Get to Know… Debbie Ridpath Ohi!

My name is… Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

I am a… children’s book author and illustrator. Once upon a time, I was a computer programmer/analyst for a bank.

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Reading is… a joy that everyone can embrace, no matter what their age or interest. If you don’t enjoy reading, it’s just because you haven’t found the right book.

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Books are… good for the soul.

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Did you know… that my obsession with squirrels began back in 1981 when I was taking an Animal Behaviour course at the University of Toronto? I took a bag of peanuts into Queen’s Park for a study and ended up (no exaggeration) running out of the park with one squirrel clinging to my leg and tossing peanuts over my shoulders to distract the others? Since then, I have received many squirrel-themed joke gifts from my friends. And look at my sister’s dedication to me at the front of her book Chicken, Pig, Cow And The Purple Problem:

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I have a squirrel blog for grown-ups which I update occasionally: http://debbieohi.com/squirrel

Not surprisingly, you will find squirrels in many of the books I have written and/or illustrated. Some play major roles (e.g. Where Are My Books?) but some are more hidden or in the background (e.g. Naked!Sam & EvaI’m Worried).

You can find me… on Twitter at @inkyelbows, on Instagram at @inkygirl, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DebbieOhi/ and on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/debbieohi

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Debbie’s most recent book, I’m Worried, released just last week! If you haven’t seen the book trailer, take 25 seconds to check it out below.

Click here if you’d like to see author Michael Ian Black discuss the book on the TODAY Show, and click here for more information about all three books in the I’m series — I’m BoredI’m Sad, and I’m Worried — plus classroom guides, print-ready art and activities, and a wonderful reader gallery which YOU and the readers in your life can be a part of!

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The Inkygirl: Reading, Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books section of Debbie’s site is an absolute TREASURE TROVE of information, insight, wisdom, and advice, as are her 10 years (!) worth of interviews with a wide variety of kid lit creators! For those of you who are aspiring picture book creators (or those of you curious to learn more about the creation of picture books), I also highly recommend you take a look at Debbie’s series of Creating Picture Books posts.

Basically, you should just head over to Debbie’s site RIGHT NOW. You could spend months exploring it, and still only scratch the surface. And wherever you end up, you will surely be entertained, intrigued, and inspired.

Get to Know… Heather Fox!

My name is… Heather Fox! “Heather” like the purple flower, “Fox” like the furry orange critter!

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I am a… doodler, a musician, a dog-cuddler, a Ravenclaw, a traveler!

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As a kid, I was… a lot like I am today! Adventurous, curious, silly–though I do eat vegetables more willingly nowadays.

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Drawing is… EXCITING! You can create anything your brain can imagine. You can tell stories through art, bring to life new worlds through drawing–anything!

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Reading is… relaxing. Sometimes I read books to calm me down when my mind is racing with thoughts, but sometimes reading keeps me awake for hours. There’s nothing better than traveling to a different realm right from the coziest spot on the couch.

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Books are… portals. As soon as you open a book you’re in a different environment that you get to explore.

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Did you know… I’m getting married to author Jonathan Stutzman on May 25th?! All of the books that I have coming out are written by him! It’s so fun being a creative team.

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You can find me… creating new stories with Jonathan, eating tacos, eating ramen, eating pizza, or planning my next trip to Disney World.

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Jonathan and Heather’s first book together, Llama Destroys the World, hits shelves on May 7th!

Get to Know… Laurie Morrison!

My name is… four different last names, one after the other! I added on my husband’s last name when we got married, but I didn’t want to get rid of any of my own. So now my full name is Laurie Latzer Morrison Fabius. Laurie is a Scottish last name from my dad’s side of the family, and Latzer was my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. I go by Laurie Morrison for everything writing-related but am called Laurie Fabius or Laurie Morrison Fabius in other circumstances. Sometimes I can’t remember which name someone has on file for me, so when I call to schedule a haircut or make a dentist’s appointment and get asked for a name, I have to say, “Good question. There are a few possibilities…”

I am a… mom, wife, writer, friend, teacher, sister, and daughter. Right now, with two very small children, I’m a mom, first and foremost. There’s nothing I would rather be…but sometimes it’s hard to have a book coming out and another (only partly written) book under contract and find that writing has to take a backseat to parenting so much of the time. And sometimes I miss being able to spend as much time with friends as I used to. But I trust that there are different points in our lives when different roles become the primary ones…and even now, I can occasionally have a day here or there where another role like writer, wife, or friend gets to rise to that primary level, too. 

As a kid, I was… a fan of stories. I loved reading stories, listening to stories, and telling stories. My youngest brother’s first memory turns out to be a far-fetched tale I once told in which I, his heroic big sister, was bouncing around our basement on my blue Hop 66 ball when an elderly visitor dropped him down the basement stairs. I rushed over to catch him, thereby saving his life. I told it enough times, I guess, that he remembered it as if it had really happened. Even though I loved stories so much, it didn’t occur to me that I might attempt to write stories of my own until I was in my mid-twenties. 

Writing is… an act of trust. To write a book, you have to think strategically about things like plot and character arcs and pacing, but you also have to be open to revelations you can’t plan for, and you have to believe that they’ll happen if you do the work and pay close attention. I got an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where Tim Wynne Jones gave a really wonderful lecture about honoring your inner genius by looking out for the seeds you subconsciously plant in your work and can find and nurture. I don’t know if it’s my subconscious or luck or what, but I often find glimmering, important details that sneak into a draft, completely unplanned, and end up being central to my characters and their stories.

Reading is… what helps me understand other people and myself. It’s what comforts me and pushes me out of my comfort zone. It’s my favorite solitary activity and something that helps me connect with others. It’s the best!

Books are… incredible works of collaboration. I’m so amazed by how many different people contribute their talents and efforts to making a published book. The author, editor, copyeditor, proofreader, art designer, and cover artist, plus all the publicity and marketing people working to get books into readers’ hands! I cried when I saw the first-pass pages for my first book, Every Shiny Thing, because the internal design was so beautiful and thoughtful, with lovely fonts and details that fit the book perfectly. It was such an honor to realize people had worked that lovingly on a book with my words in it.

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The cover of the paperback edition of Every Shiny Thing, available now wherever books are sold.

Did you know… that juvenile great white sharks can’t prey on mammals like seals because their jaws aren’t developed enough? In my new book Up for Air, the main character Annabelle and her friend Jeremy know a lot about white sharks and that’s one of the facts Annabelle shares. 

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Up For Air hits shelves on May 7th.

You can find me… at my website, lauriemorrisonwrites.com, or on Twitter and Instgram @LaurieLMorrison.

Get to Know… Raúl the Third!

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My name is… Raúl the Third.

I am an… artist. I write and draw picture books and graphic novels.

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¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market hits shelves tomorrow, April 2nd!

As a kid, I was… really fast and loved going on adventures with my two brothers in the ditches that ran alongside our apartment complex and throughout the city.

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A spread from ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market.

Writing is… a way for me to begin planning what I want to draw.

Drawing is… the language I communicate with best.

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Some of Raul’s first drawings for ¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market, shared on his Instagram feed.

Reading is… answers, inspiration and a great way to prepare for your future adventures.

Books are… stacks of inspiration lying around my house.

Did you know… that Ladislao Biro invented the ballpoint pen when he saw kids playing with marbles on a rainy day? He noticed a marble roll into a puddle and as it did it left a trail of water as it made it’s way down the path. Inspiration can come from anywhere!

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Some original artwork from Raul and Cathy Camper’s Lowriders Blast from the Past (all of which was produced using ballpoint pens, like those pictured) from an exhibit at minni., an exhibit space in Boston’s South End.

You can find me… usually at my desk drawing pictures or on instagram at raulthethird.info or www.raulthethird.com.

Get to Know… Melissa Ostrom!

My name is… Melissa (or Mel or Lissa).

I am a… mom of two, writer, English teacher, potter, passionate reader, enthusiastic baker, loyal friend, cookbook collector, infrequent gardener, and great fan of long walks down country roads.

As a kid, I was… in my own little world. Not much has changed.

Writing is… like lucid dreaming and precisely what I love to do in the wee hours of the morning when my family is asleep and the moon still shines in the sky and the coffee is hot, fresh, sweet, and creamy.

Reading is… vicarious adventuring, solitary, connecting. A good opportunity to practice caring. The best way to learn to write. An edifying, transformative, transporting pleasure. And an addiction that is practically free of bad side effects.

Books are… life-changing, life-affirming, beacons, and warnings.

Did you know… I don’t just read widely; I like to write widely, too? YA fiction is my first love, but I relish books for people of all ages and have crafted many short stories that have made their way into various literary journals. I think it’s good for me to challenge my scope. Years before I ever found an agent or finagled a publication, I wrote six novels that covered the genre spectrum, from psychological thriller to romance. The Beloved Wild, my debut novel, is historical YA fiction. I’m currently in the process of revising a YA fantasy series about a fictional land in crisis, six scattered teens in grave danger, and a binding spell that goes awry. I’m also excited to have a second book coming out on March 26, 2019. It’s a contemporary YA, entitled Unleaving.

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You can find me… on Twitter (@melostrom) or through my website http://www.melissaostrom.com/.

Get to Know… Sarah Aronson!

Hi, my name is… Sarah Aronson. Family legend has it that my mom was going to name me Sally (a more modern version of Sarah), but when I was born, I screamed and yelled and my face turned bright red (maybe because she was going to name me Sally). Bottom line, in spite of her realization that my name (sort of) rhymed, she changed her mind and named me Sarah. She figured I’d change it when I got married.

I like my name! (Especially when people roll my R’s.) I have met two other Sarah Aronsons! The most famous Sarah Aronson was a Jewish spy who worked with the British during WWI.

Over the years, I’ve been introduced as Sarah Arson. Or Sarah Arnoson (on a book spine). In high school, friends called me the Beak. Now I love being known as the author of Just Like Rube Goldberg and The Wish List series!

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True story: When I was little, I desperately wanted a nickname. My first choice was GaGa, because I liked drawing G’s and A’s. (Yep. Go ahead. Call me Old Lady Gaga.)

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I am a… mom, a wife, a daughter, sister, friend, and of course, a writer. I’m a person who loves the idea of making something out of nothing, of playing with words. I find ideas when walking by Lake Michigan, or eavesdropping, or reading, or inviting wonder into my life. Confession: this wasn’t always easy for me. If you have heard my lecture, The Power of Play, you know that I pledged to write without expectations—to embrace play—and now I am much happier. And more productive. When I get a great idea, I open my sketchbook and explore!

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I am also a teacher of other writers—a great honor. I love working with other writers, helping them understand their stories and helping them see how play and intuition can help them reimagine their characters and plots. It’s the best part of every day, and I am proud of the writers that have taken my classes.

I am also a person who likes to ride her bike. I live in Chicago, and there are no hills, so riding a bike is easy peasy lemon squeezy!

As a kid, I was… so impatient for everything. (I still don’t like waiting!) I signed up to play piano in a talent show—before I’d ever taken a lesson. My mom would tell you I was born a story teller (one degree separated from truth), and that I always had too much gusto. My dad would probably add that I liked being the star of the show. (I got that from him!)

Writing is… fun/hard/easy/a joy. Writing is rewriting. Writing is a search for a story. Writing is inspiration, intuition, and intellect. It’s deleting the whole manuscript, to find the truth. Writing is how I get to know myself and the world around me.

Reading is… the bridge to everything! When I read, the world is more knowable. I become braver. I can put my feet in someone else’s shoes. I am more confident.

Books are… the building blocks of a better tomorrow! Readers are my heroes!

Did you know… that my I worked in a library in high school? That I also worked for Jack La Lanne? (My job history is a bit like a Rube Goldberg machine: I have also been a physical therapist, religious school educator, bookseller, office assistant, and substitute teacher.)

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I have loved Rube Goldberg machines ever since I saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

I am a big believer in PLAY! It’s the way! I think there is room for all stories! All we have to do is listen.

You can find me…

In the living room. (My office is too messy right now).

At the Brothers K coffee shop.

Eating ramen.

At hot yoga.

In a bookstore.

By email: sarah.n.aronson@gmail.com

On Twitter: @sarah_aronson

On Insta: @sarahnaronson

 

 

 

Get to Know… Rebecca Donnelly!

My name is… Rebecca Donnelly. I go by Rebecca even though my Twitter username says Becca because the other Rebecca Donnellys got there first.

I am a… librarian in my heart of hearts. I’m one at a library and in the files of the New York State Ed Department, too, but in my heart is where it counts. I remember answering basic reference and reader’s advisory questions at my first library job, on an Air Force base in the Florida panhandle, and thinking, This! This is what I’m supposed to be doing with all that useless information in my head and my undefined need to make people happy. So far, it’s worked out pretty well.

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Rebecca’s first novel, HOW TO STAGE A CATASTROPHE.

As a kid, I was… great. And I’m not saying that to be conceited. All kids are great, no matter what, because they’re kids and they’re figuring out how to negotiate this weird world we’ve created. That’s the thing we have to remember if we’re invested in their future. Every kid has needs and wants, quirks and foibles, moments of genius and moments they’d rather forget. We write for kids to reflect the reality of their lives, but we start with the premise that every kid is important and completely amazing.

Writing is… a gift. I don’t know how better to put it. Ever since I discovered that I could write words, I’ve wanted to write books. It took a while before I figured out how to do it decently, but most things worth doing take practice.

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Rebecca’s upcoming novel, THE FRIENDSHIP LIE (publishes August 1, 2019).

Reading is… also a gift. One of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read is Alberto Manguel’s A History of Reading. He goes into the development of silent reading. Can you imagine that silent reading, where all the comprehension happens between your eyes and your brain, had to develop from a culture of reading aloud, to others or to yourself? When we began to write, we didn’t immediately begin to read silently. We murmured as we read aloud to ourselves. Reading silently was seen as a mark of untrustworthiness–how could someone possibly be reading and understanding a text if there was no visible proof? And what might you be reading, that you didn’t want to read it aloud? Silent readers are rebels and even potential heretics in the historical view–a proud tradition.

Books are… good friends, terrible pillows, decent coasters, and some of my favorite objects on Earth.

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Rebecca’s picture book debut, CATS ARE A LIQUID, illustrated by Misa Saburi (publishes October 8, 2019).

Did you know… that your public library probably offers a service you don’t know about? I used to run a teeny little rural library, and we lent out wifi hotspots and canning supplies. Go strike up a conversation with the desk staff at your library and ask what they lend besides books and DVDs.

You can find me… on Twitter @_becca_donnelly, or for more formal communication, through my website, rebeccadonnellywrites.com. And I hope you do!

Get to Know… Andrea Wang!

My name is… Andrea Wang. I was named after the doctor who helped my mom deliver me, Dr. Andreas. He was Greek and pronounced his last name An-DRAY-us, but my parents took off the “s” and pronounced my name AN-dree-uh. I usually say my last name to rhyme with “sang” because then folks know to spell it with an “a” and not an “o.” In Mandarin, though, it’s pronounced “wong” to rhyme with “song.” Since people say my name a bunch of different ways depending on where they’re from and what they’re used to, I answer to pretty much everything, including all cries of “Mom!”

I am an… excellent procrastinator. But I’m not just sitting around binge-watching TV. Well, not usually. I’m procrasti-baking, or procrasti-cleaning, or procrasti-gardening. And even while I’m doing those things instead of writing, I’m mulling over the story I’m writing. I’ve come to realize that this is part of my writing process — letting my thoughts and ideas marinate while my hands are busy doing something else. Then, when I return to my desk, the words flow more freely.

As a kid, I was… always reading. And I mean, always. I read during meals, at the park, and in the bathtub. I got scolded a lot for it, so kids — if you’re reading this, know that books and water don’t play well together, that you should get more exercise than I did, and mealtimes are a good time to talk to your parents and ask them for an increase in your allowance (so you can buy more books).

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Writing is… how I explore the world around me, how I work through my feelings about things, how I entertain myself. That I can also entertain and inform others with my writing is one of the great joys of my life.

Reading is… everything to me. I was a super curious kid but also super, super shy. Reading is how I learned about other kids and our world, about how to solve problems, and about how to be a good friend.

Books are… friends and lifelines. They connect us to other people, other worlds, other ideas. Books can surround and comfort us with stories about people experiencing what we’re going through, or push us to stretch our imaginations and develop empathy for people who may be very different from us. Books are magic and wonder in a tidy little package.

Did you know… that Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen, wasn’t a scientist by training? When he emigrated from Taiwan to Japan, it wasn’t to do research in food science. He moved there to start a business making and selling socks!

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In my new book, MAGIC RAMEN: THE STORY OF MOMOFUKU ANDO, you’ll find out what inspired Ando to create instant ramen, and see how thinking like a scientist helped him succeed.

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Art by Kana Urbanowicz.

You can find me… physically curled up on the sofa with a book and a hot cup of tea, or virtually at www.andreaywang.com, @AndreaWhyWang on Instagram, and @AndreaYWang on Twitter. I am also a member of 19PBbios (19PBbios.com, #19PBbios), a group of 19 authors and/or illustrators of diverse picture book biographies that are releasing in 2019.

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MAGIC RAMEN comes out tomorrow, Tuesday, March 5th!!!
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Andrea’s first picture book, THE NIAN MONSTER, with pictures by Alina Chau, published in 2016. Her next picture book, out in 2020, is titled WATERCRESS, and will be illustrated by Jason Chin.

Get to Know… Diane Magras!

My name is… Diane Magras (and one of the cool things about having this surname is that you can pronounce it the correct way—”MAY-gris”—or what I like to pretend is the Scottish way—”M’grass”—and I’ll nod in recognition at the first and probably beam at the second).

I am… the author of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter and its companion novel The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter (which will be out on March 5, 2019). I write middle grade fiction. While I may one day write something other than middle grade, it’s going to take me a while to get there since I’m 12 years old inside and that’s just who I am. (So maybe when I’m 100 I’ll write young adult or new adult fiction or something like that.) I’m also obsessed with Scotland and the medieval world, and castles. Pretty much everyone who knows me is aware of this.

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As a kid, I was… always telling stories. I had a box filled with tiny rubber animals and I made up stories about them as I played, adventures that went on for days. I had so many of these little animals that I kept a sheet of paper on which I’d written their names and one characteristic each (“brave,” “shy,” “nasty”). I’d refer to this page when I was playing to make sure I got my characters straight. My dad also likes to tell the story of his attempts to read me The Hobbit. I never let him get very far before I interrupted him and started to rewrite the story. (In one of my versions, Gollum was the loyal and slightly weird sidekick.)

Writing is… an outlet, utterly necessary for me. I need to tell stories. I need to create characters and worlds and set conflicts into play. It’s my way of making sense of the world, and also indulging in my passions. (Such as Scotland and medieval worlds and swords and castles…) Most of all, though, it’s a place where I can address issues that bother me in the present by creating a reflection of those issues, and solving them, in the past.

Reading is… a passion, an adventure, an escape. It’s a way of learning, an experience of another world. I’m devoted to the books I love and tell everyone about them. Reading broadens perspectives and makes us all better people. Reading also taught me how to write.

Books are… essential and should be in every house and in every kid’s hands. The right book for every child is out there. This book will be a comfort during tough times, cheer its reader on during good times, and be a friend when its reader needs one. Books are powerful: They can enrich, inspire, and delight. They can make people think and act. They’re like magic.

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Did you know… that medieval castle defenders in Britain (and most of the world!) didn’t really dump boiling oil on the people attacking them? Oil was too expensive. Boiling water worked just as well, and so did hot sand. Think of how hard it is to get sand out of your clothes when you’ve been to the beach. Now think of how hard it would be to get burning hot sand out of your chain mail armor… (A fun fact of medieval research.)

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This is a yett at Stirling Castle in Scotland. Defenders would dump boiling water and burning sand on attackers if they got past one of these.

You can find me… at a Scottish castle, wandering in the woods or by the sea, or at www.dianemagras.com, or on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Goodreads.

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