate. My parents gave me a typewriter. I typed up a book of poems (which weren’t even close to Poe’s!) In college, I continued to write stories.

When I told my father I wanted to be an author, he and my mother gave me an IBM word processor that I used until I could buy a better computer with the money I had earned from writing books.

Today, my Wonder Woman bracelets sit on top my desk in my office to remind me of Wonder Woman, one of my first heroes and my father, an even greater hero for showing me and telling me I could do anything I set out to do—but also for believing in me.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

Explore! Drum! Skate! You never know where your interests will lead you!

I grew up in Winona, Minnesota, a Mississippi River valley town. My parents exposed me to everything from piano lessons, to tap dance, to flag football. Some of those activities stuck. Others didn’t. Some activities I chose myself. Outside, I explored the neighborhood where I imagined a field of weeds was a flower garden and the space beneath the slide was a fort. I biked around the neighborhood seeking adventure under the trees, near the grocery store, and down by the creek. Later on, I skateboarded to those same places, where all along I had been telling myself stories.

Inside, I wrote stories, poems, and songs. One of the first poems I remember writing described snow. Later poems described my feelings—obviously the teen years! At school, I enjoyed math, reading, singing songs, and playing sports. I joined band where I eventually played the drums. Friends were important to me. My family was important to me. I enjoyed learning about the world that surrounded me. Today, I like to do many of the same things—not all of them. But here’s the important part: I also like to write about the things I enjoyed doing. My interests find their way into my stories. In the latest picture book I wrote Punk Skunks, Kit, a main character skateboards and plays the drums. Seem familiar? Today, I still enjoy drumming. Kit enjoys playing everything with her best friend Buzz. Today, my husband Stephen and I are best friends. Together, we play music, create books, travel, watch films, and take our dog Bea for walks. As I wrote earlier:

Explore! Drum! Skate! You never know where your interests will lead you!

Q. What are you excited about right now?

Through out my elementary, middle, and high school years, my parents and teachers nurtured my interest in music and creative writing. My family owned a bunch of records. My mother listened to Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and plenty of rock-n-roll. In fifth grade, I joined Band. Within a couple months, I traded in my soggy saxophone reed for drumsticks. That year, my mother drove me to Minneapolis to see Prince’s Purple Rain tour. At the start of the show, the room darkened. The drums beat. Glowing drumsticks appeared. The spotlight shone on Sheila E.! She broke into “The Glamorous Life.” And I knew I had chosen the correct instrument!

In sixth grade, when my family vacationed in New York City, my teacher asked me to journal about the trip in lieu of doing homework. I paid close attention to everything from the graffiti on the sides of the subway trains to the shapes of the skyscrapers. The same teacher asked me to write a story to read aloud at my sixth grade graduation. I wrote a fable about a boy and a sunflower. For seventh grade science class, I wrote a fictional story set in the layers of the earth. I recorded the story on a cassette tape. My family members voiced the characters. Our dog Morris added a “bark.” My sister Nicole played piano.

Fast forward to right now—as if you own a time traveling cassette tape and a boom box! This month, my husband Stephen and I are visiting elementary schools where we’ll discuss our latest collaboration/picture book Punk Skunks, which is about friendship, conflict/resolution, and of course music! I’m excited to share music and stories because the students are the same age I was when my interest in both topics was born! At schools, I’m discussing the process of writing stories, but I’m also playing the drums. Stephen is playing electric guitar. We’re playing and singing the songs we recorded for the book. You can download the songs from a link on the book jacket. One song is “We’re Buzz and Kit,” which is an introduction to the main characters. The other song is “BSF (Best Skunks Forever).”

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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25. Comic: Font Nerds

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