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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. 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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2. On writing success and intelligent persistence

As Ellen Jackson said, success as a writer or illustrator depends depends more on intelligent persistence than raw talent.

Excerpt from Ellen's excellent advice:

"By 'intelligent persistence' I mean the ability to learn from mistakes, to figure out what you’re doing wrong, and then to change it. I know a talented writer who gave up after one rejection from one editor. I know another writer–with very little natural writing ability--who writes and rewrites and gets rejected over and over. The first writer has never been published. The second writer has published more than thirty children’s books. As James Michener said: 'Character consists of what you do on the third or fourth tries.'"

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3. Poll Results: 60% of you skip ahead to read the ending of a book

Thanks to all who responded to my most recent poll, which asked "While you're reading a book, have you EVER skipped ahead to read the ending?"

Out of 126 respondents, 60% (or rather 59.52, rounded up) of you replied YES, with the remaining 40% saying NO.

Why did you skip ahead?

67% of you said it was because you were enjoying the book but found it so tense that you felt compelled to read the ending before going back and reading the rest. 47% said it was because they weren't sure if they liked how the book was going, so wanted to find out if it was worth reading to the end. The remaining 35% of you said it was because you weren't really enjoying the book but had to read it (for whatever reason), so needed to know how it ended.

Most of the comments elaborated on the reasons above. A surprising number of you said that you read the ending first on a regular basis, that you don't mind spoilers, that knowing where a book is heading actually enhances your reading enjoyment. Sometimes you want to know if a favorite character in a book or series is going to be killed off.

Some of you said it was because you were reading late at night and had to go to sleep but still wanted to finish the book.

Some of you were horrified at the idea of skipping ahead to read the ending, couldn't imagine how ANYONE would ever want to do this. 

Two of my favorite comments about why some of you skip ahead to the ending:

"Because I needed to prepare myself if Harry, Ron, or Hermione died!"

"I am, at my basest levels, an impatient cheat."

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

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4. The difference between writing and brain surgery

I keep reminding myself of the above as I'm working on the first draft of my middle grade novel.

If you like the image above, I've made it available as a free print-ready PDF in my For The Love Of Reading resource (where you can find lots of other print-ready posters and activity sheets).

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5. Quickie anonymous poll: Have you ever skipped ahead in a book to read the ending?

A quickie anonymou survey: Have you ever skipped ahead in a book to read the ending? If you'd like your answers including in the final tally, please answer Yes/No in this survey link.

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6. Great MG nonfiction book, whether or not you're a baseball fan: BASEBALLOGY by Kevin Sylvester

At the Ontario Library Association Super Conference, the OLA Best Bets Committee said that Kevin Sylvester's middle grade non-fiction book BASEBALLOGY: SUPERCOOL FACTS YOU NEVER KNEW (Annick Press) was a fascinating read, whether or not you're a fan of baseball. "...This book pulls you in as it shares a wealth of historical facts, scientific explanations, and general information on anything and everything baseball. Sylvester delivers non-fiction material in his signature compelling, storytelling style."

I confess I'm not a huge baseball fan, but the rave review during the presentation has convinced me that I need to check this book out!

More info about BASEBALLOGY on the Annick Press site.

More info about Kevin Sylvester and his books.

Side note: to those who heard my keynote at the SCBWI-Florida Regional Conference, Kevin is also the MINRS author I mentioned, who advises that you need to be ready when lightning does strike.

The OLA Best Bets lists were just announced yesterday. Full lists should be online at the Ontario Library Association website soon. I was super-honoured that Where Are My Books? was chosen for their Top Ten Picture Books list!

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7. Trying to make room for new books on my shelf by purging old ones but it's HARD. Here's how I feel.

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8. A comic for Harry Potter fans

Some days I wish I hadn't read the Harry Potter books already just so I could read them again for the first time.

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9. Looking for a writing/revising challenge but short on time? Try this.

To writers out there who never have trouble finding time to write or revise: pls ignore the rest of this post.

To those who are always putting their own projects on the back burner because of bill-paying work taking priority, family obligations, favors for other people, insecurity or fear, procrastination or a zillion other reasons, feel free to check out the Inkygirl Daily Writing Challenge. 

More info on this webpage, plus there's an Inkygirl Daily Writing Challenge FB Page where I sometimes post tips and comics.

I've also added a bunch of time goal badges for those who think that way instead of wordcount.

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10. Comic: Punctuation Breakup

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11. Advice For Young Writers, Patience, ELLA AND PENGUIN STICK TOGETHER: Three Questions with Megan Maynor

Megan Maynor is a former advertising copywriter and author of picture books ELLA AND PENGUIN STICK TOGETHER and ELLA AND PENGUIN: A PERFECT MATCH (coming 2017), both from HarperCollins Children’s Books. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children.

ELLA AND PENGUIN is a new picture book written by Megan Maynor, illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet, published by HarperCollins Children's Books in January 2016. You can see reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

You can find out more about Megan and her work at MeganMaynor.com and on Twitter at @megan_maynor.

Synopsis of ELLA AND PENGUIN:

Ella and Penguin want to see their new glow-in-the-dark stickers glow—but they don't want to go into the dark. (It’s so dark!) Can they see the stickers glow another way? Can they face the dark closet if they stick together?

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

I got these buttons at the gift shop in the New York Public Library:

The library itself is breathtaking with its marble staircases and wood-paneled reading rooms—all this grandeur for people to read books—for free!

The lions out front are named Patience and Fortitude.

I thought Patience and Fortitude seemed like good guiding stars while navigating the journey to publication.

I looked at these buttons A LOT while writing.

For me, Patience and Fortitude are reminders of the long game. Each day’s progress may be slight, but the only way to get there is incrementally. Likewise, there will be turbulence of all kinds, but the only way to finish is to keep working.

Megan with a copy of an advance reader's copy of ELLA AND PENGUIN STICK TOGETHER

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

If you don’t know what to write about, write about your socks. Keep going. You’ll find out what you wanted to write about.

This is advice I got from MY third grade teacher.

And it helped make me unafraid of writing, I think. Will the first thing I write be great? Probably not. And that’s fine. It’s not a big deal where you start. You just start.

When I would get an assignment as an advertising copywriter, and now, when I make up the assignment myself, I can always write something. From there, I just try to make it better and better. How could it be more interesting? More surprising? Funnier or more true? Start with socks. Go from there.

Jee reading Ella and Penguin Stick Together with his dad, Erik.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I’m excited about seeing my book on book store shelves—and in the hands of real live kids!—for the first time. It takes a long time to make a picture book, so this story has lived in my head for years. Now it’s finally OUT THERE, in the world, with real readers.

And it has been an absolute JOY to hear from parents and teachers that their kids are connecting with the story. It’s a bit surreal, to be honest. But so thrilling.

Mackena loves that there is a narwhal in this book. I do too!

 ------

For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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12. Zebo Ludvicek's KITE picture book dummy missing after SCBWI-Florida Regional Conference

 

I had a fantastic time at the SCBWI-Florida Regional Conference this past week; you can see my photos on Facebook and Flickr. I co-ran the Illustrator Comprehensive with Pat Cummings, and one of the attendees was the mega-talented Zebo Ludvicek. Side note: Zebo's debut picture book, MOUSE, will be published by Jennifer Besser at Putnam!

Anyway, Zebo brought a gorgeous wordless picture book dummy to the session....and it somehow disappeared. Here's one of the interior illustrations:

Announcements were made; we all searched our bags and rooms, but no luck.

If YOU attended the convention and somehow missed the announcement, please do look through all the papers and materials you brought home from the event, just in case.

It's about 40 pages long, stapled, printed on Epson Matte Paper, 8.5 x 11" portrait orientation.

And (I hate to say it, but just in case) if you happen to notice this picture book dummy with someone else's name somewhere, please let Zebo or her agent know RIGHT AWAY. Thanks so much!

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13. Comic: Hamster Writers

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14. Comic: Bibliophile Breakup

 

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15. Quickie Anonymous Poll For Agents, Editors and Art Directors

 

To agents, editors and art directors out there: please take a few minutes to answer a short anonymous poll to help up-and-coming writers and illustrators?

Results will be discussed at the SCBWI-Florida Regional Conference, SCBWI Metro NY Chapter (Feb event) and SCBWI-LA Writer's Day as well as summarized in Inkygirl.com later this year.

For editors and art directors, I'm looking for those who are involved in the decision-making process re: book contracts or initial talent-scouting. Thank you SO MUCH!

You can find results to previous surveys in my Inkygirl Survey Archives.

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16. A comic for parents who work from home

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17. Comic: New Year's Resolutions (or not)

I have actually broken my resolution not to make resolutions and am going to make a resolution! See my blog post on KidLitArtists.com: New Year's Resolutions and Realistic Goal-Setting For Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Happy New Year's, everyone!

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18. In memory of Debbie Alvarez, The Styling Librarian

Deeply saddened to hear that teacher/librarian Debbie Alvarez has died. Though we don't know each other in person, Debbie and I have emailed each other as well interacting on social media. She has been so generous in her support of me and my work on her blog, including a post just last week

Like many others, I'm a fan of her blog, The Styling Librarian:

I love the tagline in the top right corner: "In my opinion, books are the best accessory."

The portrait in the top left corner was done by me. While Debbie was interviewing me for her blog, I discovered that she was just about to have a surgery (she didn't say what it was for), so I asked for her address so I could send her something to help cheer her up while she was recovering. She was hesitant, saying that it was sweet of me to offer but that shipping to Hong Kong was crazy expensive, and that my found object art posts already brightened up her days. I insisted, and here's what she wrote about it

Photo: BENJAMIN BRINK/The Oregonian

 Debbie never mentioned the word "cancer" in any of our emails; I only found out when we became Facebook friends and I followed one of her post links to her personal blog, and then scrolled back to older entries. And then I felt like an idiot, because I remember telling Debbie about having a cold bug in the household when she first approached me about doing an interview. I was complaining about a cold and there Debbie was, about to head into cancer-related surgery.

Sometimes the lack of comments on my own blog made me wonder how many people actually read it, but Debbie encouraged me: "So excited, just love how you share thoughts with others, your enthusiasm got me to finally pick up a pen and become persistent with my own writing and join SCBWI here in Hong Kong." 

Despite what she was going through, Debbie continued to support others, post on her blog about the love of reading, and embrace life as fully as possible. Debbie Alvarez was an inspiration to me, and the world is a lesser place without her.

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19. Graphic novel love: SUNNY SIDE UP by Jennifer and Matthew Holm

Not only is SUNNY SIDE UP a wonderful graphic novel for middle grade, but you can also find out tons of behind-the-scenes info about how it was made in THE YARN. I met Jenni Holm at NerdCampMI earlier this year and found her super-friendly and down-to-earth. 

Found out more about Jenni at JenniferHolm.com, about Matthew at MatthewHolm.net and SUNNY SIDE UP at Scholastic.

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20. Creativity tip: Take the time to look at the world a different way

A creative tip for writers and illustrators: Every so often, take the time to look at things around you differently than you normally would. Sounds like a glib cliché, I know, but I encourage you to really give it a shot. When I'm walking through a familiar area or doing something I've done a zillion times before, I tend to take my surroundings for granted. Every once in a while, I force myself to stop and really look at something or someone. I mean really LOOK. If I have the time, I sketch or write about it in my notebook. If I only have a few minutes, like when I'm waiting in a grocery line, then I make it a mental exercise. I also do this through my found object art and encourage young people to do found object art for the same reason.

Since I consciously started doing this, I have found my work showing the benefits. I'm sharing this tip here in hopes that it might help some of you as well.

How you can apply this principle in your illustrations: Before settling on a way of illustrating a scene, experiment with different perspectives and other ways of interpreting the text. Feel free to use one of my brainstorming templates. Do more art just for the fun of it to keep yourself from falling into a rut. Doodle, experiment. Remind yourself you don't have to show anyone what you're drawing.

How you can apply this principle in your writing: Avoid describing people and things in clichéd phrases ("she was fit as a fiddle" etc.), take the time to make your characters and stories unique, don't chase trends. Carry around a notebook and jot down phrases, descriptions, ideas, names. Brainstorm. Write every day; it doesn't have to be for a book project or something you want to get published. Write for FUN. Experiment with poetry (you don't have to show anyone); I find writing poetry makes me more conscious of word choice and the sound of the words. Read what you write out loud; read in a different voice, at different speeds.

Do you have your own creativity boost techniques? Feel free to share them below in the comments.

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21. Writing Challenges Should Inspire Motivation, Not Guilt

 

Did you attempt NaNoWriMo this year and have to bow out because you simply didn't have enough time? Are you looking for a year-round writing challenge with some flexibility? 

Try my 250, 500 or 1000 words a day challenge.

 

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22. Book-combo holiday gift idea: THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE by Kat Yeh

Rereading my friend Kat Yeh's debut middle grade book THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE makes me think how great a holiday gift this book would be. Twinkie Pie is my favorite kind of book: a wonderful voice, characters I care about and an unexpected but thoroughly satisfying ending. See my interview with Kat on Inkygirl earlier this year.

Anyway, here are a few fun gift packaging ideas:

- Combine this book with the ingredients for one of the many excellent recipes in this book for a middle grader who likes to cook/bake.

- Great hostess gift for your favorite librarian or kidlit book lover: a copy of this book along with a a yummy baked Twinkie Pie (or No-Peek Chicken, Maybe Even Better Soup, Madder'n Heck Smashed Potatoes, Special-Occasion Fancy Sandwiches, Pull-Aparts, Easier-Than-Pie Pudding, Impossible Pie, Tangled-Up Pie, Heartbreak On Toast, Pick Me Up, Cherries In The Snow or one of the other recipes)

- Other combo gift items you could include: baking or cooking utensils or tools, a cookbook, Twinkies :-))

You can find out more about The Truth About Twinkie Pie and Kat Yeh on her website.

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23. Comic: Snowman Writer Resolution

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24. Comic: The Writer and Santa

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25. Advice For Young Writers, Minecraft Books and Cute Office Dogs: Three Questions With Danica Davidson

Danica Davidson started writing at age three and never stopped. Before selling her first book, she wrote for such places as MTV, CNN, The Onion and Los Angeles Times. Among other publications, she was recently featured by Forbes for her Minecraft writing. She’s represented by the James Fitzgerald Agency. Attack Of The Overworld is the second book in Danica's Minecraft series, which is geared toward ages 7-12.

Also read Danica's recent post on the BNKids blog about Minecraft, Cyberbullying and Girl Power and her Cynsations interview.

You can find Danica at DanicaDavidson.com and on Twitter at @DanicaDavidson.

Synopsis of ATTACK ON THE OVERWORLD (Skyhorse, 2015): Attack on the Overworld is the sequel to Escape From the Overworld, where Minecraft character Stevie finds a portal to our world and befriends a girl named Maison. Now cyberbullies have hacked the portal and let themselves into the Minecraft world, turning it into eternal night and transforming people into zombies.

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

Since I adopted my dog Porthos from the local shelter a couple years ago, he’s been a constant companion.

(Bonus points if you get his name reference: he’s named after the beagle Porthos in Star Trek: Enterprise, who in turn is named after Porthos from The Three Musketeers. I know . . . I’m a nerd.) He always wants to be with me, so my boyfriend thought of placing a dog bed under my writing desk. Porthos likes to sleep by my feet while I’m writing and we go out for walks together when I’m brainstorming. I also like to bring him along to book signings of the book store owner says it’s okay. He is the most literary dog I know!

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

The most common advice is usually to keep writing/reading/drawing, and I give that, too. But another piece of advice I wish I’d gotten is that it’s normal to get TONS of rejections before you get published, and not only should you not give up, but you should not let it devastate you. Young writers are told to expect rejection, but I was never told to expect as much rejection as I’ve gotten, and sometimes it really got me down.

I remember a few years back, when I was swimming in rejection letters, an editor at a magazine told me something along the lines of, “I once met a famous writer who got TEN rejection letters. TEN! So don’t feel so bad.” I was thinking, “I passed ten rejections years and years ago. If ten is the definition of ‘a lot,’ I not only feel bad, but now I feel even worse.” Another writer told me he thought it was time to give up after 35 rejections. Oh, I’d looong passed 35 rejections by then, but I was too embarrassed to say it because I thought he’d tell me to give it up at that point and I couldn’t bear to hear that.

The hardest part is getting your foot in the door. But I kept working, kept networking, kept writing and kept submitting, and in this past year and a half, I’ve sold six books. And I’m ready to write more.

Some people are surprised to see me sell six books while in my twenties, but I tell them I didn’t just start doing this. I’ve been submitting and getting rejected since I was eleven. Ever since I was little I’ve known this is what I wanted to do in my life, and if that’s the case for you, follow that voice with hard work, persistence and a sense of humor.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I’m excited to see more of my books come out and see where writing takes me next. I have two books out now: Escape from the Overworld and Attack on the Overworld, both Minecraft novels. The third Minecraft novel, The Rise of Herobrine, is out in April. My book Manga Art For Beginners, which teaches how to draw in a manga style, is out in March, and I worked with an amazing artist named Melanie Westin for that one. I've written a graphic novel for a major children's franchise that will be out in the fall. I don’t know how much I can say yet, but there should be a big announcement on that one soon and it’s a franchise everyone knows. And I’m about to get started on my fourth Minecraft book, which will be titled Down Into the Nether, and is scheduled to come out in June. This is what I love to do, and I want to write all different kinds of books for all different ages!

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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