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FAQ: About Debbie

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INDEX:

Where can I find your press kit? (book covers, headshot photos, bio etc)

How do you pronounce your last name? What are your pronouns?

Where do you get your ideas?

Where were you born?

Do you have a sister in the business?

How can I get your autograph? How do I get a signed bookplate?

How did you get started in the children’s book industry?

How do I book for you a school visit or other event?

How do I hire you to illustrate my book or do some art for me?

Will you donate art or a book to my organization’s good cause or upcoming event? Or do a short free live visit with my students? It would mean so much to them.

Where can I buy your art / prints / bibliophile jewelry?


Q. Where can I find your press kit with book covers, headshot photos and bio?

See Debbie’s Press Kit page.

Q. How do you pronounce your last name? What are your pronouns? 

I pronounce my last name “Ohi” like “OH-wee” (rhymes with Chloe). However, some members of the Ohi clan pronounce it “oy” (rhymes with boy). My pronouns: She/her/hers.

Q. Where do you get your ideas? 

I get ideas from everything in the world around me. I read books and magazines, watch movies and shows, listen to people talking, remember my dreams and nightmares, look closely at everything around me, try not to take anything for granted. I keep idea notebooks with me all the time (paper and digital); you never know when inspiration will strike! I find it important to always carve out time where I can just THINK and IMAGINE — when I take walks, for example, I listen to music or audiobooks.

Q. Where were you born? 

I was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. My mother was born in Japan. My father was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and his parents were born in Japan. I know how to speak a little bit of Japanese, but unfortunately not much.

Q. Do you have a sister in the business?

Yes! I am avoiding mentioning her name in my website because we’ve found that this confuses Google (who tends to mix us up), but you can find my sister’s website here. R is an amazing children’s book creator and sister. PLEASE NOTE that although R and I are close, we are separate individuals with individual careers. Each of us tend to get a lot of “could you please ask/tell your sister xxx.” Please do NOT do this. You can contact R through the Contact Form on her website. Thank you for understanding. 🙂

Q. How can I get your autograph? How do I get a signed bookplate? 

Feel free to write to me with your request and enclose a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). Please note that because I live in Canada, the postage needs to be Canadian. You can find postage prices for shipping within or to Canada at the Canada Post website. Address:

[December 15, 2021: Temporarily removed since I just discovered that the pharmacy where my P.O. Box is located may be doing COVID-19 tests for symptomatic individuals, and I feel uncomfortable visiting it regularly these days.]

If you send me snailmail, I’d appreciate a heads-up via my Contact Form. Reason: During the pandemic, I am limiting my visits to my P.O. Box (which is located in a medical pharmacy). Thanks!

Q. How did you get started in the children’s book industry?

I have always wanted to write for young people, but never assumed I could make a living at it, so worked as a computer programmer/systems analyst for two years before my husband convinced me to quit so I could pursue my creative dreams. I continued to work hard at improving my craft. After helping me improve my middle grade mss, children’s book author Lee Wardlaw introduced me to her agent, Ginger Knowlton. Ginger is now my agent! We sent out two middle grade mss but although the rejection letters became increasingly nicer (I could tell I was improving), they were still rejections. My friend Beckett Gladney convinced me (along with my sister and my husband) to enter the SCBWI Summer Conference Portfolio Showcase in 2010, and that’s where my art was “discovered” by Simon & Schuster’s Justin Chanda. Justin offered me my very first children’s picture book contract, illustrating a picture book called I’m Bored written by Michael Ian Black. You can read more about what happened in my KidLitArtists blog post.

Q. How do I book you for a school visit or other event?

You can find out more info on my Visits and Appearances Page.

Q. How do I hire you to illustrate my book or do some art for me?

First off — thank you so much for your interest in my work!

The short answer:

Please contact my agent, Ginger Knowlton at Curtis Brown, thanks. Social media (esp. Twitter) is not a good way to ask me to illustrate your book.

The long answer:

Please note that I am currently not accepting commissions to do art for self-published books, or for authors planning to query a publisher.

If you are an author who is querying with a picture book manuscript that will eventually need someone to do the illustrations, be aware that most traditional publishing houses prefer to picture book writers to submit the text FIRST – if they acquire your story, THEN they will find an illustrator.

If you are an author who has just received a book contract (congrats!!!), then feel free to suggest me as an illustrator to your editor. If they think I’m a good match, they will contact my agent, who will let me know or forward your mss and inquiry from your editor. Whether I decide to say yes depends on a number of factors which include: (1) my schedule, (2) whether I think I’m the right illustrator for your story.

If you are a new picture writer, I also recommend reading FAQ: I just finished writing my picture book story. What next? How do I find an illustrator?

If you are someone who would like to commission me to do some art: please note that I am currently not accepting commissions for art. I’m often approached by those who think that just because I can often draw quickly, I can “just whip off a quick sketch.” Please note that drawing for someone else is ALWAYS DIFFERENT from drawing for myself, even if you say you’d be happy with almost anything, that you’re not picky etc etc. Drawing for someone else is work. It can be fun in the process, yes, but I am always switching out my “just for fun” creative cap for a “this is work” creative cap.

Like other children’s book creators out there, I get asked for free stuff ALL THE TIME. Free visits, free art, free books. And like many other children’s book creators, I find it hard saying no, especially since almost all requests are for good causes.

However, I’ve learned that it’s up to me to draw the line somewhere. A virtual visit involves much more than just the time allocated for the visit — there’s the back and forth re: planning, prep and set-up, clean-up and follow-up after, and that’s time away from my regular work. Because of the pandemic (and like many other book creators), I have less income and have also found it more of a challenge to carve out creative focustime. Another factor: many creators count on paid school visits for the bulk of their income – this took a hit during the pandemic for many reasons. As things start getting back to normal, I’m hoping educators understand why authors and illustrators need to start charging for their time again. Also see Caroline Star Rose’s excellent post, “Why Pay Authors For School Visits Anyway.” I do understand that not all schools have the budget to pay for author visits, of course! To those schools, I encourage you to research grants like TWUC’S Writers-In-Schools (Ontario only) and other funding opportunities. For my visits, in addition to my regular live visits (I work with The Author Village) I also offer free Flipgrid visits. See my Visits and Appearances page for more info.

For those asking me to donate free books: Be aware that I have to pay for my own books. Yes, I can sometimes get an author/illustrator discount if I order in bulk directly from my publisher, but I’m still paying for these books. Then there’s the cost of a cardboard mailer, postage and handling. I find that often mailing a book somewhere, even within Canada, can cost more than the retail price of the book itself. There’s also the time involved in the email back and forth, packing up the book, getting the correct address, figuring out postage, taking it to the post office etc. I do donate a number of books each year, but again….I have to limit these because costs are coming out of my own pocket.

For those asking me to donate free art: BEFORE you approach me, please have a clear plan in mind about how you plan to promote your fund-raising art auction/event – don’t assume that participating illustrators will do the bulk of the promotion. How are you planning to credit/highlight participating illustrators? How will the art be displayed? If you are photographing the art yourself, do you have the know-how? I’ve been disappointed in the past when I send my art only to find that the photo used in the auction gallery is poor quality; this reflects badly on me and my work. Think about logistics before and after: will illustrators be mailing you their art, or mailing the art themselves? If the latter, are you covering their postage & handling costs? Who is responsible for refunding the buyer if the art is damaged en route? Are there going to be any geographic restrictions? After the auction, who is responsible for payment / communication with the buyer, etc? Have all this thought out before approaching illustrators, and please include this info in your initial email – you are far more likely to get interest. Also, for those who read this far – if your email reads like a form letter that is being sent out in bulk to a ton of illustrators, I’m likely to ignore it. Be aware that most children’s book illustrators get approached for free art ALL THE TIME. It can be soul-sucking sometimes, especially when illustrators often tend to get overlooked in the industry.

Thanks for understanding. 🙂

Q. Where can I buy your art / prints / bibliophile jewelry?

(Updated December 13, 2021) I do eventually want to offer these for sale in my Etsy shop. But as I mentioned above, the time involved in admin and listings and mailing has been a challenge for me when I have so many other things I want to do! Ah, what I would give for Hermione’s Time Turner. And Dr. Who’s Tardis! 🙂

Hoping to get my act together in 2022.

I currently have pieces available for sale in the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Picture Book Gallery. I encourage you to browse the whole gallery! Illustrators are donating 60% to help support CCBC and Canada Book Week.


Events

Debbie is available for virtual visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her presentations and workshops can be adjusted to suit all age levels, from kindergarten to college students to educators and other professionals.