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Q&A Blog

5 Favorites from Ed Shankman and Dave O’Neill!

Illustrator Dave O'Neill and Author Ed Shankman.

Author Ed Shankman and illustrator Dave O'Neill are the creative team behind 12 children's books, and counting. From the award-winning I Met a Moose in Maine One Day to the newest title, Where's the Bathroom?Shankman and O'Neill create fun, exciting stories and characters for children and parents to share. 


So what are Ed & Dave's 5 Favorites?:

My favorite place to write/illustrate:

Ed: A lot of my writing takes place in my head — often in the car, in bed, or on a quiet walk — long before I write it down. (It's not unusual for me to jump out of bed at 2:30 AM to capture a stanza that finally falls into place in my mind or some inspirational idea that materializes by my bedside and nudges my shoulder until I give in, get up, and write it down.)

Dave: Anywhere when doodling, but at my home office desk when digitally painting and doing the graphic design work. I used to love drawing on the subway, but now I'd much rather color on the floor with my daughter.

My favorite mentor text:

EdDr. Seuss was a major presence in my childhood. He showed me the music of words. He showed me the enormous value of nonsense (a principle that has permeated my life ever since). Perhaps most important, he demonstrated, beyond any doubt, that the imagination has no limits. He pointed the way through that open door and I've been running through it, gleefully, ever since. I tip my hat to the master.

Dave: So much of what Chuck Jones did in his career drove me to create characters with lots of emotion and comedy. He used to describe looking in the mirror to accomplish this and I loved that idea. 

"You've got a million bad drawings in you; you better get started."― Chuck Jones


My favorite writing/illustrating tip:

Ed: I have two tips. First of all, as others have said: there's no great writing only great editing. So, capture the inspiration, then chisel it mercilessly until it glows. Folks often flatter me by saying that my rhymes sound effortless. They have no idea how much effort that takes. Secondly, to all those who say, "I once thought about writing a story," or, "I'd love to write," or, "I wish I could write", I have a mind-blowing suggestion: write.

Dave: Don't stop drawing ever. Do it every day, even if you hate what you are drawing. You absolutely have to draw each and every day.


My favorite marketing tip:

Ed: As Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck." You never know who you may be talking to on line at the supermarket, who your colleague's father is, or who's going to show up at your next book signing. Talk to everyone as though he or she may hold the key to your success.

Dave: No one knows what you want to accomplish more than you do. You are 1000% in charge of your brand, your work and your titles. Engage with fans, be active online with them and above all, BE KIND. No one wants to deal with a grump. Be kind, give people your time and energy, and they will repay you the best way possible—by being a fan.


My favorite book event of the year:

Ed: My favorite book event has been our annual signing tour in Maine. We sign at stores in the beautiful towns of Freeport, Portland, York, Ogunquit, and Kennebunkport. We've become good friends with the store owners who always welcome us with open arms. Families come to tell us what our books have meant in their lives. What could be more gratifying than that? And in the evenings, between signings, we enjoy the beautiful aura of the great state of Maine.

Dave: My favorite book launch party was at LL Bean in Freeport to launch "I Met a Moose in Maine One Day". The team there made us "Moose" cake, had balloons and placed us right in the main lobby on their big 4th of July party weekend.

To learn more about Ed & Dave's work, visit their website

As always, if you have read any of the books discussed here, please consider writing a quick review using the links above.

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5 Favorites from . . . Rebecca Donnelly!

Author Rebecca Donnelly

Rebecca Donnelly is a middle grade and picture book author. Her most recent books are The Friendship Lie (Capstone) and Cats Are a Liquid (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). She's also a children's librarian. Rebecca lives in northern New York.


So what are Rebecca’s 5 Favorites?:


Favorite place to write:

Most of my writing gets done at the dining room table or the couch, but maybe one day I'll get a real desk!


Favorite mentor text:

For rhyming picture book nonfiction, I love WATER IS WATER, by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin. The gentle rhythm, the perfect page turns--it's genius.


Favorite writing tip:

Not sure if this is a tip, but as you go along in your career, your ability to glean the useful elements of an idea and visualize it as a written piece tends to improve. It gets easier to yes to the right ideas and no to the wrong ideas. If it seems like all you see are the wrong ideas, wait--the right one will come along.


Favorite marketing tip:

If you buy one thing to advertise your book, buy postcards. They're versatile and comparatively cheap, and they make a great showcase for your cover. You can use them like a bookmark, but you can also mail them!


Favorite book event of the year:

I don't make it to a lot of big book events, but every year, I go to the Empire State Award luncheon at the New York Library Association conference. It's always a joy to listen to the current winner's speech and get a book signed. The award is given annually to a children's author or illustrator living in New York State, and we have a lot of authors here! This year, it's going to Bryan Collier.


To learn more about Rebecca’s work, visit her website.

As always, if you have read any of the books discussed here, please consider writing a quick review using the links above.


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5 Favorites from . . . Debbie Ridpath Ohi!

Author/Illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? and Sam & Eva (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). Her illustrations also appear in books by Michael Ian Black, Judy Blume, Rob Sanders, Lauren McLaughlin, Aaron Reynolds and Colby Sharp. Debbie writes about reading, writing and illustrating books for young people at


So what are Debbie’s 5 Favorites?:


My favorite place to write:

My favorite place to write is in my basement office, with the door closed.

However, I make a point of regularly writing in other places as well, so I can still be productive when I'm on the road. For that reason, I try to do a lot of writing on my iPad Pro. Whenever possible, I take my sound-cancelling headphones so I can work anywhere and not get distracted.


My favorite mentor text:

I have sooooo many, both picture books and middle grade! One of my current favorites in middle grade: The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. I love the storytelling format combining memories, facts about jellyfish and current action. Another is When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead because of the way the different story lines interconnect, the inclusion of small details that enhance reader experience, and the way pieces in the mystery gradually fall into place.


My favorite writing tip:

Instead of worrying about getting everything perfect the first time, get the first draft FINISHED. If there are detail-y bits you still need to work out, stick in placeholder text like "<something amazing here>" or "<xxx>" that you can search for later, if you need to. You will be revising later, but you can't revise

a blank page.


My favorite marketing tip:

Instead of doing hard-sell marketing ("My book is available for pre-order! Please buy!") when your book is about to come out, work on building relationships NOW. Support and get to know like-minded people in the kidlit community. Engage. Give good karma and it will come back to you.


My favorite book event of the year:

My favorite has always been nErDcamp Michigan. I always learn so much from the educators at the event, and I love that nErDcamp has always been focused on educators and their young readers rather than the authors, and am grateful to the behind-the-scenes volunteers to run the event.

To learn more about Debbie and her work, visit her website. (Picture-book writers—check out Debbie’s guides, free templates, and resources for Creating Picture Books!)

As always, if you have read any of the books discussed here, please consider writing a quick review using the links above.


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