Debbie Ridpath Ohi writes and illustrates books for young people in Toronto, Canada. Recent illustration projects include NAKED! by Michael Ian Black and Judy Blume classics reissued in chapter book and middle grade format (Simon & Schuster Children’s). For Debbie’s other current and upcoming book projects with Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins and Random House, visit her website. Also, be sure to check out her blog for writers & illustrators and her Twitter page.
If you were going to spend a year in complete solitude and you could only bring one book, one CD, and one movie, what would they be?
One book: Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
One CD: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles
One movie: The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King
If you could have a remote control for anything, what would you choose?
A time machine.
Which of the Seven Dwarfs would you be?
Grumpy, because he’s the most interesting Dwarf.
What one thing annoys you most at a restaurant?
If you were any animal, what would you be?
A squirrel, because they will eventually take over the world.
If you could change one thing about airlines to make your flight more enjoyable, what would it be?
Make the airport security process less cattle-like.
How would a dictionary define your writing process?
What irritates you the most in a social situation?
Having to small-talk with people with whom I’ve nothing in common and will likely never meet again.
What do Martians do for fun on Mars?
Eat Mars bars.
What word describes the outfit you’re wearing right now?
If you opened the freezer right now, what would you love to find?
A secret doorway into an alternate dimension full of ice cream and no squirrels.
How do you know when a book is finished?
When a deadline looms.
When did you know for certain that you wanted to pursue a career in writing? Have you ever questioned that decision?
Yes, when I kept getting book contracts for illustration, not writing.
I love illustrating children’s books and will never give that up, but I also want to write them as well. And in Summer 2015, I’m getting my wish! My first picture book that I’ve written as well as illustrated, WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, comes out from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. Very excited!
What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have compared to people who are not creative?
I think creative people tend to take more time for solitude.
Do you ever feel that you have to censor your creativity because you don’t want to offend anyone?
Never. However, I don’t share everything publicly.
Do you do anything special to get your creative juices flowing?
I take walks without listening to music or audiobooks, and without any errands along the way. I find that creating a quiet mental space inevitably breeds creativity.
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in the field of writing?
Read as much as possible.
Write every day.
Set regular, specific and achievable goals.
How would you define creativity?
Hmm, tough question. Others may differ, but here’s my attempt at a definition: Creativity is the ability to come up with new ideas and then act on them. I think that if you come up with lots of new ideas but don’t act on them, then that’s more of a case of being imaginative than creative.
Why were you drawn to a career in writing instead of to a job that might offer more stability and security?
I actually did choose a more stable and secure job in the beginning: a programmer/analyst for the head office of a bank. My boyfriend (who is now my husband) convinced me to quit when he saw how unhappy I was, and said he’d support me so I could pursue my creative dreams. I’ll always be grateful to him for that.
What obstacles have you had to deal with in your career?
Rejections. Many, many rejections.
What are the biggest challenges you have had in the realm of your art?
In the beginning, my main challenge was getting children’s book publishers to notice me.
Now that I’m getting book contracts and (yay) making a living at writing and illustrating, my biggest challenge is making time to play. By “play,” I mean doing regular writing and illustrating for the fun of it. It’s the only way I’m going to keep growing as an artist, by experimenting and trying new things.
What life experiences have inspired your work?
Losing members of my family unexpectedly (see this link) has made me more aware of how I choose to live my life, and this has definitely affected how I work as well. I love a quote by Rose Tremain so much that I have a big decal across the ceiling in my office: “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”