5 Tips on Writing & Illustrating Children’s Books From Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Here are 5 great takeaways on writing and illustrating children’s books from our Writer's Market Podcast with Debbie Ridpath Ohi. (Plus a link to listen to all the other great tips she has to offer writers and illustrators.)
Publish date:

Are you interested in writing or illustrating a children's book (or both)? If so, then you'll want to listen to this fun, yet in-depth Writer's Market Podcast (which I co-host with the one-and-only Robert Lee Brewer), where we interview successful writer and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Ohi is the illustrator for the Michael Ian Black children's books I'm Bored and Naked, as well as the Judy Blume books and her own Where Are My Books. While she dished out many, many great pieces of advice throughout, here are five takeaways that stuck with me (and if you find these helpful you should definitely listen to the entire interview here or here on iTunes):


5 Tips on Writing and Illustrating Children's Books

1. Be Enthusiastic.

Always be excited about your work when discussing with others, whether that’s with literary agents, editors, publishers or potential readers. The publishing industry can be a grind at time, as you often battle unanswered emails and rejection letters. Don’t let that overshadow why you wrote your book in the first place and keep that positive spirit alive. You never know where it may lead.

2. Put Yourself in a Position to Succeed.

While you can’t control when lightning will hit, you can control your own personal lightning rod all the time (Debbie credits Maureen McGowan for this advice). Also, make sure you’re always prepared that way when lightning does hit, you’re in excellent shape to push your career forward (Debbie credits Kevin Sylvester for this advice).

3. Don’t Assume Where You Are is Where You Are Meant to Be

Be open to what you might be able to accomplish. Be willing to take risks. Debbie left her freelance career behind to follow her real dream of writing and illustrating children’s books.

4. Trust the process.

Let people in the publishing process do their jobs and don’t try to micro-manage others along the way. An illustrator shouldn’t tell the writer how to do their job, he or she should trust the writer to write the script—just as a writer should trust the illustrator to take the script and do a great job illustrating it.

5. Perseverance.

At times it may feel like the only thing that’s happening is rejection, but battle through that. Nearly all writers face rejection—it’s almost like a rite of passage. But it’s the writers who persevere and push forward with their craft that finally find success. Be one of those writers.

If you want more great tips on how to write and illustrate children’s books as well as in-depth explanations of the thoughts above, listen to the full podcast with Debbie Ridpath Ohi here at WritersMarket.com or click here to listen to and subscribe on iTunes.


Plus, check out these other great interviews on the Writer's Market Podcast:

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

Thanks for visiting The Writer's Dig blog. For more great writing advice, click here.


Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Sign up for Brian's free Writer's Digest eNewsletter: WD Newsletter
Listen to Brian on: The Writer's Market Podcast

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Being Followed

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your character know they're being followed.

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Author Amanda Jayatissa discusses the fun of writing "deliciously mean" characters in her psychological thriller, My Sweet Girl.

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

A memoir is an open window into another's life—and although the truth is of paramount importance, so too is grabbing hold of its reader. Writer Tasha Keeble offers 3 tips for writing a memoir everyone will want to read.

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Bestselling and Giller Prize-shortlisted author Zoe Whittal discusses the complexity of big life decisions in her new novel, The Spectacular.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 582

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a transition poem.

4 Myths About Writing Animal Characters

4 Myths About Writing Animal Characters

Author Codi Schneider debunks four myths about writing animal characters, including that audiences won't connect with animal characters and that they're only for children's books.



Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, your character is a modern day voyager.

Stephanie Marie Thornton: One How an Entire Rewrite Added Suspense

Stephanie Marie Thornton: On How an Entire Rewrite Added Suspense

USA Today bestselling author discusses how rewriting a portion of her new historical fiction novel, A Most Clever Girl, added suspense.

Creativity Is Making Small Choices

Creativity Is Making Small Choices

When struggling to work through a creative dilemma, it's best to think of your work in small pieces that create a larger whole. Author Perttu Pölönen explains how creativity is a collection of small choices from an abundance of options.