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Ryanby Ryan Hipp

When I was very young, I fell in love with the Smurfs—it was when the English-translated European film The Smurfs and the Magic Flute debuted on a weeknight and then heralded in the new Smurfs cartoon on ABC Saturday Morning Cartoons every week thereafter.

Around the same time, I discovered Richard Scarry’s books, and the Mr. Men/Little Miss series by Roger Hargreaves. As long as I can remember, I have found that my passion to write and draw came from the things that I loved.





I have always gravitated towards creating work that will homage the things I love. I will either hide little nods to my past in my writing or art, or in some cases I am completely literal. I refer to the work I do as Nerdcore artwork. Nerdcore is a term derived by a movement in hiphop to use dorky subjects like comic books and video games as references and subject matter in the lyrics or as samples – I apply that same concept to the artwork I do to stay fresh and relevant.

I find inspiration in everything I love, and naturally, as an artist I want to honor and showcase what I love to tell the world more about me. Once a week, I try to illustrate a new piece. Something either current or nostalgic. Its my way of showing my fanbase topics they may not even be aware of and giving these genres a new voice.


As writers and artists, it is important to take what we love—to take what inspires us—and let it reflect back to our audiences.

littlestepscoverRyan Hipp is a published author-illustrator of books for kids from Grand Rapids, MI., honored by the MRA as recipient of the Gwen Frostic Award for work greatly impacting literacy. Ryan is the leading expert in Michigan on fostering visual literacy and creative thought; with 10 years experience and research in the field. He actively gives presentations to aid educators to inspire and motivate young people. Ryan is dedicated to helping kids achieve their goals and overcome life’s obstacles as depicted in his newest book LITTLE STEPS. Visit him at

PrizeDetails (2)

Ryan is giving away an original sketch on bristol board.

Leave a comment below to enter. One comment per person, please.

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

kickstarterGot a great creative project? Kickstart it! Author-illustrator Ryan Hipp did! is a website that enables artists to pitch a project, collect pledges in exchange for incentives, and finance their creative endeavors.

My friend Ryan Hipp recently went through a personal crisis and emerged triumphant on the other side. He translated that experience into a delightfully charming story, LITTLE STEPS: “Thru the short life-cycle of a caterpillar, we learn life is difficult, yet precious.” In order to bring this project to life, Ryan turned to Kickstarter, and he’s here today to explain the genesis of LITTLE STEPS and his Kickstarter experience.

He’s only a few hundred dollars short of his goal, so I hope you’ll consider backing LITTLE STEPS, too! (I did!)


Ryan, what inspired you to create LITTLE STEPS?

Great Question. Normally, I struggle and struggle to come up with an idea for a good story. But when the idea for LITTLE STEPS came to me, it came to me when I needed it the most, and came to me quite clearly. LITTLE STEPS wasn’t part of my plan, but, in a way, that is exactly why it was a perfectly-timed inspiration for me. It was at a point in my life where my plans all fell apart. I’ve had a pretty carefree life up to a point. I guess I had been living my life thinking I was in a protective bubble, and couldn’t see that it was about to pop. Then my life really changed abruptly without warning, and I was a mess after. During the time trying to pick up the pieces and rediscover myself, it dawned on me there was a way to universally sharewhat I learned on my journey through the power of words and pictures—what I know best.

littlestepsHow did LITTLE STEPS become a Kickstarter project?

I knew this project I needed to keep pretty close to my chest. Being much more of a personal expression of myself than any other work I have done, I just didn’t want to expose it to the familiar channels of traditional publishing like my other books. I had to do this one on my own. So that was when I thought of Kickstarter. Kickstarter is allowing me to create the book the way that I need to and 100% on my own terms.

Beyond the Kickstarter seed fund, what are your goals for LITTLE STEPS?

My goals for LITTLE STEPS is to help people. Especially families. If I did my job right, the book will resonate just as much with adults as children. I think LITTLE STEPS carries so many strong themes that anyone can relate to. Life can be really hard, and I tried to make the symbols in the book be applicable to all the myriad struggles, fears, roadblocks, and hardships that we all face. I want LITTLE STEPS to inspire those that read it to overcome anything that is thrown at them. To overcome adversity stoically and be better people when they get to the other side. Life is short, and precious, and we should not waste a single day.

littlesteps2What are some do’s and don’ts you learned about Kickstarter projects?

I have learned a lot about Kickstarter. I meticulously scrutinized before pressing the “start” button, but after dotting my I’s and crossing my T’s for the Nth time, I just decided to roll with it. The best advice I can give is use your network. Start with your social media, your friends and family—and then watch the chain reaction. Word-of-mouth is all you really have with a project like this. The biggest “don’t” I learned is don’t assume your audience understands how Kickstarter works. I try to make it really clear to all that if I don’t hit my goal by the deadline, I lose all the pledges. I try to let them know that it is not a donation, but a pledge—a trade for cool incentives. I also try to let people know that a pledge today only gets charged if the project is a success. Anything you can do to ease people into a pledge helps. A lot of people have intentions to pledge, but the secret is getting them to take the action. Everything rides on the supporters.

Is this a great time to be a creative, or what?!

I think in our modern world, it’s becoming much more obtainable for those who want to shine their light on the world to do so. Technology is a gift of opportunity for those brave enough to take their hopes, dreams, and ambitions into their own hands. I say, be creative first. If you make something truly great, the rest will work itself out.

Thanks, Ryan, for letting us know about your worthwhile project and giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse at Kickstarter.

You can learn more about Ryan at his website or pledge your support for LITTLE STEPS at!

You probably know the talented illustrator Ryan Hipp—he’s the guy who designed the first PiBoIdMo logo. Well, now he’s got a cool sketch service to check out. You want something drawn? A robot eating a cupcake? A cupcake eating a robot? Or, even more awesomer—a cupcake robot? He’s your man! Check out his very cool site!

Ryan told me he’s a world-class procrastinator and we battled a little over who was better at putting off things. I think I won. I said I’d continue the argument tomorrow.

But I did ask Ryan to guest blog about his New Year’s resolutions and how to turn procrastination into pro-magination. Take it away, Ryan!

by Ryan Hipp

The New Year is upon us all, and along with all the diets and promises to give up vices, many of us set resolutions and battle with the evils of procrastination in our professional lives. This is no different in the business of children’s literature. Take it from me—someone that really knows the sinking, overwhelming feeling deep in the pit of the stomach—someone that often doesn’t even know where or how to begin.

People ask me all the time, “So when’s your next book out?”. Wow, its, the worst question to get. Lately I say, “Oh yeah, I’m totally working on this awesome thing that I totally can’t talk about because its like on the verge of blowing up big time and I don’t want to unveil it too soon and stuff, you know?” But in secret, I haven’t sat down to work on it in weeks in some cases.

For me, the irony is that the rigors of being a kidlit professional means I spend a ton of time trying to secure school visits or sending out mailings, and not doing the very thing that all of that work stems from—the writing and the drawing. I am often feeling underwater with all the business that goes along with making books, that I have trouble concentrating on…well…making books!

And then there’s just normal life getting in the way. We all can relate to that, excuse or no excuse.

But here’s an indefensible excuse—the other embarrassing reality is that when I do actually have time to be creative and productive, I still sometimes don’t . I’ll get easily swayed by a call from friends to go out to a movie, or whatever. I’ll have full intentions of turning a free 24 hour Saturday into a work day, then find a way to completely blow it on fun and frivolity.

I’ll say, “I can just do it on Sunday”. But do I? Nope.  Encore performance.

I find myself making every excuse in the world to keep away from my desk. Its as if I have a subconscious mental barrier that won’t allow me to begin writing or drawing if my office is cluttered or if I have other things on my mind. And then when I do sit down, sometimes it is a battle to stop goofing around watching cat videos on YouTube.

So here is what I have been doing to combat this of late:

Slow & Steady for the Win
Every little bit helps. 15 minutes a day for a week is still better than failing your intention to sit down for 2 hours on the weekend and then not doing it.

Get Out of the House to Get Work Done
A quiet coffee shop or restaurant away from distractions at home. (Tara: I spend at least one day a week at the library. Otherwise the fridge calls me too often.)

Turn off Phone/Computer
The battle for me is my computer is a tool for research and design—but also a distracting temptation. So I draw my thumbnails away from my desk, and I scribble my notes away from my computer. Then I bring that stuff back home when the momentum will keep me on-task.

Ask Someone Else to Keep Accountability
When you are your own boss, nobody will get on your case if you didn’t write today. So schedule someone to critique your work on a set schedule so you have regular benchmarks to shoot for.

But, when I do get an urge to goof around on YouTube, I cut myself some slack, and remind myself to watch the one thing that usually puts me in the right mood to get productive immediately afterwards. It’s an episode of the Babar animated series titled “To Duet or Not Duet” and it’s a wonderful lesson in procrastination and setting realistic goals. So the next time you are distracted or frazzled, I give you permission to take a break to watch it here:

So what are my resolutions for 2012? I am going to defeat another battle I have—submitting. I am TERRIBLE about sending my work out. But it is really the most important part. I am going to make a better effort at sending out my queries and samples—because all that diligence and hard work means nothing unless it gets discovered.

Be Good and Work Hard!

What are some of your tricks for getting the BIC—butt in chair?

“The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” – Thomas Alva Edison

“In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck.” – Ben Kenobi

Happy Friday the Thirteenth and happy Picture Book Idea Month! My name is Ryan Hipp, I am an author-illustrator of picture books and today’s guest writer for Tara’s blog.

Black cats crossing your path, 13’s abounding, broken mirrors shattering, and walking under ladders are dangerous portents. To an author, these omens cannot compare to the terror of writer’s block! Today I will present the two most important words in picture book publishing: Ideas and luck…and I’ll share why I feel both of those words are meaningless superstitions.


Let’s start with IDEAS.

When people enjoy a book, they often say, “what a great idea.” As someone who makes books for kids, I often get asked, “where do you get your ideas?”

I answer, “Finding ideas is not the challenge for me. The challenge is knowing what idea is the one to build on.” (Tara’s note: see the PiBoIdMo grand prize announcement.)

I don’t know why I have come to this conclusion, but I never understood why so many people focus on the “idea” as being so critical to a successful book. I have exactly 47 great ideas and even more acceptably average ones; more than enough ideas to feed my family for the next 60 years. Unfortunately, before you can spend ideas, you have to invest them––and the exchange rate in the publishing world is blood, sweat, and tears.

Sometimes people want to share with me that they also, “have a great idea for a book.”

Similarly, I am not impressed with people with ideas. Never. Ideas are cheap. They come too easily to all of us. The truth is, there is not a shortage on ideas. Everyone has ideas. Everyone. I am more impressed with something more rare and valuable than an idea: perseverance, practice, dedication, commitment, hard work, and patience. The best idea in the world is a moot point until you start climbing that mountain and joining the other hard workers on the summit.

I don’t want to discount the importance of ideas. Every good book starts with a good idea; but they are just building blocks, not a castle. So my advice is to keep dreaming, and keep generating ideas; but don’t forget the more important step: bring those ideas to life.

Now let’s move on to LUCK.

“Luck is simply how something is explained after it has happened. It isn’t real,” says editor Tim Travaglini.

Your car breaking down is not bad luck. Finding a silver dollar on the ground is not good luck. These events are simply the eventuality of your radiator overheating and someone else having a hole in their pocket. It is that simple. Things happen.

I sometimes hear authors and illustrators humbly say, “I was in the right place at the right time,” when answering questions about their “good luck” in the world of publishing. Needless to say, talent and work may have played a more significant part. To get a picture book deal, good luck is not real. Bad luck is not real. Perseverance, practice, dedication, commitment, hard work, and patience are real.

So on this day filled with luck in this month filled with ideas, I ask of you: keep building, keep working, and have an unlucky Friday the Thirteenth!

ryanhippRyan Hipp is a published author-illustrator of picture books who lives in Grand Rapids, MI. His style is whimsical and obtainable for all ages. Another big part of Ryan’s career is giving presentations: Ryan has developed seminars for teachers, parents, and students––to get kids excited about creativity and to help adults facilitate creativity in kids, too.

(Ryan created the PiBoIdMo logos, so let’s hear a Hipp-Hipp Hooray!)

Thanks to talented illustrator Ryan Hipp, PiBoIdMo participants now have a badge to proudly display on their blogs.

Here it is!


Just right-click “save as…” and store it on your computer. Then upload to your blog.

If you’d like, link the badge to:

But linking is not a requirement. Display the badge as you will!


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As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019

illus by Ross MacDonald
October 15, 2019

illus by Vivienne To
Spring 2020

illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
August 2020

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