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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. Be aware when research and prep become a crutch. At some point, you need to actually start WRITING.

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2. A Reminder To Aspiring Writers and Illustrators

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3. Three Questions For Josh Funk: Advice For Young Writers, Scott Pilgrim and LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST

Josh Funk lives in New England with his wife and kids. He is the author of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (launches Sept 1st from Sterling) and the upcoming Dear Dragon (Viking/Penguin, 2016), Pirasaurs! (Scholastic, 2017), and more. Find out more info about Josh at his website, Twitter, Facebook.

Me, Josh (on rock) and Jess Keating at Nerd Camp. Photo: Justin Keating.

I met Josh at Nerd Camp earlier this year. Such a fun and funny guy, and so supportive of his fellow kidlit authors and illustrators!

Synopsis of LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST (written by Josh Funk, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, published by Sterling)

"The race is on … Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are the best of friends until word gets out that there’s ONLY ONE DROP OF SYRUP left. Only one of them can enjoy the sweet, sweet taste of victory. Is their friendship toast?"

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

I don’t actually have an office. I pretty much do all of my writing from a laptop while sitting in bed (as I am right now). And I often throw on a movie I’m comfortable with in the background, something I know well enough so I won’t get distracted from the writing, but maybe it’ll inspire me. And my favorite movie to throw on is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (it’s on right now). So here’s the ‘not yet worn out’ disc:

This movie has everything: humor (Michael Cera, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Schwartzman), music (songs by Beck), action (actors who played Superman, The Punisher, & Captain America on the big screen), video games (fighting, music, skating), romance (love story with a pink/blue/green-haired girl), vegans, fantastic cast (at least one Oscar nominated actress), special effects (see: action), based on a graphic novel (KaPow!), one of the best directors out there (Edgar Wright can do no wrong), and it takes place in Canada (who doesn’t love ketchup chips?). It may not be for everybody, but if I were to make a movie, this would be it. And it’s been on in the background while I’ve written many a manuscript.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

I’m not a teacher. But I’ll tell you why I write, and I think it applies to any human: I write to entertain myself.

So write something you find fun.

Write what you’d want to read.

Write something to make your family and friends laugh.

Write a play you and your siblings can act out at the next family reunion.

Write a song!

And if it’s a writing assignment for school, put your own twist on it. Only you can write like you. So put a little of yourself into everything you write.

Obviously there are times when writing assignments have to be taken seriously, but there’s usually a way to make writing enjoyable.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I’m really excited about graphic novels, as you might have guessed from my Scott Pilgrim obsession. But here I’m referring to those for children (and adults like me). There are so many amazing choices out there that we’ve devoured over the last few years. Lunch Lady, El Deafo, Squish, Babymouse, The Flying Beaver Brothers, Ricky Ricotta, Rutabaga the Adventure Chef, Comics Squad, Astronaut Academy, Sidekicks, Smile, Sisters, Drama, Rollergirl, Amulet, The Chronicles of Claudette, and more.

I have personally seen children learn to read (and learn to love to read) by way of the GN. The combination of art and writing makes for an amazing storytelling (and story consuming) experience. The abundance of talent developing graphic novels today is mind blowing. And I don’t see it slowing down any time soon!

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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4. A survey: Do YOU dog-ear pages in books?

After posting the found object doodle below on FB, a flurry of comments (turns out I'm not the only one who has a strong emotional reaction to dog-eared pages in books :-)) prompted me to post this anonymous 1-question survey:

How do you feel about dog-earing pages? After you answer my anonymous 1-question poll, you'll see what others have said.

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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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5. Am going to try hard NOT to be like these writers while I'm on vacation

Have a great week, everyone!

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6. Survey Results: "How Did You Find Your Agent?" "What Resources Did You Find Useful In Researching Agents?"

In my recent survey, I asked those of you working with agents to answer a few questions about how you got your agent. First off, thank you SO MUCH to those who took the time to respond in order to help others in the community. These include: Hayley Chewins, Julie Glover, Kellie DuBay Gillis, Michael Wayne, Anne Marie Pace, Kristin Gray, Denise Gallagher, Corey Schwartz, Beth Ferry, Julie Dao, Stephanie Diaz, Russ Cox, Sarah Albee, Stephanie Fletcher-Stephens, Ashlyn Anstee, Melissa Caruso, Julie Falatko, Bruce Hale, Mike Jung, Heidi Schulz, Amy Lozier, Josh Funk, Jim Averbeck, Edward Willett, Kelley McMorris, Annie Cardi, Carter Higgins, Susan VanHecke, Jennifer Gray Olson, Andria W. Rosenbaum and Juana Martinez-Neal. Others responded anonymously.

74 people responded and almost all were children's/YA book writers or illustrators. Most got their agent through an email query.

 While researching agents and given the choices in my survey, respondents said the most useful resources of the ones I listed were Twitter, Publisher's MarketplaceAgentQuery.comSCBWI conferences and Literary Rambles, followed by Writer's Digest resources like the annual Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Guide and Chuck Sambuchino's Guide To Literary Agents. This survey was mainly conducted through Twitter, so it's not surprising that Twitter came out on top. 

Do scroll down to read some of the info-packed comments about other useful resources like QueryTracker, agency blogs and websites,  AbsoluteWrite forums, SCBWI BlueBoard forums. Comments also include info about people got their agents, such as getting noticed during the 12x12 Picture Book ChallengePreditors & Editors, #PitMad on Twitter (Pitch Madness - learn the rules before participating!) and #MSWL on Twitter (Manuscript Wish List - learn the rules before participating!).

Here's a further summary and breakdown of the results as of today (August 14, 2015).

As you can tell from the above, most of the respondents' represented work focuses on children's/YA writing. About 25% had agents representing their children's book illustration work.

Approx. 70% of respondents said they were working with their first agent. The others had worked with other agents before.

 

Here are some of additional comments about useful resources while researching agents:

"Online searches about what agents said and represented, conversations with authors already in the publishing business." - Julie Glover

"The SCBWI blueboard! Also, agent's blogs and agency websites." - Kellie DuBay Gillis

"Author friends - individual agent google searches which often bring up a variety of insightful blog interviews - agency websites." - Michael Wayne

"Probably most helpful was just googling agents to find interviews and other information, especially agency websites. Facebook was helpful mostly because of a private Facebook group of PitchWars '14 mentees that I belong to--networking with other writers is a big help. I also used QueryTracker. The AbsoluteWrite forums are usesful too."

"When I signed with my agent in early 2007, Facebook was just catching on and I don't think anyone had Twitter yet--okay, I checked Wikipedia--it was very small at that time! The Children's Writers and Illustrators Market was only in hardcover, not online! Much has changed, very quickly!" - Anne Marie Pace

"Recommendations from other agented writers, and recommendations from my former agent."

"12 x 12 picture book challenge submission."

"Also Querytracker." - Kristin Gray

"Pitch Madness on Twitter!" - Denise Gallagher

"I also learned about a lot of agents and agencies through other writers and through contests. (This is mostly where Twitter comes in... as a vehicle for word of mouth.) I used Publisher's Marketplace and AgentQuery more as a secondary reference to look up more info on agents, rather than a place to find them in the first place." - Melissa Caruso

"Querytracker.com, pred-ed.com." - Russ Cox

"General online research, agent interviews, etc."

"One of her clients gave me a referral." - Corey Schwartz

"Google. And, of course, the official agency websites are huge sources of information."

"Blog post loutreleaven showing a list of literary agents."

Additional comments about how they met their agent:

"We had never met face to face, but she contracted me after seeing my work in the Portfolio Showcase. Then we met (face to face) a few weeks later. A month or so after that, I signed with her agency. We have seen each other a few times since I signed, but mainly we communicate via email (and occasionally phone)."

"We met through the #PitMad Twitter pitch contest where she requested my work!" - Julie Dao

"I heard her speak at an SCBWI Editor's Day. The following year, I had her critique one of my manuscripts for SCBWI Agent's Day, and was signed soon after." - Stephanie Fletcher-Stephens

"Online via Verla Kay's Blueboards and my blog. Joan contacted me to request pages." - Mike Jung

"It was a case of right match, right time. I liked what he said in his talk, took advantage of his offer to submit stories, and found that he really liked one of my pieces -- enough to represent me." - @storyguy1

"I was referred by another agent."

"I queried her by email before an SCBWI event that I was volunteering at and she was speaking at." - Jennifer Gray Olson

"Personal reference from one of her existing clients." - Josh Funk

"Answered request from Manuscript Wish List (#MSWL)."

"They noticed me because I won the SCBWI Student Illustrator Scholarship." - Kelley McMorris

"Through my MFA program (VCFA)- she was a fellow student at the time." - Amy

"I met my agent through a #PitMad twitter pitch event."

"I had planned to query her based on research I'd done, but she invited me to submit my query letter, synopsis, and first 3 chapters from a Twitter pitch."

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Again, THANK YOU SO MUCH for those who took the time to respond! 

If you have comments or suggestions, including your own experience with researching and finding an agent, I encourage you to post below.

If you haven't already, feel free to also check out my list of agents on Twitter who represent kidlit/YA as well as my FAQ post about finding an agent (and how I found mine).

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

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7. Three Questions For Alice Ratterree: Advice For Young Illustrators, Office Pencil Shavings and LILLIPUT

Alice Ratterree loves illustrating books for the young at heart. She is represented by Marietta Zacker of Nancy Gallt Literary Agency and is currently working on a picture book about the life of Jane Addams. She finds adventure in Greenville, South Carolina with her husband, their two children, and a beloved adopted sidekick, Sam the cat. To learn more about Alice, visit her at her website, and on Twitter and Facebook.

I met Alice through the SCBWI and adore her art. Did you know that Alice started her career as a classical singer? You can find out more about Alice's background as well as art process on Peachtree Publisher's blog.

Synopsis of LILLIPUT (written by Sam Gayton, illustrated by Alice Ratterree):

"Inspired by Gulliver’s Travels, LILLIPUT is an exhilarating adventure filled with cunning escape plans, evil clock makers, and talkative parrots. Join Lily as she travels through eighteenth-century London – over rooftops, down chimneys, and into chocolate shops – on a journey to find the one place in the world where she belongs…home".

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

This small, red cup sits on my drawing table and holds my pencil shavings.

The picture on it is of my grandfather, Bill Thomas, who was a true renaissance man. After serving as a pilot in WWII, he sang opera and worked in education. This memento is from his time singing the role of Count Almaviva in Barber of Seville. I love how each cast member’s photo is lovingly cut and arranged around the cup. Before embarking on my journey as a children’s book illustrator, I was fortunate to have a successful career as an opera singer also. My grandfather and I always had a special bond through music that has informed my life as an illustrator. My first voice teacher, Jane Rolandi, is even pictured here too as Rosina!

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

Learn from the masters, but then respectfully ask them to leave your studio.

It’s important to recognize the family tree of artists you belong to. Discover your heroes, and embrace the process they used to they create their work. Soak up everything about their lives and their technique…then, go beyond it. Imitation is a powerful teaching tool, but practice it wisely because it can limit your vision and ultimately squander your potential. How you see the world is uniquely yours. Take what you’ve learned from the masters, make it your own and strive to do it even better!

Q. What are you excited about right now?

My next project! I will be illustrating a picture book biography on the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner Jane Addams, the pioneer of social work in our country and founder of Hull House.

I am in awe of this amazing woman and it such an honor to take on the responsibility of introducing on a non-fiction character to a new generation. I will be travelling to Chicago in a couple of weeks to visit the Hull House and I cannot wait to take my sketchbook with me and spend the day walking where she walked!

Here is a recent sketch:

Thank you, Debbie, for inviting me to chat today!

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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8. Pernille Ripp's Reading Myth #1: "This is a girl/boy book"

I was so inspired by Pernille Ripp's talk at Nerd Camp earlier this year and just discovered (duh, why didn't I look for this earlier?) that she has a blog! I was inspired to illustrate a quote from her recent piece, "Stop Feeding The Beast - The Reading Myths We Pass On As Truth."

You can find out mroe about Pernille at PernilleSRipp.com, on Twitter at @pernilleripp and on Facebook at Passionate Learners.

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9. Quickie anonymous poll for those of you with agents

I've been getting more people asking me for advice about how to get an agent, so in addition to updating my FAQ post about "Any advice on how to get an agent? How did YOU get your agent?", I've also posted a new survey.

If you're a children's/YA author or illustrator currently working with an agent, I'd very much appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to answer this quickie (multiple choice) anonymous poll about how you got your agent.

Results will be included in a future Inkygirl post.

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10. Updated: Will Write For Chocolate

I figure it's time I add a children's book illustrator to my Will Write For Chocolate household.

You can browse older strips in the Will Write For Chocolate archives.

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11. Three Questions For Arree Chung: Advice For Young Writers and Illustrators, Gonzo and HOW TO PEE

Arree Chung wrote and illustrated the picture book “NINJA!” and is also a founding member of Live in a Story, which offers wall decals created by children's book illustrators and designers. When he's not creating, you can find Arree riding his bike around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Where to find Arree: Website - Facebook - Twitter - Instagram.

Synopsis of How To Pee: Potty Training For Boys (written by Todd Spector, illustrated by Arree Chung, published by MacMillan):

"Out with the old and in with the new! Family physician Dr. Todd Spector presents a fresh and outrageously fun way to encourage little boys to give up their diapers. They can try it freestyle (in the backyard!), or give the potty a try with the help of a few props and plenty of imagination. Peeing in the potty is a lot more fun if you do it rocket style, cowboy style, or superhero style!"

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


This is one of my favorite toys. Gonzo. This doll is probably older than I am! This doll is special, because Jerry Houle, my licensing mentor gifted this to me. Jerry spent years working with Jim Henson in building a licensing program for the muppets. I am a huge muppets fan and have always admired Jim for his storytelling and the art he has put in the world. Jim changed the way people looked at puppets.

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

As a creative person, the thing I love doing the most is creating something new out of thin air. It maybe a story that becomes a book, a doodle that becomes a painting or an idea that becomes a business.

Making something new can be hard but I find that there are two really hard points: starting and finishing. Here are some tips on how to make it.

GET Excited.

Start right away.

Attack it.

Do it NOW. Get it down.

Scribble. Let yourself go. There is no wrong.

Don’t listen to your inner critic. Listen to your gut instincts. Work fast and intuitively.

Get your first draft done.

Accept that it’s a process. It’s okay that it’s not perfect. You’re making building blocks and you don’t know what pieces you need yet.

Look at the work again. You’ll probably see things you want to change about it. Change it.

Keep working on it. Identify what the heart of your idea is. It should be specific and feel honest.

Now reduce.

Keep reducing until you’re left with just the essentials.

Sketches for FIX-IT MAN (Author: Susan Hood, Publisher: HarperCollins).

Q. What are you excited about right now?

So many things!

Books! I love storytelling. I have three books coming out next year.

I’m excited about so many things right now. I have three books coming out next year. NINJA! Attack of the Clan (publisher: MacMillan) which is a sequel to my first book, NINJA! I'm illustrating a book called FIX-IT MAN (author: Susan Hood, publisher: HarperCollins), which is about being helpful and inventive. It has a very fun collage style to it. My third book out next year, is HOW TO PEE: Potty Training for Girls (author: Todd Spector, publisher: MacMillan) - which is a sequel to the potty training for boys book I illustrated. I'm really excited about all of the books.

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

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12. #BookADay: NINJA BUNNY by Jennifer Gray Olson (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children's)

#BookADay: NINJA BUNNY by Jennifer Gray Olson (Alfred A. Knopf Books For Young Readers). Such a fun picture book with adorable and eye-catching illustrations. Also love the underlying positive message about collaboration and friendship. A great read for little ninjas everywhere!

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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13. Bad-Poem-A-Day, Where Are My Books?, Sherlock Holmes, Music and the Brilliance Of Kari Maaren

I've been a fan of YA writer Kari Maaren fan ever since I heard her perform Kids These Days, a song from the viewpoint of a traditional vampire complaining about the Twilight generation of vampires. The song in the video above, Being Watson, is one of my favorites of Kari's; Kari is a Sherlock Holmes fan but is especially fascinated by Watson. You can hear the song and read the lyrics on Kari's Being Watson page. Do check out Kari's other songs, which range from Everybody Hates Elves (one of her extra-popular songs, especially with her kazoo solo!), a musical plea to George R.R. Martin to finish his Game Of Thrones books, a song about YA book clichés, an unusual take on Disney princesses, and a song in praise of Voldemort.

Anyway, Kari recently launched a tongue-in-cheek Bad Poem A Day blog and GUESS WHAT? Her poem today mentions my picture book, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? woohoooo!!!

Check out Kari's poem today, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?

You can find out more about Kari and her projects (including upcoming book projects) at Karimaaren.com.

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14. For those of you who said my previous image should have had to cat lying ON the writer's papers, not beside :-)

Posting this comic for my friend Joanne Levy and others who just told me that the image at the top of my previous post should have had the cat lying on TOP of the writer's papers, not beside. You cat people! ;-)

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15. Back Burner Writing, Essential Apps and How I'm Squeezing In Extra Writing Every Day

Morning writer.

Since I started getting picture book contracts (yay!) I've put my novel writing on the back burner. Then last summer at SCBWI-LA, I was talking with my editor at Simon & Schuster (Justin Chanda) about my middle grade novels and time management. Justin said that if my novel writing was important to me, I needed to set aside some regular time to work on it...no matter how much other work I had going on.

Absolutely! I said. I am SO going to do this. And yeah, well. I was right on top of that for a few weeks and then the reality of work deadlines plus personal commitments pushed my novel projects onto the back burner again.

I've since come to terms with this. I am having SO much fun with my picture book projects these days and things are very busy for me in a good way. To those who didn't know: I used to write nonfiction while I worked on middle grade novels; Writer's Digest even asked me to write a book for them. I met my wonderful agent because of my middle grade writing, through children's book writer, Lee Wardlaw; Lee critiqued one of my first MG novels (thank you, Lee!). The two middle grade manuscripts that Ginger and I sent out never found a home, though we got close a couple of times near the end. I could tell from the rejection letters that my writing was improving. I shelved the older mss and began working on new stories. One of my new manuscripts that never got sent out was nominated for the SCBWI Sue Alexander "Most Promising For Publication" Award; it didn't win but the nomination was encouraging; I could tell I was getting closer.

Then my picture book illustration career took off, thanks to the SCBWI and Simon & Schuster Children's. My heart is in picture books now, and I always want to help create them...I love this genre SO MUCH and connecting with the young readers continues to be one of my greatest joys.

There is still a part of my creative soul, however, that is still drawn to middle grade novels. I read middle grade constantly; not for market research but because I've always enjoyed reading them. It's okay that my novel writing on the back burner right now, but that doesn't mean I can't still keep writing! Even if it's only for a few minutes a day. 

So I decided recently to get back on my own 250, 500 and 1000 Words A Day Challenge.

 I created this challenge for those who are looking for extra motivation to get back into a daily writing habit but who also need some flexibility. Challenges like NaNoWriMo are wonderful (I've done Nano in the past and had great fun) but can sometimes be discouraging if, for whatever reason, you start falling behind.

Anyway, I have been trying something new which has been working pretty well, so I thought I'd share it. Here's what I do:

I bought the iAWriter app for my Mac and iOS devices (iPhone, iPad) and use it for my daily morning writing ritual. I've played around with MANY note-taking apps on my iOS devices ever since the first iPhone came out, and this remains one of the favorites because of its minimalist approach.

No settings to fiddle with, which means I'm not as likely to procrastinate. I love the easy-to-read monospaced font. 

I find using my iPad with my external keyboard works the best for this. Why not my Mac? Because I do most of my book illustration project work on my Mac, doing morning writing on a separate and very portable device helps deceive the "oh my gosh I can't work on my novel I need to get back to contracted paying work" part of my brain. Sounds stupid, I know, but I find it helps me focus. I can also take my iPad outside of the house at a moment's notice and work on my writing ANYWHERE.

When it comes to later revisions, I'll probably go back to my desktop computer so I can take advantage of the bigger screen space and two monitors. For a first draft, however, my iPad is perfect. I also tend to be the kind of writer who over-edits as she writes, and I'm finding that writing on a smaller screen encourages me to keep writing (editing is more of a pain). I know I will revise later. 

After I finish my session in iAWriter, I send the document to my Evernote account; happily, I can do this from within the iAWriter app. I know there are many other means of backing up my data and getting writing snippets to my desktop computer. I have tried many of them. This is the way that seems to work best for me, mainly because I don't need to open any other app that may possibly distract me. Did I mention that I'm easily distracted?

From the iAWriter app, I can share directly to Evernote and even choose the receiving project folder. I figure that I can always organize later on; I try to put a note at the beginning like "near end of book" etc. I also tend to write in scenes and snippets rather than from start to finish, and will organize them later. I *used* to write from start to finish but found that I tended to overedit and spend way too much time near the beginning.

I use Evernote for so much more, of course. Two of my favorite features: (1) with the paid version of Evernote, you can email anything to your Evernote account, and (2) when searching for a word or term in Evernote, the search will include any scanned documents...including business cards and handwritten notes (!).

I also use the Day One app for my Mac and iOS devices. I've tried other journaling tools before but like Day One the best because of its super-simple interface without all the bells and whistles.

As with iAWriter, I'm drawn to the minimalist interface because it makes it very easy for me to just open and use, without being tempted to tweak settings. 

I've been using the app to quickly record ideas and thoughts and character/title ideas as well as other personal observations, and I use tags (like "goals", "bookidea" etc.) so I can access them more easily later. One of my tags is "happy," by the way...whenever I'm feeling down, browsing all my "happy" entries always cheers me up. Another is "thanks", which I also try to use each day, to write down people and things and events I'm grateful for. 

I also use the DayOne app to quickly snap photos, which is great for grabbing a reference photo for illustration, character idea, a friend's book I want to read, etc. You can only take one photo per entry, though. If you plan to do this a LOT, I'd recommend Evernote instead. Also, you can share DayOne photos/text to social media as well! I don't do this, though; I'm too worried about accidentally sharing a post that's meant to be private. :-)

I do love Scrivener, by the way, and use it for many of my book projects (more on this in a future post), but the lack of easy syncing across all my devices makes it tough to count on Scrivener for my daily writing exercise.

Do you have any tools or tips to share that you've found useful in your writing? Feel free to share them below.

Good luck with your writing!

 

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16. #BookADay: CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley (Dial Books For Young Readers)


‪#‎BookADay‬: CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley ( Dial Books for Young Readers, June 2015). Finished this middle grade book on the weekend. It was one of those experiences where I was enjoying the book soooo much that I began reading slower when I got to the last few chapters because I DIDN'T WANT IT TO END. This would make a fantastic read aloud.

I was also lucky enough to meet Cassie at Nerd Camp in June. She's so easygoing and friendly, plus drew me a picture of an elephant butt! She says it's the only thing she knows how to draw. grin emoticon I keep her drawing in the front of my copy of her book.

More about the book - More about Cassie

p.s. If you have a copy of the book, don't forget to look under the dust jacket!!!!

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

 

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17. Tip for writers/illustrators: Intelligent perseverance will get you far. Take a break if needed but then try again!

To aspiring book authors and illustrators out there: Intelligent perseverance will get you far. Take a break if needed but then try again!

If you like my found object doodles, you can browse more on Instagram at @inkygirl.

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18. #BookADay: HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED by Jess Keating (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

#BookADay: HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE WHEN YOUR SHOES ARE UNTIED by Jess Keating ( Sourcebooks Jabberwocky). If you or your tween is looking for a fun summer read, I strongly recommend this book. Love the funny, fresh voice and quirky humour. Love the poignant moments. Love the fact that Ana's parents are zoologists (Ana is short for Anaconda!) -- the author herself has a zoology background. Read the *starred* review in Kirkus.

I've already bought the next in the series, HOW TO OUTSWIM A SHARK WITHOUT A SNORKEL and also look forward to the release of HOW TO OUTFOX YOUR FRIENDS WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE A CLUE, which comes out in October 2015....and it just got a *starred* review in Kirkus.

Synopsis of HOW TO OUTRUN A CROCODILE: "Ana Wright's social life is now officially on the endangered list: she lives in a zoo (umm, elephant droppings!?), her best friend lives on the other side of the world, and the Sneerers are making junior high miserable. All Ana wants is to fade into the background. Yeah, that's not going to happen."

More about Jess and her books.

More about Jess's Sourcebook Jabberwocky series.

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19. #BookADay: EL DEAFO by Cece Bell (Abrams)

EL DEAFO by Cece Bell (Abrams, 2014). This has been on my To Read pile for a while, and I finished it on the weekend. TOTALLY lives up to all the hype. I've been a fan of autobiographical comics for a while (thanks to Rand Bellavia) and have become especially intrigued by graphic novel memoirs for young people.

Loved how the facts about how young Cece lost her hearing and coped afterward are deftly woven into engaging storytelling. Love the voice, the overall story arc, how the characters and relationships developed. Cece tells her story honestly, without self-pity, and a healthy dose of humor. Highly, HIGHLY recommended.

I hope to meet Cece in person someday.

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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20. Writer Tip: Set Realistic Goals

Theresa MacPhail has some great tips for A Realistic Summer Writing Schedule with which you can be productive AND relax.

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21. #BookADay: CONNECTING DOTS by Sharon Jennings (Second Story Press)

‪#‎BookADay‬: CONNECTING DOTS by Sharon Jennings (Second Story Press, 2015). Just finished this last night. Fell in love with Cassie, the main character, and how she and her relationships developed through the story. If you enjoyed Katherine Paterson's THE GREAT GILLY HOPKINS (one of my faves), you should definitely check out CONNECTING DOTS. But first read HOME FREE, which was a finalist for the TD Children's Literature Award and the Governor General's Award -- I only just discovered that CONNECTING DOTS is a companion book written after, am eager to read the first book.

Synosis: "After years of being passed around to various relatives, Cassandra Jovanovich has found a home where she feels she belongs. All she wants to do is forget her past and pursue her dream of becoming an actress. But her new friend, Leanna Mets, 'the most annoying person she has ever met,' wants to know how Cassandra became an orphan, and encourages her to write her story. Cassandra’s memories reveal how the death of her grandmother and the cruelty of the other adults in her life turned her into the distrustful, secretive twelve-year-old she is. But with friendship and the courage to continue her dream of acting, Cassandra might find a way to connect the dots in her life back together."

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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22. #BookADay: THE DEATH AND LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH by Daniel Kraus (Simon & Schuster, launches Oct. 27, 2015)

Just finished THE DEATH AND LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH (Volume One: At The Edge Of Empire) by Daniel Kraus, which launches October 27, 2015 from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. Whenever I start a big book (and at 642 pages, Zebulon Finch definitely qualifies), I cross my fingers and hopehopehope that the first few pages will pull me in right away. If they do, I can relax and settle in for what promises to be a satisfying long read. If they don't, then it's just going to be long.

Zebulon Finch had me from the beginning. I already knew the premise, which was what lured me to read the book in the first place: A 17-year-old gangster named Zebulon Finch is murdered in 1896 but is mysteriously resurrected only minutes later. The first volume follows Zebulon throughout the decades from his beginnings as a sideshow attraction in a traveling medicine show through WWI, an experimental subject for a Harvard professor, Depression-era New York City, to being a companion to a Hollywood starlet.

What I especially enjoyed:

- The narrative voice. I felt like reading everything out loud, just to have the words roll around on my tongue. [Edited: I had included a brief sample here but have removed it because I just noticed the "not for quotation" note on the ARC cover.]

- The wry wit. Zebulon Finch, despite being dead, still has a sense of humor that comes out in his observations about the people and events around him.

- The dark edge. I'm a longtime horror fan (I have a personal autographed note from Stephen King, hand-typed with liquid paper corrections!) and was fascinated by some of the macabre and nightmarish situations, the delving into what makes us afraid. Grossed out at times and had to skim the occasional paragraph, but was still fascinated. If the story had just been about the horror bits, I would have stopped reading early on...but there was SO much more.

- How Zebulon's relationships developed, both romantic and platonic. Don't want to say much more on this aspect for fear of spoilers, but I loved how some of his most meaningful relationships became inexorably woven into his life and way of approaching the world long after those people are gone.

- Zebulon Finch, the main character. He can be selfish, hateful, tender, cynical, romantic. He is unlike any other immortal character I've ever encountered in a book....and I'd like more, please.

Which is why I'm SOOOOOO looking forward to the second volume!

Read about THE DEATH AND LIFE OF ZEBULON FINCH, VOLUME ONE on the Simon & Schuster website, and more about Daniel Kraus at DanielKraus.com.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for the ARC.

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More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

 

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23. Three Questions For Maple Lam: Advice for young illustrators, office toys & TWO GIRLS WANT A PUPPY

Today's #BookADay is TWO GIRLS WANT A PUPPY, a new picture book written by Evie & Ryan Cordell, and illustrated by my friend, Maple Lam, published by HarperCollins last month.

Maple Lam loves creating characters and constructing worlds around them. When she is not illustrating or writing children's book, she is either reading books in a local Los Angeles library, or playing badminton with good friends. You can check out more of Maple's work via her website at www.maplelam.com. You can also find her on Twitter at @MapleLam and Instagram at @MapleLam.

I've been a fan of Maple and her work ever since I met her through the SCBWI-LA Illustration Mentorship program. I love her bubbly enthusiasm, benevolence and sense of humor. So excited for Maple's debut as a children's book illustrator in TWO GIRLS WANT A PUPPY!

Synopsis of TWO GIRLS WANT A PUPPY (HarperCollins Children's):

"Cadence and Emi desperately want a puppy. But their dad isn't quite sure they're ready for all that responsibility. With a little determination and a brilliant plan, the girls show their dad that they are ready to adopt one. After all, they are super persistent, responsible, smart, and creative!"

For more about the book, please see the publisher book page.

For more on the inspiration behind the story, written by Ryan and Evie Cordell, please see this page as well as this Daily Mail article.

An illustration study that Maple did for TWO GIRLS WANT A PUPPY

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

I have a "transparency-policy" in my studio – most of my tools are stored in transparent containers. I am highly visual, and if I can see it, I will use it.

Quirky, but it works for me. :)

Note: I have toys in the studio too. They make me happy. :)

Q. What advice do you have for young illustrators?

Do your best and relax.

It sounds like a non-advice, like a financial adviser suggesting the best way to build your assets is to spend less and invest more. But just because it is easy to say doesn't mean it is easy to practice.

If you take your children's book career seriously, if this is truly your passion for life, then take a deep breath and do your best work. Take your work seriously, but don't take your results seriously. The former is a matter of professional attitude; the latter are out of your control.

Do your best, and then relax. Let this process loop and loop.

Enjoy the journey. Because, really, why else are we doing this? :)

Q. What are you excited about right now?

The annual SCBWI Summer Conference! I get to meet new talents in the industry, learn from the professionals, and best of all, meet up with some of my closest friends in the industry and celebrate our journey together.

Also, there is a rumor that Debbie will be moving to LA. Yes, I am excited about that too!

Thanks for having me, Debbie!!! You're the best! :D

[From Debbie: Thanks for visiting my blog, Maple! And I can't wait to see if the rumours are true about YOU moving to Toronto someday ;-)]

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For more interviews, see my Inkygirl Interview Archive.

More info: Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge | Archives of my #BookADay posts

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24. A Reminder: Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on enjoying your OWN journey

Writers and illustrators: Resist constantly comparing yourself to others. Instead, focus on appreciating and enjoying your OWN journey.

(I've been gradually working my way through the panels in my own career, so figured it was about time I repost this comic :-))

 

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

(Updated version of a post I made earlier this year before the SCBWI-NYC conference)

I'm leaving this week for the SCBWI Summer Conference! If you haven't yet registered, you're out of luck....the conference is sold out. However, you can follow along virtually via the #LA15SCBWI hashtag on Twitter as well as the SCBWI conference blog.

Here's my updated SCBWI Conference Advice post for first-timers (as well as a challenge for the many-timers):

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.").

Having attended many times now, 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.

As Lee Wind points out in his helpful SCBWI blog post, having your name badge visible even at dinner or drinks afterward is an obvious visual clue to others that you're part of the tribe, and helps them remember your name as well. You can stash a few business cards in the back so they're handy.

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, illustrators, editors, art directors and agents 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. Be sociable. Don't just attend the keynotes and scheduled workshops. Check out the informal activities listed in your program, like Yoga with Lori Snyder, the LGBTQ Q&A, the Illustrator Social, Nonfiction Social, International Member Social, Peer Group Critiques with Jim Averbeck, and Saturday night "Sparkle & Shine" gala. Also keep an eye on conference Twitter chat, where some meetup planning might happen ("Hey, who wants to chat? I'm in the lobby").

4. Have realistic expectations. Don't expect to be "discovered" at the conference. Instead, set achievable goals. These can be as specific as "I'm going to introduce myself to agent xxxx sometime during the weekend" or as vague as "I'm looking for inspiration to get back on track with my book" or even just "To try having some fun at the conference and then see what happens." I think of this type of event as planting seeds. There's no guaranteed outcome, but you never know what might come out of all those seeds you're planting as you meet people, attend talks, watching and listening and chatting. 

My own conference seeds have blossomed, directly or indirectly, into: friendships, invitations to speak at events, book contracts, publishing industry info that helped guide my career decisions, learning about new techniques and tools, helping others get published, and SO much more. I continue to plant seeds, because I want to keep growing as a writer and illustrator, plus I'm also well aware how quickly the industry can change.

5. 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.

6. 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.

RELATED POSTS AND RESOURCES:

Are You Entering The SCBWI-LA Illustration Portfolio Showcase? Here Are Tips For Before And During The Conference: my post on KidLitArtists.com last month

On SCBWI, Advice For Authors and Illustrators: from art director, Giuseppe Castellano.

Your Conference THRIVE-al Guide: A Dozen Tips For Four Days Made Of Awesome: by Lee Wind, on the SCBWI blog. 

Tips For Attending A Writing Conference: from YA writer, Valerie Lawson.

SCBWI Conference Tips For Newbies: from children's book illustrator, Heather Powers

Surviving Your First SCBWI Conference - by A.J. Cosmo

Tips For First-Time Conference-Goers: Children's Writers Edition: from McIntosh and Otis agent, Christa Heschke.

 

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