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.

Twitter Facebook Instagram
Subscribe Pinterest Flickr
My other social media.
What people are saying about I'M BORED:

"Read I'M BORED to children's choir last evening. They have never, ever laughed aloud so much! Reading Success!" - Twitter post by Marjorie Bowman


I'm Bored Bonus Page
I'm Sad
I'm Worried
Broken Crayon Series

Starred review in July 9th, 2012 issue of Publishers Weekly

Love the review of I'M BORED in this week's issue of Publishers Weekly! Click the image above to read the full review, but here's an excerpt:

"It looks to be the ultimate ennui smackdown: a bored-out-of-her-gourd kid vs. an equally jaded potato... Debut illustrator Ohi’s minimalist, scraggly digital drawings are anything but boring, and speak volumes about irritation, desperation, and disdain."



I'M BORED sketches, first passes, pacing & advice for aspiring picture book writers

A continuation of my series of posts about how I'M BORED was created. To catch up, see the post archive. Or you can go back to the Main I'M BORED Homepage.


After Justin Chanda  and I had some back-and-forth about the main characters, he asked me to come up with illustration ideas. There were some very rough art notes in Michael Ian Black's mss, but I was also given a surprising amount of leeway when it came to the visuals.

This made the whole process WAY more fun than I expected. I'm not sure how it works with other publishers, but one reason I enjoyed working on I'M BORED so much was because I was treated like an essential part of the creative team. You more experienced types are probably used to this, but I was expecting to be told exactly what to draw.

Rather than "you should draw this and this and this," however, it was more like "what do you think?"

The first few times this happened, I was worried about saying something stupid because of my lack of experience. And I probably did say some stupid things…but Justin and Laurent never made me feel like it. I learned so much during our discussions, gradually gained confidence about contributing ideas and (I know I've said this before but I can't help but repeating myself) HAD SO MUCH FUN. 

The experience changed my opinion about including too many art notes in picture book manuscripts. To you aspiring picture book writers out there:  Resist the urge to include detailed illustration instructions throughout your manuscript. Leave room for the artist to be creative. 

I appreciated what MIB did in his I'M BORED mss: included enough guidance to keep his intended story on track, but didn't nitpick over details.

But back to the illustration process:

FirstPage Pass0 500

My early attempts were too rushed in pacing, and I tried to fit too much into a spread (see above).

Here's my next attempt, where I simplified and slowed down pacing:

FirstSpread Pass1withtext

At my first meeting with Justin Chanda and Laurent Linn (see my previous post), there was a lot of cutting and pasting involved as we worked on further improving pacing. Here are photos I took of the two modified spreads after my meeting at S&S:

FirstSpread revise1

FirstSpread revise2

Notice how much the pacing has already improved since my sketch at the top of this post.

I experimented more with the little girl's bored poses. Meanwhile, though, I still hadn't settled on the girl's appearance (more on this in a future post), but that didn't matter as much in the beginning. The most important goal in those early stages: figure out the best visual pacing for MIB's story. The finer details could be worked out later on.

Here are how the final spreads turned out:

FirstSpread Final1

FirstSpread Final2

And it comes out on SEPTEMBER 4th!!! I CAN'T WAIT!!!!

Ahem. Apologies for that outburst.

More on the I'M BORED process soon...


First visit to Simon & Schuster in NYC

A continuation of my series of posts about how I'M BORED was created. To catch up, see the post archive. Or you can go back to the Main I'M BORED Homepage.

In late 2010, I posted on my Facebook Wall that I was going the SCBWI conference in NYC:

Screen Shot 2012 05 06 at 6 51 17 PM

When he saw this, Justin Chanda e-mailed me to ask if I'd be interested in visiting the Simon & Schuster offices while I was NYC.

I remember reading his e-mail twice to make sure I hadn't misread. Holy cow. (!!)

Of course I said yes.

Screen Shot 2012 05 06 at 6 53 48 PM

On the day of the meeting, I arrived about an hour early because I was paranoid about getting lost.

I know you experienced published types are used to the idea of visiting your publisher, but it was such a thrill for me. I remember staring up at the main entrance sign in gawking awe. I WAS STANDING IN FRONT OF THE SIMON & SCHUSTER BUILDING IN NEW YORK CITY!!! THIS WAS MY PUBLISHER.

Did some sightseeing until it was time to go in, then went to the first-floor security desk and asked them to let Justin know I was there.

As the security guy dialed Justin's number, he said, "You know, your name sounds familiar."

Me: "Really?"

Guard: "Yeah, I think I saw it on a sign up on the 4th floor, where you're going."

Me: "A SIGN??"

I figured he must be misremembering but sure enough, here's what was on the lobby bulletin board when I stepped out of the elevator on the fourth floor:

Screen Shot 2012 05 06 at 7 02 11 PM

Is that COOL OR WHAT?!???

And check out part of the front lobby:

S Slobby

Dani Young, Justin's editorial assistant, greeted me and led me through the corridors to Justin's office. This is Dani in her office (I took this photo later in the year):

Screen Shot 2012 05 06 at 9 34 57 PM

Justin's office wasn't quite what I expected. I knew he was the publisher of three imprints at S&S, so I guess I assumed he'd be in some huge posh office with big windows and designer furniture. Instead, his office seemed to be the same size as most of the other offices…and it was crammed full of children's books. Very colourful and fun and comfortable-looking. :-)

After chatting a bit, Justin took me around to meet Laurent Linn, who would be my Art Director on the project.

IMG 0278

Laurent used to work on Sesame Street; check out what was on his office door:

Screen Shot 2012 05 06 at 9 24 47 PM

AND he had a Sesame Street photo signed by the staff!

Screen Shot 2012 05 06 at 9 25 58 PM


They took me to a restaurant (I don't remember which one, sorry) close to the office. I remember being really nervous at first, but the food was really good  and the conversation was lots of fun, so I started to relax a bit. 

IMG 0501

After lunch, we then headed back to S&S. Justin gave me a tour of different parts of S&S, and I got to see The Room Where All The Big Deals Are Made, with a long board room table lined with chairs. I saw framed photos of Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln ("Max") Schuster, and also a hallway of framed portraits showing some of their best-known talent.


Above: M. Lincoln (Max) Schuster & Richard L. (Dick) Simon, who founded the company in 1924.

Then we headed back Justin's office to hook up with Laurent and talk about the sketches I had sent. We sat at a little table in Justin's office and went through the printouts of my sketches. I confess that it was an effort for me to concentrate at first. I kept thinking, "OH MY GOD I'M HAVING A MEETING AT SIMON & SCHUSTER AND THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT *MY* ILLUSTRATIONS FOR A *BOOK*" but  I forced down the squee in a tiny corner of my brain so I could focus. There would be time enough to let loose the squee after I went back home.

And then things got even more fun. Because WOW, that meeting was amazing. It was the first time Justin and Laurent had had a chance to discuss my sketches with each other, and I learned SO MUCH from listening to their comments as they flipped through the pages.

But not only that -- they made me a part of the process. Again, you experienced types already know how things work. As a total newbie to illustrating picture books, however, I hadn't expected to be so involved in decision-making process from the beginning. Both Justin and Laurent kept asking me for my feedback during the discussion, asking me what I thought of this and that, making sure I was okay with the changes we were discussing.

Also, Laurent and Justin are pretty funny guys, and the banter back and forth could be highly entertaining. I never expected to laughing so hard at my first meeting at S&S! 

2011 01LaurentJustinDebbie final

I'll be talking more about progression of changes in my sketches in future posts, along with giving examples of how the images changed from start to the final version.

For now, though, I have to just say this:

That first meeting was incredibly productive and so SOOOOO fun.

Screen Shot 2012 05 06 at 10 12 33 PM

Above: high tech tools at our meeting in Justin's office.


I'M BORED character sketches: The Potato

Continuing my series of posts about how I'M BORED was created...

In addition to sending Justin some character sketches of the little girl, I also sent him character sketches of the potato:

06 Potato

07 PotatoCrabby

I got a huge kick out of the fact that I was doing character sketches of a POTATO. And I actually did buy a bunch of different potatoes from the grocery store as examples of different potato shapes and textures and colours.

Yes, I knew that most of the details wouldn't need to be exact in the final version but hey, I needed to grokk the essence of The Potato!

After studying all my potatoes, of course, I cooked and ate them.


Olsen Farms potatoes!
Photo: laurenipsum

Since working on I'M BORED, I see potatoes in a whole new light. They all have FACES, for example. Don't believe me? Check it out yourself:

1. Buy a potato from the supermarket.

2. Put it on your kitchen table.

3. Look really hard at it. Focus. Try thinking potato thoughts. Become one with the potato.

4. THERE! You SEE it? Just for a moment, that potato face, glaring at you?!??

5. Okay, so maybe you didn't see a face. But it's there, I swear! Try drawing potatoes for over a year and you'll see a face in every potato, too.

Hm, I think I'm going to have to have a Create A Potato Face Challenge at some point in the future.

But meanwhile, here are Some Boring Facts About Potatoes.



I'M BORED comic: The Interviews


I'M BORED comic from My Life In A Nutshell

Nut2012 01 04imbored 700


Creating I'M BORED: Character Sketches

After reading the unedited manuscript (which I loved!), I was asked to come up with some character sketch ideas for the little girl in the story.

Here are just some of the ideas I sent to Justin:

GirlOptions ImBored 600

Justin liked Option C the best. "I love her!  I think she is just great so expressive with such minimal line."


What inspired Michael Ian Black to write I'M BORED (plus info about YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT, which launches next week)

Photo credit: Martin Crook / SWITCHED

I asked Michael Ian Black what inspired him to write I'M BORED and the process, and here's what he replied:

I wrote I'm Bored as a reaction to my children constantly telling me how bored they are. How boooooored! They are eight and ten, and it seems as if there are not enough activities in the world to keep them occupied. Not going outside or staying inside. Not playing games or reading books. Nothing. So I thought it would be funny to imagine something even more boring than being a kid: being a potato! 

 Once I had the idea, the book was actually pretty easy to write. I'd written three previous children's books, but this was the first one I conceived  with some visuals in mind. Unfortunately, I am not an artist, but thankfully my editor Justin put me in touch with the amazing Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who really made the text come alive. Children's books are a collaborative medium, similar in a way to film and television. Because I do not have the ability to actually create the art I see in my head, it's so important to have people like Debbie who can not only translate my words to the page, but also make them so much better through their artwork. 


Thanks, Michael!

Incidentally, MIB's newest book, YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT: Tales Of Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations launches next week. It's received some great pre-release reviews, and I'm looking forward to reading it. Some related articles about the book:

Michael Ian Black On Middle Age | Chicago Sun-Times

Five Questions For Michael Ian Black | USA Today 

Huffington Post piece on MIB and his new book

Kirkus Review of the book

Where you can find out more about Michael:

Twitter: @michaelianblack

Michael Ian Black on Facebook

Wikipedia entry on Michael Ian Black


Justin Chanda picks Debbie as the illustrator for I'M BORED - yay!


Continuing my series on how I'M BORED was created...

I was approached about illustrating I'M BORED at the SCBWI children's book writer/illustrator conference in 2010. If you're an aspiring children's/YA book writer or illustrator, I strongly recommend joining the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators)!

Up to this particular event, I considered myself mainly a writer, doing a little bit of drawing on the side. Everything changed at this event, however. You can read the full story on, but here's a summary:

My friend Beckett Gladney convinced me to enter the Illustrator Portfolio Showcase for the first time, and helped me put together my first portfolio. She also made me a gorgeous portfolio cover (see Beckett's Etsy shop for her other custom-made items). You can see my portfolio and its contents online.

Three amazing things happened:

1. I was picked for the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Program by Penguin art director Cecilia Yung.

2. I won an Honor Award (one of two runners-up) in the overall Portfolio Awards.

And (insert drumroll here)...

3. Justin Chanda told me he had a picture book for me to illustrate. (!!!!)

Later on, I asked Justin whether he attended that year's SCBWI Summer Conference with the goal of finding an illustrator for I'm Bored. His answer:

I did not, actually. It was my first time at SCBWI-LA and I was really just trying to get my head around what to do while I was there. Judging the art show was actually something that came up the day I arrived. It was a last minute ask and I was really glad to fill in… but it wasn’t until I saw your portfolio that I instantly thought “Here’s the illustrator for I’M BORED”. And it was instantaneous.


I also asked Justin about what it was about my portfolio that made him think I was the right illustrator. His answer:

There was a sense of whimsy and definite style. I loved the assorted cast of characters, but I loved your point of view just as much.  I remember there was an illustration of a robot who had lost his arm and one of a little girl looking at these tiny monsters.  In both instances I got a clear sense of character, a sense of humor, and a sense of style.

I'll be posting more about more details about his decision process in later this year.

Happily, Michael Ian Black was also in agreement about the choice of illustrator. From Justin:

Michael is one of the funniest guys I know, but he takes his kids books very seriously. We’ve done three books together prior to I’M BORED and the selection of the artist for each was a pretty long process. We sifted through all kinds of options and choices. With this though, it was a whole different story. I sent him your stuff and he wrote back 10 minutes later: “I love the minimalist style. Love her.” And that, as they say, was that.


Next post: Michael on what inspired him to write I'M BORED.


I'M BORED editor: Justin Chanda


Next, Justin Chanda started working with Michael on the I'M BORED text.

Since I'm just the illustrator, not the writer, I don't really know what went on in those editing sessions. I'll ask Michael and Justin, but it's possible that this part of the process will remain SUPER SECRET FOREVER.