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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. #BookADay: ALONG A LONG ROAD by Frank Viva (Little, Brown Books For Young Readers)

#bookaday: ALONG A LONG ROAD by fellow Canadian Frank Viva (Little, Brown). Love the simple palette and gorgeous retro-style art as well as the glossy yellow road (you can't help but want to touch the pages) that runs throughout.

More about Frank Viva on his website and you can also find him on Twitter at @VIVAandCO.

More info about ALONG A LONG ROAD on the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers website.

--

Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.

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2. Comic Caption Challenge (there will be PRIZES)

Any caption ideas for this comic? You can post your answer below, on Twitter (please tag with #inkycaption hashtag) or on FB.

There will be PRIZES.

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3. Holiday Kidlit: DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW by Helaine Becker & Werner Zimmerman (Scholastic Canada)

Looking for some Canadian holiday kidlit cheer? Try DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW: A CANADIAN JINGLE BELLS, a new book written by my friend Helaine Becker, illustrated by Werner Zimmermann, companion to their #1 national bestseller, A PORCUPINE IN A PINE TREE. More info about DASHING on the Scholastic Canada site.

More about Helaine: http://www.helainebecker.com/

More about Werner: http://wernerzimmermann.ca/

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Also see my other #BookADay posts.

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4. Comic: He's Checking It Twice...Just Not Yet

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5. Comic: Snowman Gift

 

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6. Comic: The Writer and Santa

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7. Survey Results: What Agents, Editors and Art Directors Look For Online

In prep for my workshop at CANSCAIP's Packaging Your Imagination, I asked literary agents, editors and art directors a few questions about whether they research potential clients, authors and illustrators online and what they look for. 18 editors (some of whom also look for picture book illustrators), 8 agents and 2 art directors responded.

Here's what they said:

QUESTION: When you are considering taking on a new client/author/illustrator, do you ever research them online?

77% of respondents said that when they are considering taking on a new client, author and illustrator, they ALWAYS research them online. The rest said they sometimes do.

QUESTION: If you do online research before signing on a client/author/illustrator, has your research ever made you decide NOT to sign them on?

62% said that YES, they have decided to reject someone after researching them online. Some said that while they hadn't yet rejected someone after online research, they would definitely think twice about signing with someone who posts a lot of negativity (see below) or posts "with cringe-inducing syntax."

 

OTHER COMMENTS:

In this section, I invited respondents to volunteer additional comments, including turn-ons and turn-offs, what they look for during online research.

The following respondents gave me permission to use their names.

Christie Harkin, Consultant Publisher at Clockwise Press:

"I have been turned off by authors/illustrators who bad-mouth their editors/publishers/agents. It is amazing to me when I see this on Facebook. Even if you don't mention your editor/publisher by name, it is usually very obvious to whom you are referring. I would definitely think twice about taking on someone who did this. Also, I look for authors/illustrators who are generous in sharing news about others in the community. People who only post promo about their own books (BUY MY BOOK! LOOK AT MY STUFF!) are not generally as well-received or connected with the larger community. If you are a new or emerging creator, you need to be engaging with others who are also plugged in to the kidlit world."

Andrew Karre, Editorial Director at Carolrhoda Books:

"An extent online presence is not a necessity. It's gravy. But . . . I place a certain amount of value on a social media presence that seems human and natural and interesting. A Twitter stream that is full of interesting engaged conversations on a variety of topics--even topics other than books--is somewhat more interesting to me than one that is all review links and retweets. I don't much care how many followers. (Unless, of course, it's a huge number, because I am not an idiot about what that means.)"

Carol Hinz, Editorial Director at Millbrook Press:

"I'm not necessarily looking for something in particular when I look up an author or illustrator. I simply want to find out if the person has a web presence and, if so, what it is. It's also helpful to get a sense of what else they've done, how they present themselves, whether they do school visits, and what helpful connections they may have (whether it's with other writers, educators, booksellers, etc.) when it comes to book promotion." 

 

Other Comments:

NOTE: Most of the respondents answered anonymously but to avoid the awkward he/she decision, I decided to use "he" or "she" randomly.

One agent said she decided not to request material from previously published authors who got combative with reviewers. Another respondent said that while he hadn't yet rejected a project based on online research, he may make a note to discuss proper online etiquette with that particular author or illustrator. "But I believe the day is coming where my online research will make me answer 'no' when I question, 'Do I love this book enough to want to deal with THIS'?"

Another respondent said that online research sometimes makes her ask more questions, change the direction or focus of the conversation, dig deeper ("and not always in a negative way"), sometimes for the benefit of both of them and sometimes in ways that lead to more meaningful partnerships.

"Biggest turn-off: Writers who get argumentative and/or rude with reviewers and bloggers online. I also look at blog and social media posts that see how the writer comes across in their daily interactions. I'm wary when a writer acts rude, cynical, prejudiced, or pessimistic on social media. That's not to say that people can't have down moments, but if their overall feeds are full complaints and abuse toward others, it's an immediate "no." I've been lucky, though, to have found clients who are all positive, dedicated writers open to criticism and growing in their craft."

"I'm usually just looking for more information and/or to confirm my initial impression. I do notice if someone writes extensively about the writing and publication process ("got another rejection today!") or if he/she does a lot of self-publishing. Neither of these are deal-breakers at all, but they present unique challenges. I actually do most of my sleuthing with agents and agencies, and in that case I do judge if I see a lot of awful self-published covers (but again, may still work with them). Also, I assume writers and agents research me online but the less I'm reminded of that, the better—like don't start every email to me by mentioning something I've posted on Facebook. I don't like the feeling of someone friending me on social media in order to 'gain access.'"

"I look for obviously divisive posts, things that I see that I think would turn off a readership. Professionalism online is important, and also gives me an idea of what you'd be like to work with. I also look to see how you interact with others on your blog/twitter/site whether or not you acknowledge people who leave comments or tweet with you."

"Turn offs= being unprofessional/rude/inappropriate in a public online setting. Why would I want someone with that type of behavior linked to me as an agent and the agency as a whole?"

"When researching someone online, I'm generally just looking to flesh out my knowledge of that person in advance of a possible acquisition. I'm not actually looking for trouble spots, just maybe things to discuss at an IRL meeting with colleagues (sales points) or with the author themselves (small talk). When it's an illustrator, particularly; I do a lot of triage online before anyone's necessarily aware that I'm looking - I use online portfolios to identify leads. I'd advise artists to have as much art available to view online as possible. Use places like deviantart if you don't have a well-maintained personal site or an illustration agent with a good easily searchable site. Probably use deviantart even if you do. The easier your work is to find, the more work you'll pick up. I've been involved in acquisitions where a Google search turned up a certain amount of Internet Drama. It never really influenced the decision - we signed people up each time. I could imagine scenarios in which it would be a deal-breaker - for example, if we discovered that an author was a Neo-Nazi, that wouldn't play well - but none of them has so far come to pass. Incidentally, I think the situation in which duly diligent research is crucial is if you are an author or illustrator being offered work by a publisher or agent. You need to check out the bona fides of the person or company asking to contract with you, because there are an awful lot of sharks out there." - @iucounu on Twitter

"Turn ons - lots of work with the same energy and talent that brought the illustrator to my attention in the first place. Turn offs - samples that look dated, have styles that are very different and less appealing to me than the first sample I saw, very few samples."

"Online turn-offs: people who tweet way too often, people who only speak and don't engage others in conversation, people who are far too self-promotey, people who share way too much of their personal lives, people who are far too neurotic (tweeting constantly about writing woes and insecurities), people who are far, far, far too negative about anything and everything, and the biggest of all: people who feel the need to insult other writers/houses/editors/agents. Oh, and also, writers who quote themselves online. Online turn-ons: people who engage in meaningful discussion (without hitting me on the head with a hammer), people who find that balance between an online persona and being who they really are, people more interested in building a community than shilling their work, people who are endlessly supportive of fellow writers (without being obnoxious about it). What I really want to learn when I research a writer online is what they're after. Did they write the book to jump on the gravy train, hoping it would be the quick path to fame and fortune? Did they write the book because they scoff at the genre they just wrote and wanted to prove anyone could do it? Or is this someone who is serious about building a writing career and not just receiving the adulation of thousands of strangers? THAT'S the writer I want to work with. Someone dedicated to their craft and not their number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers."

(On whether they have rejected someone after online research) "Not if I really, really love the book, but if an author has exhibited abrasive or unpleasant behavior online, it definitely makes me think twice about signing them. When I sign someone, I'm not just signing up the project--I'm going to have to work with the author for a long time, and I prefer not to invite a headache into my life. While a great web presence is a definite plus, I'd never turn someone down for a lackluster web presence. But if I discover combative, difficult behavior, etc, I have to decide if this person is worth the unpleasantness they'll likely bring to my life. Because people are usually consistent--ie, if they're unpleasant to some people, they'll probably be unpleasant to me too if and when any difficulties in our working relationship arise."

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

 

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8. A list of children's book illustrators on Etsy

Looking for some kidlit illustrator love for the holiday season gifting? In addition to books, of course, here are some Etsy shops where you can find traditionally published children's book illustrators. If anyone knows of others, feel free to post in the comments section! Please note that I'm only listing shops that currently have items for sale (so have left out my own :-)). 

Also see Travis Jonker's Ultimate Children's Literature Illustrator Gift Guide, which includes non-Etsy places where you can buy children's illustrator stuff.

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Aino Anto is offering fine art originals, prints, hug pillows, stuffed toys. Etsy shop | Website

Kate Berube is offering prints, magazines, greeting cards. Etsy shop | Website

Sophie Black is offering prints. Etsy shop | Website

Calef Brown is offering fine art originals and prints. Etsy shop | Website

Ruth Chan is offering prints and postcards. Etsy shop | Website

Joan Charles is offering prints and  greeting cards. Etsy shop | Website

Arree Chung and other children's book illustrators are offering adorable wall decals. Etsy shop | Website

Christopher Denise is offering fine art originals and prints. Etsy shop | Website

Christina Forshay is offering prints. Etsy shop | Website

Salley Mavor is offering note cards, posters and books. Etsy shop | Website

Wendy Martin is offering original art, prints, books, masks, clothing, more. Etsy shop | Website

Cindy Pon is offering note cards. Etsy shop | Website

Scott Nash is offering books and stickers. Etsy shop | Website

Matte Stephens is offering fine art originals and prints. Etsy shop | Website

Diana Sudyka is offering prints. Etsy shop | Website

Lee White is offering fine art originals and prints. Etsy shop | Website

Laura Zarrin is offering fine art originals and prints. Etsy shop | Website

If you know of other traditionally published children's book illustrators with Etsy shops that currently have items for sale, feel free to list them (ideally with the Etsy shop URL) below. In answer to the question "why only traditionally published? why only shops with items for sale?": I didn't have time to list ALL shops, sorry; if anyone out there is willing to take on that project, feel free to post your list below.

 

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9. A comic for you writing mothers out there

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10. My Why Picture Books Are Important essay is up on the #PictureBookMonth website

Thanks so much to Dianne de Las Casas and the other Picture Book Month co-founders for inviting me to be a Picutre Book Month Champion this year! I've so enjoyed reading all the essays as well as Marcie Colleen's special curriculum tie-ins every day.

If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to browse the Picture Book Month archives. So many wonderful posts: some funny, some deeply moving. All are inspiring.

As I mentioned in my post, while many of us enjoy and appreciate picture books throughout the year, it's nice to have an excuse to throw an extra special party during November.

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11. Writers: Didn't Have Time For #NaNoWriMo? Try 250, 500 or 1000 Words A Day (and why I need to do this)

If you're a writer who has no trouble banging out thousands of words a day on a regular basis, you can skip my 250, 500 or 1000 Words A Day Writing Challenge.

This post is for others who fit into one or more of the following situations:

- You started NaNoWriMo with good intentions but ended up falling further and further behind until it was way too late to try catching up.

- You've always wanted to try a writing challenge like NaNoWriMo but knew you'd never have the time to write 50,000 words in November.

- You have a day job and need some motivation to squeeze out extra time to do regular writing.

- You have kids, so life is often crazybusy with parenting duties and an unpredictable schedule. You need some motivation to carve out writing time here and there.

- You're an illustrator who is trying to flex your writing muscles. A writing challenge with achievable goals could help you get that picture book or other writing project finished.

- You already make a living as a writer or are a published writer, but have always wanted to try another genre...but your paid/contracted work has always come first. Even with limited time, you want to get that personal writing project of yours off the back burner and make some steady progress.

In my case: I am a children's book illustrator who has just started writing picture books. I love my work and I love making picture books, but I also have not forgotten my roots: I have been writing books for young people for as long as I can remember. None of them have been published, though I have been steadily working on my craft; judging from the gradual improvement in quality of editorial rejection letters, my writing has been getting better. I've gotten close (tantalizingly, frustratingly close) for my latest novel, but "close" is not the same as a book contract. I also had my YA novel-in-progress nominated for the SCBWI Sue Alexander "Most Promising For Publication" Award.

Then a rejection ended up (in a roundabout way) getting me a book illustration contract with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, and my novel-writing got put on hold. It's ironic but a part of the business: I've since had more than one editor express interest in seeing my novels, but I haven't had as much time to work on my writing because of my contracted illustration work.

With what I've learned since then, I'm realizing why my already-written novels didn't sell and why they SHOULDN'T have sold, and have shelved them. I've started working on a new project which I'm pretty excited about, but don't spend nearly enough time on. It's been a crazy year for me: I illustrated three Judy Blume chapter books, 10 Judy Blume covers, finished the illustrations for my first solo picture book (WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? with Simon & Schuster), illustrated RUBY ROSE ON HER TOES (picture book by Rob Sanders, with HarperCollins), did sketches for MITZI TULANE: PRESCHOOL DETECTIVE (picture book by Lauren McLaughlin, with Random House), some sketches for SEA MONKEY AND BOB (picture book by Aaron Reynolds, with Simon & Schuster), did my first book tour, talks and workshops at conferences, then had family health issues.

But something else I've learned: life is ALWAYS going to be crazybusy, one way or another. I will NEVER have the luxury of time that I had in my pre-published days, and that's not a bad thing. If I want to achieve my goal of getting my novels for young people published, I have to adjust and squeeze out writing time however I can.

Hoping some of you join me in the Challenge! Here's more info about how to participate. Feel free to post below or in my Writing Challenge: 250, 500 or 1000 Words Facebook page. Or you can just participate without letting anyone know...it's entirely up to you.

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12. Comic: Being Thankful

 

I've decided that the girl's name is Keiko.  Haven't come up with a name for the baby yet, though.

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13. My First Author/Illustrator Skype Visit: What I Learned, What I'd Do Differently Next Time

Skyping with 115 first-graders at A. Blair McPherson School in Edmonton, Alberta

Although I've used Skype before, I resisted doing Skype classroom visits until recently because I wasn't confident about the technology working properly. Since I first tried Skype, however, broadband services have improved and more schools are starting to do Skype visits with authors and illustrators.

Other reasons I decided to explore visiting schools via Skype:

- I lack the time and finances to visit schools outside of the Toronto area. I also don't drive, which makes transportation more of a hassle and time-consuming.

- I had so much fun talking to young readers during my NAKED! book tour (thanks, Simon & Schuster!) that I want to do more often than I have in the past, but am limited by the reasons mentioned above.

- Although I know it can't replace in-person visits, virtual school visits enable me to use more props in my presentations, a wider range of art supplies, show students around my home office, be able to pull out musical instruments (I have many) on whim.

- I know some schools can't afford a full school visit, so I decided to offer a 15-20 minute quickie visit. Those who want a longer visit can pay my regular fee. I'm also relatively new to school visits, so this also gives schools an idea of what I'm like in person. When I do my next book tour, whether sponsored by one of my publishers or funded on my own, hopefully some of these schools will be interested in having me visit.

What I did before my first Skype visit:

- I researched a TON, searching online for blog posts by children's book authors and illustrators who have done Skype visits, as well as posts by teachers and librarians about Skype visits. I was especially interested in posts by children's book illustrators, since we have the advantage of being able to do drawing demos. :-)

- I talked to my friend Lee Wardlaw, who was also my first children's book writing mentor. Lee has a huge amount of experience presenting at schools and bookstores in person as well as via Skype. Do check out her Presentations page as well as her Secrets To A Successful Skype Visit for educators.

- I worked with teacher-librarian Arlene Lipkewich and A. Blair McPherson for my very first school Skype visit. I started with a Skype test call with Arlene and another teacher, then a Skype call with Mrs. Brooke's second grade class. Arlene gave me useful feedback which I used to tweak my setup and presentation before I Skyped with five classes (115 students) of first-graders the following week. Thanks you, Arlene and A. Blair McPherson!

- I collected some of the useful resources I've found on my Skype School Visit Page for teachers and librarians as well as children's book authors and illustrators.

What I learned and what I'd do differently next time:

- It's sooooooo much more fun than I expected!

- I strongly recommend doing a Skype test call in advance of each Skype visit as well as just before the visit itself. I found this a great way of identifying potential problems and fixing them.

- Make sure you leave time for a Q&A, and coordinate with the teacher ahead of time so that he/she is able to have students prepare questions in advance.

- Figure out how to make my own screen bigger so I can see what the kids are seeing. Try to place this screen behind the webcam so I'm looking at the camera, not away.

- If I do painting, I will NOT set the paint cups on my desk where it's way too easy for me to knock them over in the middle of the Skype session (fortunately I didn't have much liquid in each)!

- Figure out how to mute the audio on my computer so I just hear it on my headphones. I found the echo a bit confusing, and was also worried about the echo leaking through into my microphone.

Some useful resources:

Please do check out the resource list I've compiled for teachers/librarians and authors/illustrators to my Skype page; I'll be gradually updating it.

Interested in having me do a Skypevisit with your school or library? Please see the info on DebbieOhi.com/skype. Hope to visit with you soon!

 

 

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14. Comic: A Quality Picture Book

A comic in celebration of Picture Book Month. Do check PictureBookMonth.com, where you can find daily inspirational essays by children's book authors and illustrators about the importance of picture books.

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15. Comic: An Honest Critique?

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16. Book I read: THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B by Teresa Toten

Just finished Teresa Toten's THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B. Wow, loved this book so much; it was one of those stories that made me laugh and cry at the same time. Wonderful voice. I also learned a lot about OCD. Highly recommended! I was also lucky enough to hear Teresa's inspiring opening keynote at CANSCAIP's Packaging Your Imagination and chat with her a bit afterward. SUCH a nice person!

Info: More about TeresaMore about the book (including an excerpt).

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17. A Happy Birthday (and THANK YOU) to my Simon & Schuster Children's editor, Justin Chanda, who helped me find my books


My dedication at the front of my VERY FIRST solo picture book, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? (comes out from Simon & Schuster Children's in May 2015)

Since Justin Chanda "discovered" me at the 2010 SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles (and after many, many years of rejections), my children's book career has taken off. Every so often I still pause in the middle of whatever I'm doing and think to myself OH MY GOSH I'M ACTUALLY MAKING A LIVING WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING CHILDREN'S BOOKS and hyperventilate a bit but then calm down because I have upcoming deadlines and need to get back to work.

For you, @inkygirl!! (Also for me, because, well, it's @judyblume!)

A photo posted by Jpchanda (@jpchanda) on Jun 6, 2014 at 4:37pm PDT

This past year has been especially crazygood, with my illustrations appearing in JUDY BLUME reissues from Atheneum (JUDY BLUUUUUUUUUME!!!!!!) as well as NAKED!, a second picture book with Michael Ian Black and Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. And then S&S sent me on my very first book tour!

 

So @michaelianblack and @inkygirl popped by to celebrate #Naked!!

A photo posted by Jpchanda (@jpchanda) on Apr 4, 2014 at 1:24pm PDT

Do you see that wand that Justin is holding in one of the photos above? A while back, I was posting about the Judy Blume illustration project as well as NAKED! coming out in 2014, and someone asked me if I had a fairy godmother. Yes, I told them, and my fairy godmother's name is JUSTIN CHANDA. I presented Justin with a labelled Fairy Godmother wand at the Simon & Schuster Children's meet & greeting with Michael Ian Black and me. This a photo that my husband took, just after I gave Justin the wand and was about to give him a big hug:

Photo: Jeff Ridpath.

Apparently Justin has taken the Wand to several Simon & Schuster Children's meetings since. :-)

And just recently, I got to see the color proofs for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, which is going to be my very first solo children's book. I think it really didn't hit me that I'm actually going to be a children's book AUTHOR as well as illustrator until I saw those proofs. The book comes out from Simon & Schuster in May 2015, woohoo!

Now that I've been working with Justin for four years, I feel even more lucky. He's a brilliant editor. I'm learning so much from him about the craft and business of making children's books. Justin has the ability to bring out the best in those who work with him, pushing them hard but also trusting their creative instincts.

I'm grateful to SO many people who have encouraged me along the way and could not be where I am now without them. Justin Chanda was the first editor to give me my Big Break, to believe in me enough to offer me that first book contract, and mere words cannot express how much I appreciate what he did and continues to do for my career.

Happy birthday, Justin, and THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME FIND MY BOOKS!

 Also see my Thank You To Justin Chanda and Simon & Schuster Children's.

Me hanging with the incomparable @inkygirl at #la14scbwi

A photo posted by Jpchanda (@jpchanda) on Aug 8, 2014 at 10:33pm PDT

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18. Comic: Another Reason You Should Always Make Backups

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19. Wordcount Envy Clinic (a #NaNoWriMo comic)

If you're doing NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to check out my friend Errol Elumir's daily NaNoToons!

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20. Comic: It Was A Dark And #NaNoWriMo Night...

If you're doing NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to check out my friend Errol Elumir's daily NaNoToons!

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21. Comic: Obsessive Compulsive Editing Disorder

To writers out there: so 'fess up. How many of you out there can identify?

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22. Comic: There's More To A Girl Than Just Her Word Count (a #NaNoWriMo Breakup)

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23. Will Write For Chocolate comic: "You're never too old for picture books"

Just posted a new Will Write For Chocolate strip, inspired by Ame Dyckman's wonderful Picture Book Month post today. More at Will Write For Chocolate (and don't forget to "Like" my Will Write For Chocolate Facebook page!).

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24. To those doing #NaNoWriMo: Good luck! (and here's a comic for you)

Also check out my friend Errol Elumir's daily NaNoToons, if you're looking for distraction. :-)

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25. Comic: Pseudo-Productivity Tip for Writers, especially those doing #NaNoWriMo

If you're doing NaNoWriMo, I encourage you to check out my friend Errol Elumir's daily NaNoToons!

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