Thursday, September 20, 2012

Two Years Later: What I've Learned Since Getting The SCBWI Mentorship Program Award - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

At my I'M BORED book launch in Toronto's TYPE Books earlier this week.

Many of you already know how entering the SCBWI Illustration Portfolio Showcase back in 2010 resulted in a huge amount of good karma landing in my lap, after many years of rejections. Here's the story of how a rejection got me a book deal as well as an SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Program Award, in case you haven't yet seen it. And here's the thank you letter I sent to the SCBWI office earlier this year.

The book contract was for I'M BORED, a new picture book written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by yours truly, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. Here's the homemade musical book trailer that my friend Errol Elumir and I put together with the help of his 7-year-old daughter:

I'm Bored Music Video (inspired by the new picture book from Simon & Schuster BFYR) from debsanderrol on Vimeo.

I've been so excited about all the great press, including an article from David Small in The New York Times Sunday Review, a starred review in Publishers Weekly, a Junior Library Guild Award, Parenting magazine and Today's Parent.

My cartoon response to the NYTimes review:

Here are just a few of things I've learned since my sessions with the SCBWI Mentors in 2010 that I figure might be of use to aspiring children's book illustrators out there:

- Spend a lot of time on the initial character sketches before you start the dummy. Draw this character in every possible position from every possible angle.

- Start promoting months before the book comes out. Don't just say, "Hey, my book's coming out on -date-" but find other ways to generate interest. Post sketches (get permission from your publisher first) or talk about the process (again, get permission). Share your excitement.

- Keep all your early sketches and notes. Record dates of various process stages. These will come in handy later on when you talk about the book. If you have non-digital early sketches, these could also be great contributions to auctions for literary causes, workshop interest, etc.

- Appreciate all the people who are involved in creating, printing, marketing and selling your book. So often it's only the author and illustrator who get all the limelight. Here are just some of the people at Simon & Schuster, for example, who helped with I'M BORED.

- Keep working on your craft. Always be learning something new. Continue to push your creative envelope and force yourself to step outside your comfort zone on a regular basis.

- Persevere and be open to new opportunities. You never know what might happen!

Happy illustrating, all!  --- Debbie

Debbie Ridpath Ohi illustrated I'M BORED by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, Sept/2012). She is currently working on two more picture books for S&S BFYR, one of which she is also writing, as well as middle grade and YA novel. More info: On Twitter: @inkyelbows.


  1. Thanks for the Post Debbie! Good Advice.

  2. Great advice - bookmarked with high hopes!

  3. Thank you Debbie! I love hearing about your process, what you've learned, and your advice for those planning ahead for their books coming out.