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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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I'M... Books


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For links to all of my #ImSadBookTour posts, see I'M SAD Book Tour 2018

I'M SAD Book Tour 2018 (DAY 8: New York): Two Moments Of Sheer Panic, S&S Meet & Greet, NY Times Live Illustration Event, Books Of Wonder.

(Last updated: June 26, 2018) 

With Laurent Linn, Justin Chanda and Michael Ian Black at Books Of Wonder. Photo: Audrey Gibbons.

In my previous post, Michael and I visited Savoy Bookshop & Café in Rhode Island, RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, CT and PowerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, NY.

On my last full day of the tour, I went to Simon & Schuster for a Meet & Greet, did a Facebook Live Illustraton Event with Michael at The New York Times, and we talked about I'M SAD at Books Of Wonder in the evening.

One of the things I was most nervous about on this book tour was scheduled for the last full day: the Facebook Live Illustrator Event at The New York Times.

When I was invited, I immediately felt both panic and excitement. Excitement because, well, it was The New York Times. Panic because, well, it was The New York Times!

Also because like some other illustrators, I find it a challenge to talk coherently while I'm focused on drawing.

But of course I said YES.

Audrey and I agreed it would be best for me to mail my art supplies to Simon & Schuster rather than have to lug everything with me during the entire trip. Before I placed my order, I experimented with different types of paper and sizes and paints and brushes. In the end, I ordered some tube watercolors, watercolor paper pads, a small porcelain palette mixing tray, and some Pentel water brushes. According to, everything was delivered, and my publicist verified the supplies had arrived. I always carry my Pentel Pocket Brush with me, so had that already.

On the day of the New York Times event, I arranged to drop by the Simon & Schuster offices in the morning just because I'm paranoid and wanted to get everything sorted, test my setup, etc. I figured that it would help me feel calmer to have everything all ready to go when it was time to head over to the NY Times building.

Audrey Gibbons wasn't around because she was helping Michael out on some media events but I told her it was ok, that I could just check everything over in an empty conference room. S&S Publicity Assistant Jasmine Hodge took me to Audrey's office so I could collect the box and took me to the conference room. I thanked her and started going through the open box.

Paper pads....check.

Water brushes....check.

Mixing palette.....was there but cracked. Ah well, I would find something else to mix paints in.


I searched the bubble wrap, thinking maybe I had just missed them. NO PAINTS.

Here's what went through my head (yes, I drew this specifically for today's post):

I called Audrey, but she said everything that had arrived was in the box. She asked if there was anything she or Jasmine could do to help. I thanked her but said I would try to figure something out. My mind was racing, calculating how much I had before the S&S meet and greet. Not enough time to look for paints, come back and get everything set up. 

Happily, I had thrown my travel set of watercolors (made from an Altoids tin) into my backpack at the last minute. I asked Jasmine if there were any crayons around, and she found some S&S crayons. This is what I ended up taking with me to The New York Times office:

Not nearly as professional-looking as many of the art set-ups I'd seen other illustrators use in their live events, but better than no paints at all...and in the end, it turned out just fine.

On Instagram, I posted:

Just found out that the paints I ordered for the NY Times FB Live event never arrived at @simonkids (paper pads did, whew)! Happily, I have my little homemade travel kit: Altoids tin of watercolors. And Jasmine Hodge at S&S found some crayons I can use (I love crayons). 🖍️
Sometimes mishaps turn into creative opportunities. We're still going to have fun. :-) 🎨


Because I hadn't planned to use my travel watercolor set for The Times event, however, I needed to get reacquainted with this more informal setup so I did some practising and prep, including creating part of the intro page that is displayed in the beginning (I'd finish it during the live event). My panic subsided somewhat and I realized I hadn't yet had lunch and was starving.

I checked the time, and it looked as if I had an hour until the Simon & Schuster Meet & Greet.

(Note to myself: Next time, especially when I'm stressed, DOUBLE-CHECK THE SCHEDULE)

Went to the Rockefeller Center (a few minutes away) to grab some fast food. When I finished, I saw that I still had time until the S&S Meet & Greet but decided that I may as well head over a bit early. Then I got a text from Justin Chanda, my editor at S&S. The conversation that ensued:


Note the time that Justin texted - 1:06 pm.


For some reason early on, I got it into my head that the Meet & Greet wasn't until 1:30 pm. By the time I posted "Yes" above, by the way, I was already running.

Happily, I was only a few minutes away and already had a security pass.

But still....I was horrified. I have never ever been late for any work meeting. In fact, I'm the type who would much rather arrive way too early and just find some place nearby I could sit and wait, maybe reading a book while I had some tea. I usually doublecheck and triplecheck dates and times.

ANYTHING to avoid exactly this situation.

When I arrived at the Simon & Schuster Children's lobby, both Laurent and Justin were waiting for me. They both gave me hugs, told me to catch my breath, take a moment, that it was okay. I went into the room full of Simon & Schuster Children's people waiting for me and Justin gave an introduction. I made a little speech as well, then I signed some books. As always, everyone at S&S Kids was SO friendly, and it was also wonderful to see familiar smiling faces. I love visiting S&S; the atmosphere is always positive and welcoming, and I continue to feel incredibly lucky to be working with these people.

I was still flustered from my timing gaffe, however, and completely forget to take any photos! Here's the one photo I've seen from the event; do follow the S&S Education Library Team over on Twitter for great book suggestions and resources for educators and librarians:

I love that my editor (Justin Chanda) and art director (Laurent Linn) are in the background of this photo. In the photo, notice how well I hide the fact that still running through my head is an auto-repeat of omigosh i can't believe i had the wrong time i am so stupid argh.

After the Meet & Greet, Audrey and I took a cab (I was lugging too much stuff, else I would have been happy to walk) to The New York Times building. SUCH a thrill to see it for the first time! Michael arrived as well, and Audrey took this photo for me:

Both Audrey and Michael had visited The Times before, but this was my very first time. I had no idea if/when I'd ever be able to visit again, so I tried appreciate every single moment. Here's a selfie I took of the three of us in the lobby, just before we headed up:

We were met by NY Times Children's Book Editor, Maria Russo, who led us to the room where we would be doing the FB Live event. I wish I had remembered to take a photo of the set-up! It was a much smaller and low-tech room than I expected, with a small table in the center that was illuminated by bright lights. There were three chairs: one for me, and two on the other side for Maria and Michael. 

In the corner of the room was Josie, the tech guru who was managing the video feed. Before the official live feed began, Maria chatted with me and Michael about our backgrounds, our books, and possible topics we might cover. My friend Corinna Luyken was right (I had emailed her earlier about her own Live Event experience): Maria is SO easygoing and friendly, and an excellent interviewer.

A few minutes later, Josie said it was time to start!

Even if you missed the live event, you can still watch the archived video on The New York Times Books Facebook Page.

And in case anyone is wondering what happened to the art that was created during the Live Event: Maria kept the piece with Little Girl yelling "I'm bored!," Michael kept my drawing of the emotional Potatoes, I kept Michael's signed drawing of the Potato, and Michael and I are donating our Flamingo art collaboration to next year's BEA Silent Auction:

Thanks to all those who posted comments and questions during the event! How this part worked: Josie was monitoring all the comments and would text Maria with selected comments/questions (Michael and I did not see any of them being posted during the live event). Maria would then choose which ones to pass onto Michael and me.

Above: With Michael, Maria and Josie, at The New York Times

I sooooo appreciate Michael being there! Originally they had just invited me, but I asked if there was any chance Michael could be there as well. He told me was reluctant at first; he didn't want to take away from my illustration process. I reassured him that having him there would GREATLY help my illustrationprocess. :-)

And it did! I had been so nervous originally, but between Michael being there, Maria's easygoing interview style AND having already weathered through two "sheer panic" moments earlier in the day, I wasn't really all that nervous during the actual live fact, I was having fun.


Afterward, Maria took us on a little tour. I felt like yelling, "I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M AT THE NEW YORK TIMES OH MY GOSH THIS IS AMAZING WOW JUST LOOK AT EVERYONE CREATING AN ISSUE RIGHT IN FRONT OF US AAAAAAHHHH" but I refrained, but because that would guarantee that I'd never be invited back. :-)

We also got to see the Pulitzer hallway -- whoa, so impressed by all the Pulitzers awarded to the NY Times! You can browse them all here.


After we left The Times, we headed to Books Of Wonder's uptown location. I love Books Of Wonder and had never visited the uptown location before.

At Books Of Wonder. Photo: Audrey Gibbons.At Books Of Wonder. Photo: Audrey Gibbons.

Thanks to the staff for all their help, and for making Michael and me feel so welcome!

Thanks to everyone who came out for this last book tour event! Including Megan Tripp, who is an agency assistant at Curtis Brown Ltd (and works with my agent, Ginger Knowlton):

My art director, Laurent Linn, and our editor, Justin Chanda, were also in the audience; see the photo at the top of this post. What a great way to end our I'M SAD book tour.

Thank you for hosting our last event of the book tour, Books Of Wonder!

So despite the moments of SHEER PANIC earlier on, the day turned out great after all. It's entirely possible that the panic helped the rest of the day go even more smoothly, because I stopped focusing on what might go wrong and focused instead on enjoying what was happening in the moment.

The Books Of Wonder event was the last of the book tour and after it was over, I said good-bye to Audrey and Michael outside in front of the bookstore. After working together so closely the past week, it felt weird to be suddenly (ok, it felt "suddenly" to me :-)) be parting ways. More thought on this in my next and final post.

Next up: Summary, What I Learned and Final Thoughts.

Also see main I'M SAD Book Tour Page for links to all my posts.