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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. 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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2. 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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3. 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. 


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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4. 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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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. Comic: Punctuation Breakup

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15. 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.


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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16. 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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17. Comic: Hamster Writers

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18. Comic: Bibliophile Breakup


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19. Comic: Snowman Writer Resolution

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20. Comic: The Writer and Santa

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21. 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!


For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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22. 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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23. 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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24. A comic for parents who work from home

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25. 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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