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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. Writers: Don't rush your submission. Make sure your writing is polished BEFORE you send it out.

One mistaken assumption that I've noticed some newbie writers making: Sending out their writing too soon, assuming that the editor who buys their short story (or novel, etc.) is going to be helping them polish the piece anyway.

DO NOT DO THIS.

Never, ever send an mss out just after you've finished it. Put it away for a few days (a few weeks at least, for a novel). That way you'll be able to reread more objectively, without the rosy glow of "omigosh this is brilliant just wait until publishers see this."

I'm a foodie, so often think in terms of food analogies. In this case, it would be sort of like a first-time restauranteur opening before they've perfected their dishes. Turn off the restaurant critics early on, and you make it tougher for yourself longterm.

If you're a new picture book writer, this is even MORE vital. Why? Because I've noticed that many non-pb writers assume that writing a picture book is easy because there are fewer words, that it's something they can do on the side for extra money while they work on their "real" books. 

Vaguely related side note:

Others may differ, but I also advise NOT giving it to your critique group to read too soon. Why? Because there is a real value in getting feedback from someone who is reading the piece for the first time. Yes, there's a value in getting feedback for a rough version so you can polish it before sending it out to an editor. Be aware, however, that after the first critique, your crit partners will likely be giving feedback on your revisions rather than an overall first-time impression.

Respect your readers, before and after publication.

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2. Just finished reading RULES by Cynthia Lord

Thanks to my sister for recommending this book to me. SUCH a good story. What made the book for me: the main character, Catherine. She is entirely believable, funny and flawed, and I fell in love with her right away. HIGHLY recommended.

Here's a great interview with Cynthia Lord about Rules on Cynsations, where she talks about having a son with autism and how she wanted to explore the unique dynamics that exist in a family that has a child with severe special needs. Rules was her first published book!

You can find out more about Cynthia at her website:  http://cynthialord.com/rules.html

I recently bought her newest book, HALF A CHANCE, and can't wait to read it!

More about the book on the Scholastic website: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/bookwizard/books-by/cynthia-lord

-------------------

My #BookADay and "Books I've Read" archives at http://inkygirl.com/bookaday/

 

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3. Why you should savor the journey and enjoy every success along the way, no matter how small

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4. Cautionary comic for writers (and illustrators!)

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5. Starting to blog about children's books I read, #BookADay, and why I DON'T do formal book reviews (so please don't ask)

As some of you already know, I've been participating in Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge and having great fun with it; you can see my posts so far here and all my #BookADay collages on Flickr.

I've decided to keep posting about the children's and YA books I read (and re-read) this way, even if I'm unable to do it every day. But now I'm torn; I'm not really adhering to the rules of the official #BookADay challenge...although I AM reading/rereading an average of a picture book a day, I don't always post about it. I mentioned on FB that I'm pulling back a wee bit from online distractions so I can get more writing done.

I enjoy the process of putting together these mini book-collages, however, especially for favourites I'm re-reading, because it gives me an excuse to delve more into the background of the book as well as finding out more about the author and illustrator. I also love hearing from people who say my post has prompted them to check out the books, or are reminded of a book they need to reread or share with their students.

Because I'm not strictly following the #BookADay rules, however, I'm going to change the footer of these images from now on...else I'll feel like a #BookADay cheater!

Please note that these are not meant to be formal book reviews. I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER. I just like reading books written for young people, and sometimes I am going to blog about them. I want to make this clear because I strongly prefer NOT being contacted about reviewing books. Reading a book for review or critique vastly changes the reading experience for me, and I am already finding it a challenge to carve out time for pleasure reading.

I avoid posting negative comments about books I read. My posts do not criticize the books and are not meant to be objective reviews. If I truly dislike a book, I just won't post about it*. Chances are good I just didn't finish it. I would much rather spend that time and energy talking about books I do like. There is enough snark and negativity in reader reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. I have also seen how a single, hate-filled anonymous review can affect a hardworking author. Yes, we need to develop thick skins as authors, but no one deserves some of the personal attacks I've seen on those sites.

Note that I consider the above reviews very different from thoughtful and well-balanced critical reviews by those who have no hidden agenda.

I tend to agree with Hallie Sawyer, who makes a distinction between book reviews and book recommendations. In addition to highlighting some of the books I've been reading and re-reading, one of my goals has also been to let others know (especially teachers and librarians) about books they may not be aware of, or have not yet had time to read themselves.

Why am I going on and on about NOT being a book reviewer? Because in the past, when I have done informal so-called book reviews, I've been inundated with publicists and authors who want me to review books. They want to send me books. If I don't respond right away, they follow up with multiple emails.

I need to clarify a few points:

I am not short on books to read.

I am short on time to read.

I would much rather pay money to buy a book I'm 90% sure I'll enjoy than get a free book that only vaguely interests me at the outset.

Okay, enough on that topic.  

Thanks again to Donalyn Miller, whose Book-A-Day Challenge inspired me to start doing these book mini-collages, and who has been inspiring countless others to do more summer reading!

----

*Note: If I haven't posted about your book and you know I own it, please DON'T assume I disliked it. I may not have read it or finished reading it, may have finished and enjoyed it but not yet had time to post about it, or it may simply be one of the many books I've read and enjoyed in the past but never posted about. 

 

 

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6. Comic: The Book Title

This comic was inspired by a post by the anonymous Intern years ago, before she came out as her true self: Hilary T. Smith, author of WILD AWAKE (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins). See my interview with Hilary. Thanks to Hilary for permission to re-post the comic.

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7. Will Write For Chocolate

Updated my Will Write For Chocolate comic strip (yes, finally).

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8. And the Golden Marmot goes to: Tim Federle @timfederle

 

This week's incredibly prestigious Golden Marmot award goes to illustrator Tim Federle for his brilliant Twitter status update above. You can find out more about Tim at Timfederle.com and on Twitter at @TimFederle.

 

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9. Starting to blog about children's books I read, #BookADay, and why I DON'T do formal book reviews

As some of you already know, I've been participating in Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge and having great fun with it; you can see my posts so far here and all my #BookADay collages on Flickr.

I've decided to keep posting about the children's and YA books I read (and re-read) this way, even if I'm unable to do it every day. But now I'm torn; I'm not really adhering to the rules of the official #BookADay challenge...although I AM reading/rereading an average of a picture book a day, I don't always post about it. I mentioned on FB that I'm pulling back a wee bit from online distractions so I can get more writing done.

I enjoy the process of putting together these mini book-collages, however, especially for favourites I'm re-reading, because it gives me an excuse to delve more into the background of the book as well as finding out more about the author and illustrator. I'm also finding that it gets more people interested in these books.

Because I'm not strictly following the #BookADay rules, however, I'm going to change the footer of these images from now on...else I'll feel like a #BookADay cheater!

Please note that these are not meant to be formal book reviews. I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER. I just like reading books written for young people, and sometimes I am going to blog about them. I want to make this clear because I strongly prefer NOT being contacted about reviewing books. Reading a book for review or critique vastly changes the reading experience for me, and I am already finding it a challenge to carve out time for pleasure reading.

And thanks again to Donalyn Miller, whose Book-A-Day Challenge inspired me to start doing these book mini-collages!

 

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10. Simon & Schuster publisher Justin Chanda on why you shouldn't write to trends

Love this quote.

Debbie

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11. A great quote from Judy Blume for children's/YA book writers and illustrators

"Do not let anyone discourage you. If they try: get determined, not depressed." - Judy Blume

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12. Comic: Writer Wish

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13. Comic: Grammar Graffiti

Tweaked from a version that originally appeared in Writer Unboxed.

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14. Lee & Low New Voices Award open to submissions

2014 08 07 LeeLowNewVoices

Lee & Low Books has just announced its 15th annual New Voices Award. The Award will be given for a children's picture book manuscript by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash prize of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash prize of $500. U.S. residents only.

Details here.

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15. A cautionary comic for aspiring authors and illustrators

Originally published in Writer Unboxed.

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16. Comic: So a zombie and a vampire walked into a bar...

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17. My office featured in Andrea Skyberg's Tuesday Studio Tours today!

Thanks to Andrea Skyberg for featuring my Office Cave in her Tuesday Studio Tours today.

Find out why my office looks NOTHING like the rest of the house, how my hero husband Jeff helped enhance my office, my envy of those who have appealing-sounding creative rituals, music I'm listening to (including Ookla the Mok) and a sampling of my new OfficeCrazyDanceBreak playlist, the most useful tool in my studio, and advice for those who want to make a personal space where they can be creative. Plus LOTS of photos!

Thank you, Andrea!

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18. A comic for those who think it's easy to write children's books

Originally posted for PiBoIdMo.

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19. Books About Town, Narnia BookBench, and giving credit to Pauline Baynes

 

If I were able to visit London right now, I would SO be checking out as many BookBenches as I could find. Books About Town on display in London from July 2 - September 15, 2014. What a wonderful celebration of London's literary heritage and reading for enjoyment!

I was especially delighted to see a bench devoted to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (see above). I clearly remember receiving this book as a Christmas gift from my Aunt Agnes when I was nine years old. I LOVED this book and immediately read all the other books in the series. 

The illustrations were a big part of the story experience for me, as I’m sure it was for many other young readers.

Anyway, the Narnia BookBench had lovely art by Mandii Pope, but I do wish the BookBench description had also given credit to the illustrator of the original book edition, Pauline Baynes, since the BookBench art was clearly an homage to the original.

Pauline baynes

Above: Photo from the 2008 obituary for Ms. Baynes in The Independent.

Did you know that Pauline Baynes illustrated some of Tolkien’s early work, and that he had hoped she would illustrate The Lord Of The Rings? The project ended up being too huge to include illustrations, but she did create beautifully drawn and coloured versions of Tolkien’s maps for a later edition of LOTR.

C.S. Lewis was a friend of Tolkien’s, and Baynes became the illustrator of the Narnia books. I love her diary entry for one of only two meetings that she had with C.S. Lewis:

“Met C.S. Lewis. Came home. Made rock cakes."

You can read more about Pauline Baynes on Wikipedia and in The Independent obituary.

And you can find out more about Books About Town on their website, on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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20. Comic: Another Advantage Of Print Books

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21. Comic Caption Challenge

 

Any suggestions for a caption? Feel free to post your caption suggestion below, on my Facebook Inkygirl Page, or on Instagram.

Please keep try to keep captions family-friendly, thanks. 

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22. New bookish comic, with thanks to @Catelli_NQU for the caption!

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23. My workshop at CANSCAIP'S "Packaging Your Imagination" conference Sat. Oct. 18, 2014

Registration's now open for CANSCAIP's Packaging Your Imagination conference on Saturday, October 18th, 2014. I'll be giving a workshop for beginning writers and illustrators called "Lightning Rods, Agents & Book Deals: Building Your Personal Brand."

However you feel about the word "brand," everyone has a personal brand. You DO have control over it (yes, even the shy and introverted) and it can have a big effect on how successful you are in achieving your personal and professional goals.

Some keys, I've found: Be authentic, find your niche and don't try to do everything. Come to my workshop and I'll explain more, including social media tips for those who aren't quite sure what to do with their social media. 

Find out more details about the event and how to register on the CANSCAIP website. Can't attend in person? CANSCAIP now offer a live streaming option!

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24. I enjoyed Weird Al Yankovic's WORD CRIMES video much more than the original song

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

Only a couple of weeks until the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles! If you haven't yet registered, you're out of luck....they just announced that the conference is now sold out. However, you can follow along virtually via the #LA14SCBWI hashtag on Twitter as well as the SCBWI conference blog.

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 heading into my sixth year in a row attending SCBWI-LA, 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. 

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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