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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Updated: July 26, 2016

This is part of the super-fantabulous Bonus Page for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, Debbie's first solo picture book, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2015.

If you're interested in finding out more, please visit the Simon & Schuster website, the WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Bonus Page or follow my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Facebook page


WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour (Part 1): Good Beginnings, Larry The Driver and his Teacher, Colin Firth and Other Perks

For an index of all my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour recap posts, see

Saying good-bye to Jeff before leaving on my book tour

In early May 2015, Simon & Schuster Children's was kind enough to send me a book tour to help celebrate the launch of my first solo picture book, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? In this multi-part book tour report, I'll be sharing not only some of my fun adventures but also some of the things I've learned personally and professionally along the way.

The photo at the top of this page was taken by the driver who picked me up for the airport. Jeff was incredibly patient that morning! I confess I was a wee bit stressed right before leaving, mainly because I was trying to figure out how to fit everything into my carry-on luggage. My carry-on included one change of clothes, one pair of shoes (I wore boots during travel, in case of inclement weather), my portable projector, a laptop, presentation materials (including some printouts and sketches in case tech failed) and a copy of my book.

I suppose I could have opted for checked luggage but I also knew from last year's NAKED! book tour that I could survive with just carry-on, and that it helped reduce travel stress and time at airports.

While I was having a "DISASTER I JUST REMEMBERED I NEED TO TAKE XXXX AND NOW I CAN'T FIT EVERYTHING IN AND THE CAR IS ARRIVING ANY MINUTE AAAAAA," Jeff helped me repack so everything would fit. He keeps me sane, that husband of mine.

On the way to the airport, the driver was unexpectedly cut off by someone else and we nearly had a collison. Instead of thinking, "we could have been hurt!" I thought "I could have missed my flight!", which shows you where my mind was. But then I was at the airport and checked in and everything was good.

I even got to see some of The Kingsman, a movie I've really wanted to check out. Plus starting a book tour with a little Colin Firth can only be a good thing. Don't tell me what happens; our flight landed about 15 minutes before the end of the movie.

After turning on my phone when we landed in Chicago, I received two text messages which made me happy:

The above text meant that the Bell roaming plan I had signed up had indeed kicked in. Last year, something went wrong and I ended up not knowing for sure whether I was being charged crazy-expensive roaming charges whenever I posted. Then I received this one:

Whoa, how cool, I had a chauffeur! 

I had Music Express car service through most of my book tour, by the way, organized by Simon & Schuster. I really liked this service because I always got a heads-up on text and via cell phone that my driver was waiting, and this info always included a cell number where I could text or phone that driver if I needed to.

And YES, I know how lucky I was to have a driver!! I was already feeling lucky to have a book tour, since I know how rare that is these days. 

Anyway, I'm still enough of a newbie to also get a kick out of seeing MY NAME on one of those airport driver signs when I arrived. Here's Larry The Chauffeur, waiting for me at the Chicago airport:

I asked Larry if he could watch my bags while I visited the airport restroom (it wasn't a long flight, but we were waiting for a gate a long time) and wow, the Chicago airport has magichanical toilets:

Don't worry...I promise not to go into such detail for the rest of my book tour report. 

During the ride, Larry and I chatted about what I was doing in the Chicago area as well as about books and reading. Larry told me the challenges he had with his reading as a child, how much he appreciated his grade school teacher for taking the time to coach him and how he owes so much to her. Yay for teachers!

I love these kind of unexpected conversations and treat them like gifts. 

Larry dropped me off at Hotel Arista Lifestyle in Naperville, IL, and it ended up being my favourite hotel of the whole trip. I felt veryvery spoiled, especially when I checked out the tub. And there was a tv in the bathroom mirror!!

And unlike many hotels I've visited in the past, it had power outlets o'plenty. Even a power bar right beside the bed, yay:

Hotel Arista also had my favourite bathroom amenties of the trip. Loved these:

By now, some of you may be thinking, "Wow, must be nice to be a pampered author/illustrator."

And yes, I DID feel well taken care of by my publisher. But my publisher is also smart, because these perks and knowing I'd be able to get a good night's sleep help a great deal in smoothing over the rough bits, and keeping up my energy levels when I need it. Without that energy, I wouldn't be able to do as good a job when talking with young readers.


The next morning, I ordered a hearty breakfast to start off my first full day of presentations. Also ordered some extra fruit to keep in the room for snacking:

And I used one of the hash browns for a quick doodle on the hotel stationery:

I love the "Write your own story" tagline, so couldn't resist.

Continued in Part 2...


WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? video plus a challenge to post your OWN answer with #WhereAreMyBooks hashtag

Back in March, I invited readers to send me photos and video clips that answered the question, "Where Are My Books?" Thanks to everyone who contributed! Please do help me celebrate today's official launch of my first solo picture book, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers), by posting your OWN photo answering the question, "Where are YOUR books?" and adding the hashtag #WhereAreYourBooks.

If you like the song by my friends Ookla The Mok and would like to download it to your own device (and help support indie musicians in the process), it's now available on CDBabyAmazon and iTunes.

I tried to double-check the contributor thank you list but I was receiving photos from many different sources, including Twitter. If I missed listing your name (apologies!), please do let me know and I'll add you to the video description as well as to this list:

Samantha Berger, Morva Bowman, Justin Chanda, Charlotte Cheng, Christopher Cheng, Jeri Lynn Cornish,Tracey M. Cox, Reid Ellis, Zoe and Ekko Elumir, Katherine Fausset, Karen Forgave and Burnhamthorpe Public School LLC, Jenna Glatzer and Sarina Happy, Jordan Hageman, John and Jo Hall, Danette Haworth, Bethany Jewell, Ginger Knowlton and Curtis Brown Ltd., Dee Leone with the staff of Katy Budget Books, Jasper Municipal Library, Enzo Jensen, Tammy Langeberg, Denise, Caleb and Julian Layman, Liddy Lindsay, Jeri Lynn, Brittany Moya, Ruth Ohi, Luisa Perrella, Joey Shoji, Heidi Stemple, Gavy Swan, Simon & Schuster Canada, Simon & Schuster Children's, Kyra Teis, Tracy Tuttosi and Dr Morris Gibson School, Carmella Van Vleet, Akiko White and Jane Yolen.

Thanks also to my friends Rand Bellavia and Adam English (a.k.a. Ookla The Mok), who wrote, arranged, performed and recorded this song for me. Rand is a library director, and Adam is a freelance artist; you can read more about them on their website. We've been friends for many years, and I'm a longtime fan of their work. I also played flute on one of their first albums together ("Still Can't Buy Me Love" track on their Less Than Art album). Thanks also to Michael Mallory for the bass guitar track, and Doug White of Watchmen Studios for the amazing guitar solo plus the editing, mixing and mastering.

If you're in the Toronto area, please do join me at my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? book launch at Another Story Bookshop this Thursday, May 14th at 6pm.

And I'll be posting my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour report soon!


How WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Was Made (Part 4): More Process, Final Art and Cover Art

Making Of A Picture Book posts so far: Main Index/ResourcesPart 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 -

Back to Where Are My Books? Bonus Page

Even though I did the early sketches for Where Are My Books? by hand, I did the final art entirely digitally. I like working with two monitors:

For those curious, I was using Photoshop CS6, and my main computer is a 27-inch iMac with a 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 memory. Don't ask me exactly what all that means; I just copied it off my "About This Mac" info. :-)

I draw using a medium-sized Intuos 5-Touch pen Tablet. I still haven't gotten around to taking advantage of the 5-Touch shortcuts.

Every so often, I print off my current art and hang it up on string that Jeff has rigged up for me across my office ceiling. I find this helps in (1) helping me check overall flow and consistency, and (2) helping me feel like I'm making progress. When I revise any particular illustration, I'll replace it with the newer one:

I'll also sometimes create PDFs of the whole book, whatever stage I've reached, and then flip through the PDF on my iPad. The text is just a placeholder until my art director, Laurent Linn, can work his design magic.

When the sketches were close to being finished, Laurent asked me to come up with some cover ideas. Here are a few:

We settled on the last image, so I worked on turning that into cover quality:

Getting closer, but we decided the overall color was too dark (brown bed, brown hair, shadows, etc.) and Laurent encouraged me to go for a wilder, brighter color:

And it worked!

Of course this meant I needed to go through all the illustrations and change the color of the bed, but that's one of the advantages of digital art -- I had kept the bed color on a separate layer, so could change it without having to re-draw everything.

Note the bored Potato from I'M BORED in the lower left corner:

Then Laurent Linn worked his magic with the design and text placement, and here's how the final cover turned out:

 To be continued in Part 5.


Indie Bookstore Profile: Another Story Bookshop plus WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? May 14th launch, 6-8 pm EST

[Edited May 15, 2015: Thanks to everyone who came out to my book launch! I've posted about the event, with photos.]

Excited about my upcoming WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Toronto Book Launch at Another Story Bookshop (315 Roncesvalles Ave. Nearest subway station: Dundas West) on Thursday, May 14th from 6-8 pm. Thanks to both Another Story and Simon & Schuster Canada for helping to make this event possible! See my mini-interview with Another Story Events Manager Anjula Gogia further down in this post.

You can find out more about my first solo picture book as well as read reviews, download a free Teacher's Guide, read about how the book was created, and other bonus material at the Where Are My Books? Bonus Page.

For those on Facebook, here's the event page. If you're planning on attending, I'd appreciate you RSVPing above or posting a comment below, so I can make sure the bookshop has enough copies.

Here's a great Open Book Toronto video profiling Another Story Bookshop owner Sheila Koffman and her staff:

Another Story's wide selection of titles for children, teens and adults cover all subjects, with an emphasis on issues of social justice. As Open Book says, the bookshop's titles truly reflect Toronto's diverse community. Another Story also provides books to Toronto schools and libraries. 

Thanks to Another Story for supporting I'M BORED when it came out!

I love this bookstore. Such a great atmosphere and the staff are super-knowledgeable. Sheila Koffman has a customer service mandate of knowing the material inside and out. From (and I just verified that this is still true): "While the wall of 'Staff Picks'represents what her employees are reading at home, not all of them have children, so she pays her staff to read young adult literature and children’s books so that families visiting the store receive accurate recommendations." 

Anjula Gogia was kind enough to answer a couple of questions for me:

Q. How did you become involved with Another Story Bookshop?

Anjula, who is the former co-manager of the Toronto Women's Bookstore (1997-2006): "Of course I knew about Sheila and Another Story Bookshop, and always loved the store. A few years ago I was looking for some part-time work, and I walked into Another Story and knew immediately I wanted to be a bookseller again! I now organize all the book launches and events."

Q. How did Another Story begin?

"It began as a dream by the owner, Sheila Koffman, 30 years ago. An unrealistic dream. It started off as a bookstore for adults, and when we realized need for book for good books for children in the school system and the neighbourhood that section blossomed. We started off in the east end of the city and moved to the west end 8 years ago. We love both areas, and the Roncesvalles has embraced us wholeheartedly. Although it's been a difficult dream, it's also been a blast!"

Anjula Gogia and Sheila Koffman with Jack Layton.


Mini-interview with Kira Larson, Children's Dept Head and Book Buyer at Scuppernong Books

Today's post is part of my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? book tour series, where I highlight some of the places I'll be visiting or working with to visit local schools.

Photo: Jon Mayes.I'm excited about visiting Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC on May 6th at 5 pm! Scuppernong opened in 2015 and has been an essential part of the rebirth of Greensboro ever since.

They not only have a wonderful children's section in addition to their fiction, poetry and broad range of general interest titles, but they also have a cafe.

Scuppernong hosts hundreds of events a year and brings in writers from across the country. And CANADA, woohoo! (hand waving wildly here)

You can find out more about Scuppernong Books on their website, Twitter and Facebook.

Kira Larson is the head of the children's department at Scuppernong as well as their book buyer, and was kind enough to answer a few questions for me:

Q. How did you get involved with Scuppernong Books?

I went to Library school to get my Master's in Library Science at UNC Greensboro and after finishing school worked different jobs until a friend introduced me to the owners. I helped open the store and build up the Children's Department of which I work as the Head.

Photo: Jon Mayes.

Q. What makes Scuppernong special?

Scuppernong Books is special to Greensboro because it is the only independent new bookstore in our city. People in town have been so kind and supportive of us in our first years and we hope to give back to them in every way we can. Scuppernong Books is special to me because it has allowed me to work with children's books and programming for kids, which I love!

Photo: Jon Mayes.

Getting to come into work and read a new stack of picture books or show a book I'm excited about to someone makes my day every time.

Q. If you had to pick one piece of advice for parents who are trying to get their children to read more, what would it be?

Be excited about reading! Read everything from books to the backs of cereal boxes!

Some of my greatest memories are of how enthusiastic my parents would be about new books they brought home for us from the library or a bookstore. They always encouraged me to read what I was interested in and explore the topic to the fullest.

I also encourage parents and educators to let their kids choose what they want to read, especially if it is technically "above" their reading level. This lets kids push themselves to succeed and fosters a greater set of reading skills which will help them all their lives.

Photo: Jon Mayes.

Q. What are you reading these days?

Currently I'm reading an advance copy of Sarah Dessen's new novel Saint Anything (and it is AMAZING) and a book by Leonard S. Marcus called Show Me a Story!: Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators. I try to keep up with YA novels but also continue to learn about my field through books about children's materials. Those, plus there's always a stack of new picture books to explore!

(Above: Brian Lampkin and Steve Mitchell talk about why they opened Scuppernong Books)

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