Debbie Ridpath Ohi
VTB: Today I have the very brilliant Debbie Ridpath Ohi on the blog. Debbie is my idol! 🙂 She’s an amazingly talented writer/illustrator who also runs a terrific blog for children’s/YA writers and illustrators. (You must check out her comic: Will Write for Chocolate – so wonderful!) Everyone should be following her. Debbie, please tell us about your books.
Debbie: My illustrations appear in I’M BORED, a picture book written by Michael Ian Black and published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. It’s about a bored little girl who encounters a potato who declares that children are boring. The little girl sets out to prove him wrong. The book was a Junior Library Guild selection and was also named a New York Times Notable Children’s Book. More info: http://debbieohi.com/bored
I’m also excited about NAKED!, a new picture book that I illustrated for Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, written by Michael Ian Black, which comes out at the end of April 2014. It’s a fun story about a little boy who refuses to put his clothes back on after bath time. You can find out more info here: http://debbieohi.com/naked
VTB: Name three things that inspire you to write/draw.
1. A blank page.
2. A Pentel Pocket Pen Brush.
3. Watching young children play. I love the wonder of that age, the lack of self-consciousness.
VTB: Did you face any obstacles related to being Asian or a person of color on your road to publishing?
Debbie: No, I’m happy to say. In fact, when I told my editor and art director at S&S that I was planning to include an Asian character (mother is Asian, child is half-Asian) into my picture book, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS (comes out 2015), they were delighted.
VTB: What writing/drawing or publishing advice would you like to give to aspiring Asian authors/artists out there?
Debbie: I’d give the same advice that I’d give non-Asian authors/artists: Persistence is key, as is constant practice.
If the topic/focus of your book is multicultural, then you should also check out related publishers. Lee + Low books, for example, is a well-respected publisher of some excellent multicultural children’s books (http://www.leeandlow.com), as is Tamarind (http://www.tamarindbooks.co.uk/aboutus.asp) and Shen’s Books (http://www.shens.com).
Debbie: 12-year-old Tree-ear from A SINGLE SHARD by Linda Sue Park. I love that Tree-ear was willing to work so hard to pursue his dream of becoming a master potter, despite so many obstacles in his path. More info: http://www.lindasuepark.com/books/singleshard/singleshard.html
Another favorite character: Jae Hwa, a 16-year-old Korean girl in Christina Farley’s GILDED (comes out from Skyscape Books in March 2014). I love how Jae’s character develops after she’s uprooted from her L.A. home and moves to Korea, and how she learns how to use her growing power in the Spirit World to fight a Korean demi-god. More info: http://christinafarley.com/books/
VTB: Who’s an Asian writer or artist you wish more people knew about?
Debbie: My sister, Ruth Ohi. I love the characters she creates, and her work is amazing. One of her recent picture books is called KENTA AND THE BIG WAVE, which is a wonderful story about those who helped in the aftermath of the Japan tsunami, and how a boy’s prized soccer ball is returned by a child on the other side of the world. Kirkus gave it a starred review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ruth-ohi/kenta-and-the-big-wave/
Ruth also illustrated Joy Kogawa’s NAOMI’S TREE, a beautiful and moving story about a little girl moving from Japan to Canada just before World War II.
You can find out more info about Ruth and her books (nearly 60 of them!) here: http://www.ruthohi.com/
Debbie: Oh, it’s so hard to choose! But one of my favorites has always been DANDELION WINE by Ray Bradbury.
VTB: If you could be any character from any book and live in that book’s world for a day, who would you pick?
Debbie: Harry Potter. The day? When Harry moves to Hogwarts.
VTB: If you were a bender (from the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe), what element would you choose and why?
Debbie: Air. I want to fly!
VTB: Last but not least, Mako or Bolin?
VTB: Thank you, Debbie! I’M BORED is out now and NAKED! releases April 2014. Pre-order your copy ASAP!!!
DEBBIE RIDPATH OHI writes and illustrates books for young people in Toronto, Canada. Her illustrations appear in I’M BORED (NYTimes Notable Book, 2012) and NAKED! (2014), both picture books written by Michael Ian Black, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. For Debbie’s other current and upcoming book projects with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Random House: http://debbieohi.com/books. Her blog for writers/illustrators: http://inkygirl.com. Twitter: @inkyelbows.
Photo credit: Mahtab Narsimhan