Debbie Ohi is a rockstar. Not only is she a writer and illustrator, but she is an extremely involved member of the kid lit community. As the founder of Inkspot and Inklings, one of the very first online writing communities, Debbie has a fresh voice and a wonderful sense of humour (check out her webcomics!).
With the recent launch of her very first children’s book, I’M BORED, Debbie somehow managed to find time to answer some of my pressing questions! Read this interview to discover how this rejected manuscript turned into a book publishing deal, how writers and illustrators work together, and what Debbie learned during this collaborative project.
What was it like working alongside writer, Michael Ian Black? Any advice for writers looking to collaborate with illustrators?
Picture book illustrators don't usually interact with the authors, so although I was working closely with Michael's editor and my art director at Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, I never interacted directly with Michael during the process. It was only after the book was finished that Michael and I have had some contact, and I've found him to be always supportive and enthusiastic. I had so much fun working on his story!
Advice for writers looking to collaborate with illustrators: Be warned that in most cases, publishers prefer to choose their own illustrators. You can submit as a team if you'd like, but you may be hurting your chances of getting published. Some great advice here.
Did you discover something about PB writing and yourself while working on this project?
It's easy to write a picture book. It's much more of a challenge to write a good, unique picture book that stands out in the marketplace.
Do you have any writing and publishing advice for those who are getting ready to submit their PB manuscripts?
If you're one of those people that think “hey, I can whip off a picture book on the side for some easy money,” then you're on the wrong track.
My strongest advice: Go to your local bookstore and library, and read as many picture books as you can. Read older picture books, newer picture books. For the picture books that you enjoy the most, analyze why you like them so much. Look at how the illustrations and text complement each other, and how neither would be as strong on their own.
Also, when writing a PB manuscript, leave room for the illustrator. I've found that early attempts at PB manuscripts often read like short stories rather than picture book texts.