• Books,  Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Writer of Wonder Helena Ku Rhee

    It’s always fun finding new writers. While visiting Cythia Mackey’s website I read the most wonderful interview with Helena KuRhee. I fell in love with the idea behind the story of Helena’s new book: The Paper Kingdom! I had to find out more about this story about Helena herself. 

    To read more about Helena visit her website here: http://helenakrhee.com/


    Finding Magic and Wonder Around You

    by Helena Ku Rhee


    I have a rare gift: I’m never bored. Even as a child, I rarely complained of boredom. I wasn’t born with this gift. Instead, it was cultivated in me by two amazing people: my parents.


    When I was little, my parents worked as night janitors in a corporate building in L.A. And on nights they couldn’t find a babysitter for me, they took me with them to work, where they turned drudgery into magic. They told me funny stories about the people who worked in the offices by day, and helped me imagine a fantasyland in that empty office building. Thanks to them, I had early practice in the art of finding fun wherever I found myself. I wrote a children’s book about that time in my life, The Paper Kingdom, and it was released by Penguin Random House in early 2020. More info here: http://bit.ly/2IRw8Ti

    NPR interviewed me and illustrator Pascal Campion about our book, The Paper Kingdom. The interview is all about finding magic and inspiration. You can listen to the 6-minute interview here: https://www.npr.org/2020/03/14/815250760/behold-the-magic-of-take-your-child-to-work-night

    And I’ll let you in on a little secret: this gift of mine can be cultivated in all of us. How? Well, we hear phrases like “be in the now” or “live in the present.” But the key question is: how do you do this on a practical level, on a day-to-day basis?

    I’ll give you one concrete example. When I take my dog Sherwin on an early morning walk, I explore the neighborhood like a writer, hungry for sensory details that I can later use in my stories. I stop to observe the shape of shadows on the sidewalk from a neighbor’s tree. If my dog yanks on the leash to chase a squirrel, I take note of the burn of the leash in my hand, the strain of the muscles in my arm (these descriptions could be used in an action scene). And I try to listen for different layers of sound – the birds gossiping in the trees, an airplane flying overhead, music filtering out from a home. I smell lawns being mowed, the roses blooming near the sidewalk, the exhaust from a car zooming past. I’m hungry for these details because I know they’ll be useful when I sit down at my computer. In other words, my brain is engaged and I’m not bored.

    While I write this, our world is going through a very tough time due to Covid-19. We’re all so grateful for first responders and all those keeping our cities safe, clean, and livable. But people stuck at home may be bored and restless. Perhaps they’re stressed and filled with anxiety. So I get it. It’s not easy to fend off boredom when you’re trapped inside day in and day out. And it’s not so easy to take great interest in the shape of clouds, the sound of rain, the taste of dark chocolate when your mind is filled with worries.

    But I hope that no matter the circumstances, you manage to see magic and wonder in this amazing world. If you’re an aspiring author, that ability is a gift that’ll serve you well with your stories.

    Helena Ku Rhee is a writer based in Los Angeles. You can read more about her books and writing process here: http://helenakrhee.com/

    And if you want to keep posted about Helena’s events and news, subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/cPRrL5 All new subscribers will receive a free dreams-to-reality worksheet Helena put together to achieve her writing dreams. (You can use the worksheet for any goal you may have.)


    You can also follow Helena on Instagram (@helenakurhee), Twitter (@HelenaRhee) and Facebook (Helena Ku Rhee).  

    Each link has a list of places to buy Helena’s books!


    The Paper Kingdom: http://helenakrhee.com/books/the-paper-kingdom/

    The Turtle Ship: http://helenakrhee.com/books/the-turtle-ship/

  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    The Mighty Intisar Khanani –Plus a Prize!

    Some writers get all the luck. Intisar Khanani has the luck of being given a magical name! Her name (pronounced just as it looks) is perfect for a fantasy writer. Intisar loves writing fantasy books with strong female leads. She had me at her name. Today she’s going to talk about mighty girls and I’m so here for this post!

    You can read more about Intisar and her work here: http://booksbyintisar.com/

    Look below this post for a prize!


    Photo of Intisar

    Writing Mighty Girls

    Intisar Khanani

    When I was a young teen, it was almost impossible to find stories in my chosen genre—fantasy—with strong female leads. When I stumbled across Tamora Pierce’s Alanna books, and Robin McKinley’s Damar books, it was like I had finally found stories that called to me. These were girls who stood up and fought for themselves, their people, and those they loved. I was over the moon, and continued to eat up stories of mighty girls as the years passed. I’m forty now, and YA fantasy is still my bread and jam: what I always come back to, and what I write.

    But my conception of what makes a girl mighty has developed over the years, and in many ways departed from where it began. The idea of a girl being mighty because she excels in a man’s world by doing what a man would, only better, is one conception of mighty, and frankly, it’s needed. Absolutely women can kick butt as well as men, in pretty much any given sphere, whether it’s politics or sorcery or sword fighting (admittedly, if she’s of a smaller stature, the type of sword and her technique will differ).

    The trouble is that we’re still playing by the male perspective; creating a valuation of “mighty” as excelling in a male-gendered conception of power. In such a world, being kind or compassionate or merciful are considered feminine and weak. And that does all of us a disservice, especially our young people. Why can’t you save the world, or yourself, through compassion? Through non-violent resistance and a nuanced understanding of mercy, rather than by the sword? Can’t both be considered mighty?

    In my novel, Thorn, I have a young girl who must face both betrayal and a terrifyingly capable magical enemy without herself turning into a ninja or a sorceress. Instead, she must lean into her own personal strengths, and learn to carry the day through her courage, kindness, and intelligence. She is mighty, but not in the typical sense. And her story, I hope, will speak to all of us who can’t hope to win by turning into something we aren’t already.

    As you go forward in your writing adventures, I urge you to consider writing mighty girls who are mighty in who they are—whatever that means for that particular character—gaining power and the ability to influence their story through the inherent might in being true to one’s best self. This is how we win each day, this is how we build better lives, this is how we change the world.

    Let’s get writing!


    Follow Intisar:

    Website: http://booksbyintisar.com/
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/BooksByIntisar

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/booksbyintisar/

    Buy Intisar’s books: 

    Buy Thorn: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thorn-intisar-khanani/1111104034?ean=9780062835703

    For other links to Intisar’s Thorne and other books start here: http://booksbyintisar.com/books/



    One lucky winner will get some website help from Dani Duck. I will review your current website and give you tips to make your site better. If you don’t have a website I’ll help you in setting one up! This includes a 1 hour zoom/email chat to set things up.*

    To enter:

    Comment below: Let Intisar know about your favorite fictional (or non-fictional) mighty girls! Or comment on anything she’s written about in this post.

    Also let me know that you want this prize!


    *Prize must be claimed within 30 days of it’s announcement and used within 6 months.


  • Events,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    How to Hilarity with Henry Herz

    Henry Herz is a hilarious writer. If you aren’t following him on social media you should. You will get a great lesson on what it means to be funny, because his posts are hilarious! Henry has written a bunch of humor books for kids. He has done a lot of speaking events including school visits, conferences and conventions! Today he’s talking about the nuts and bolts of humor writing. You can visit Henry’s website here: http://www.henryherz.com/

    Writing Humor

    by Henry Herz

    Those of you who follow me on social media know that I like to make humorous responses to other people’s posts. Wisecracking comes to me spontaneously. But when Dani asked me to write a blog post, I had to use the analytical side of my brain. So, fair warning: I’m setting your expectations right now. This post about humor will not be funny at all – barren of banter, a wilderness of wisecrackery, and a desert of drollitude. If you want to get up and leave now, no one will think less of you.

    There are many different ways to achieve humor. But there is no specific formula for humor, particularly given how context-sensitive it is. This is by no means a comprehensive list of techniques. But these examples from picture books are intended to light a fire of farce, provide a comic catalyst, and spark some silliness.

    1. Thwarting Expectations – Give the readers something they weren’t expecting. Jean Reagan’s HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDMA offers a good example of the humor of role reversal. Ditto CHILDREN MAKE TERRIBLE PETS by Peter Brown. The following image from my MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES shows a Muffet who, unlike the original, is not at all afraid of spiders.

    2. Bodily Functions – Sigh. It may be low brow, but you can always rely on the Three-B’s of bodily functions (burps, barf, and boogers) to deliver disgusting delight. Consider the anatomical appeal of Taro Gomi’s EVERYONE POOPS or Kotzwinkle and Murray’s WALTER THE FARTING DOG.

    3. Wordplay – English is a complex and nuanced language, providing fertile ground for authors to plant puns and sow idioms. While Dad jokes can sometimes be too subtle for younger readers, they also create language learning opportunities. Examples of this include Tara Lazar’s 7 ATE 9 and my GOOD EGG & BAD APPLE.

    4. Made-up Words – In the tradition of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwock poem, authors can create their own words. Just take care to provide sufficient context that young readers can figure out what you intend. Examples of this include Antoinette Portis’s BEST FRINTS IN THE WHOLE UNIVERSE and Carson Ellis’s DU IZ TAK?

    5. Physical Comedy – Even though the author may not be the illustrator, you can write a scene in such a way that it will involve physical comedy. Examples include Dr. Seuss’s THE CAT IN THE HAT, Judy Schachner’s SKIPPYJON JONES, and my HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS. Yes, that squid is wearing a stolen sweater.


    6. Absurdity / Exaggeration – Creating ridiculous characters or situations where things are taken to an extreme are great ways to induce a smile. Examples include Doreen Cronin’s CLICK CLACK MOO: COWS THAT TYPE, Mac Barnett’s PRESIDENT TAFT IS STUCK IN THE BATH, and Ryan Higgins’s MOTHER BRUCE.

    7. Universality of Humanity – This is the opposite of thwarting expectations. Creating characters that behave in a recognizable way can also bring a laugh. Consider the realistic voice of the crayon characters in Drew Daywalt’s THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT or the realistic behavior of the little red chicken in David Ezra Stein’s INTERRUPTING CHICKEN or the reluctant sleeper in my bedtime picture book, MABEL & THE QUEEN OF DREAMS.

    8. Character Flaws / Quirkiness – No one’s perfect, and usually the less perfect a character is, the funnier things get. The self-delusion of the little fish in Jon Klassen’s THIS IS NOT MY HAT cracks me up every time. Ditto for the conniving pigeon in Mo Willem’s DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS. And who can forget the pantless minor character, Mr. Crabtree, in Mac Barnett’s EXTRA YARN? I cannot.

    9. Mashups – I’ll end with one of my favorite humor techniques — mashing together things that have no business being together. No one expects a lovelorn zombie in Kelly DiPucchio’s ZOMBIE IN LOVE. Or dinosaur pirates in my CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW.

    Now get out there and craft some chortles, administer some amusement, and spread the smiles!


    Follow Henry:

    Website: http://www.henryherz.com/

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/HenryLHerz

    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/henry.herz/

    Buy Henry’s Books:


  • Events,  Schedule,  Spring into Writing

    A Look at the Week: May 3rd-9th

    Not yet signed up for Spring into Writing? Sign up here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-spring-into-writing/ Don’t forget to pick up a badge of your choice and the booklet! 

    A Look at the Week May 3rd – 9th:

    Monday, May 4th: Kaitlyn Sanchez is talking about voice! She’s a writer and Intern at Olswanger Literary. Kaitlyn has generously donated a PRIZE! One lucky person will get a critique from Kaitlyn. https://kaitlynleannsanchez.com/ 

    Wednesday, May 6th: Christina Myers is the editor of BIG: Stories About Life in Plus Sized Bodies. She is a journalist turned freelance writer and editor.  She is talking about writing with kids!    https://christinamyerswrites.wordpress.com/

    Friday, May 8th: Larissa and Keith Marantz are a married couple who created the Clyde the Hippo books. They recently had a book launch for their new books. I am interviewing them about Clyde the Hippo, how they work together and future projects!  http://larissamarantz.comhttp://clydethehippo.com

    Saturday May 9th: A Look At the Week May 10-16th.

    There may be more surprises later this week. Keep checking back (or look in your mail) for more fun! 


  • Events,  Fun,  Spring into Writing,  Writing

    Spring into Writing Starts TODAY!

    Today is the first day of Spring into Writing and do I have a fun month of writing planned for you! I’ve got a bunch of great writers all lined up for you this month. with a fun 50-page workbook you can download and print!

    If you aren’t signed up for Spring into Writing go here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-spring-into-writing/

    Grab one of these two participant badges you see here and put it on your website, blog, or anywhere on social media. Please link to www.daniduck.com/blog

    Here are the links to the workbook. They are both the same booklet but ordered differently depending on how you wish to print them: 

    This is a print ready version of the workbook. Each spread (or two pages) are made to fit on typical printer paper. This is meant to be double sided. The papers can be stapled in the middle into a book:  Spring into Writing Workbook 2020

    Spring into Writing "day" badge. Bunny jumping over flower bush while a duckling and two chicks watch.

    This is the copy to print if you want larger pages. Make sure to set the print to vertical and “fit to page”. You can bind these pages together with staples or a three ring binder. If you want a read-only version this is the one to download.

    Spring into Writing 2020 Booklet


    Spring into Writing "night" badge. Bunny in the shadows holding a red pen. Red ink drips from the pen and saturates the page.

    This event is meant to be relaxing. There are a ton of activities to do in the workbook. You do not need to do any of them to win Spring into Writing. If you have writing to do just continue working on that! Unlike my other event “Smart Dummies” (and other events like it) there is no way to lose Spring into Writing. Everyone wins!

    Sundays I will be posting the weekly schedule of posts. 3 days a week there will be posts from guests. The other two days will be either a post from me or another guest. You can use the planner to write down the guests if you like. 

    There is no particular order in doing the booklet. I wont be announcing which page to do when. I might discuss some of the pages, but any order you want to do the book in is up to you! 


    There are some prizes! Kaitlyn Sanchez is offering a critique for one lucky winner. Her post will be Monday. I am offering a $25 gift card for anyone who helps me get out the word for Spring into Writing. If you talk about me on twitter please tag @daniduck on Twitter or @dani_duck_art on Instagram!  There may be more prizes. They tend to show up at the last minute, and are very wonderful, so keep an eye out!

  • Events,  Fun,  Giveaway,  Spring into Writing,  Uncategorized

    Win a $25 Gift Card!

    Bunny Banner

    I just realized that my post about Spring into Writing registration being OPEN may not have been sent. You can register at the link below.

    Help me get the word out about Spring into Writing and you could win a $25 USD gift card to an indie book store of your choice! You can enter every day by mentioning the event on social media.

    Spring into Writing is a free event to help writers have fun while writing. Since it’s all about having fun you win just by being a part of the event. There will be a free downloadable workbook.

    I can manually add in entries, so if you’ve gone over and beyond what’s in the Rafflecopter  please let me know! Also let me know if you have any trouble entering.

    You must be signed up to Spring into Writing to enter. The new guest list is up, but still in progress! Sign up to Spring into Writing here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-spring-into-writing/ (Signing up is absolutely free!) Feel free to use any of my Spring into Writing images to share with your social media posts! 

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Smart Dummies Finish Line

    Smart Dummies is Over

    How did you do this month? Did you finish your dummy? If you didn’t finish how far did you get? However much work you did CONGRATULATIONS! Smart Dummies is not necessarily about finishing. It’s about making good habits and getting more work done!

    How did you do this month? Did you finish your dummy? If you didn’t finish how far did you get? However much work you did CONGRATULATIONS! Smart Dummies is not necessarily about finishing. It’s about making good habits and getting more work done! If you were able to finish Smart Dummies I have a special badge for you. Please link it to daniduck.com/blog! I will be taking the Smart Dummies booklet offline November 15th, so be sure to pick it up here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

    Smart Dummies 2019 Winner Badge!

    Smart Dummies Survey

    I have a quick 2 minute – 6 question survey to help make Smart Dummies better. Please let me know any problems you had with the event. I can only make things better by knowing. Please include your contact info in the survey if you would like me to address anything. This survey is completely anonymous, so if you don’t give me your info I wont know who completed the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HDG89YR

    Smart Dummies has changed a lot over the years, and next year will be no different, however some things will go back to the way they’ve been for several years. My 3 year old will be in school, so I will have more time during the week to run Smart Dummies. (YAY!) Please let me know if you like or dislike any of the ideas below.

    Smart Dummies 2020

      • Bringing Back Guests – This will possibly bring back prizes! The guest list will be short so you can spend less time reading and more time creating.
      • Process Videos – More videos will be made to help you create your art!
      • More Help – This highly depends on the Survey results, so if you want to see more help, then fill out the survey so I can see what you want! https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HDG89YR (You can also comment below.) 
      • No Pre-Smart Dummies – I loved Pre-Smart Dummies, but it seems as though I’m going through most of the same information twice. I think I can give better and more information if we skip this part of the event. It also feels a bit confusing and makes the event feel like it’s taking up more of the year which is overwhelming on my end (and may be on yours)!
      • Some Pre-Event Activities – I think I will be talking more about editing your story before Smart Dummies. I will be giving a few tips on the event, but wont be providing as much new information before the event. You can still do all of the prep work that Pre-Smart Dummies encouraged, before Smart Dummies begins.
      • A Booklet Redesign – I’m not sure how much is going to change, but I’d like to make some changes to the current booklet!

    Did you like Smart Dummies? Consider Supporting me on Patreon! There will be more great videos all year long plus lots of other great rewards: https://www.patreon.com/SmartDummies

    Want to participate in another great event? Try Spring into Writing starting May 1st! It’s a laid-back event that’s all about having fun while writing. https://www.daniduck.com/springintowriting/

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Perspective & Loose Drawing


    Before you go into perspective or loose drawings make sure that you can visualize your pictures. If possible fix your problems in your thumbnails, because that’s when it’s easiest to make changes. Here are a couple of links for some great design principals. 




    Perspective is one of the necessary evils of drawing, but it’s not too hard to learn. The most important ones to learn is 1 and 2 point perspective. 3 point perspective is also fun, but most useful if you are drawing the tops of buildings/from an overhead perspective. Three point perspective can also be used to draw an object floating/above the ground.

    Scrapped room layout for a picture book dummy.

    I learned perspective in high school. We may have gone over it briefly in university, but being out of practice for so long makes remembering the finder details difficult. I’ve recently had to do a refresher myself to reacquaint myself with perspective. Instead of explaining it myself I’m going to give you links for 3 great videos and some extra explanation for one point perspective!


    One Point Perspective: https://www.studentartguide.com/articles/one-point-perspective-drawing

    https://thevirtualinstructor.com/onepointperspective.html (video and reading/pictures of what’s in the video)

    Two Point Perspective: https://thevirtualinstructor.com/twopointperspective.html (video and reading/pictures of what’s in the video)

    Three Point Perspective: https://thevirtualinstructor.com/threepointperspective.html (video and reading/pictures of what’s in the video)​

    Loose Drawings

    It helps me to work on a full-sized loose version of all my drawings before I start on my finals. Some people find it helpful to use a copier or their computer to increase the size of their thumbnails and draw on top of that. 

    Some people work best going straight into their full sized work after they finish their thumbnails. How you want to proceed is up to you. If you aren’t sure at all how to proceed, please ask! 

    The finals can be somewhat sketchy. There will be some final images to include with your dummy so an editor/agent/art director can better envision the final book.

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Thumbnails and Research

    A Change in Plans

    I had started with a lot of good ideas for a Cinderella story here: https://www.daniduck.com/planning-out-your-pages/. While planning out the pages in thumbnails I realized two things. 1) I realized I messed up with the numbers. I had said there was 13 spreads and there were 14.5. (I’ve changed this on the original.) I realized after the second mistake 2) Doing a 14.5 spread changes everything. And I changed even more to bring it to 15 spreads. Below accurately shows the spreads:

    1. Cinderella’s father remarries. (1/2 spread)
    2. Cinderella’s step mother and sisters are mean to her. (1 spread)
    3. The prince announces there will be a ball so he can find a wife. (1 spread)
    4. Cinderella told she’s not allowed to go to the ball which upsets her. (1 spread)
    5. Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother appears and gives her everything she needs for the ball (Cinderella must be back by midnight). (4 spreads)
    6. Cinderella goes to the ball (2.5 spreads)
    7. Cinderella forgets about the time and rushes out of the ball at the last minute leaving her glass slipper. (1.5 spreads)
    8. The prince looks for Cinderella with the one lost slipper. (1 spread)
    9. The slipper fits. (1 spread)
    10. A royal wedding (1 spread)
    11. The prince and Cinderella live happily ever after. (1/2 spread)

    More Mistakes and a Video

    I realized after I made this video that I missed a spread! I miscounted. The extra spread brings things up to 15 spreads in total which is a colored ends layout: https://taralazar.com/2009/02/22/picture-book-construction-know-your-layout/

    Start your thumbnails out messy. You are just trying to get the basic layout of your story first. Then, start over and make slightly tighter thumbnails, so you can tell better what the images are. This video shows you both tight and loose drawings.



    Now that you have an idea of what your pages are going to look like, take some time to do research. Take pictures, pose your children or pose yourself. (Don’t take pictures of children without written permission from their parents). 

    You can also do an internet search to find reference photos. Photographers are very serious about their photos and will sue if you steal an image directly or have an image too simular to theirs. Use several different images to come up with your illustration. You might take a nose style from a few pictures. Hair styles from another. You can piece together a person from many photos, but drawing all or part of someone else’s photograph/illustration is not a good idea. 

  • Events,  Smart Dummies

    Smart Dummies Week 3: Planning Out Pages/Drawing

    All sorts of things are happening this week!  A bit of planning, research, thumbnails and perspective are all on the schedule. If you have time you can start working on your drawings.

    Smart Dummies Schedule Week 3

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 3 Schedule

    Monday – Planning out pages

    Tuesday – Thumbnails and Research

    Thursday – Perspective & Loose Drawing

    Friday – Book Blog

    Sunday – Smart Dummies Week 4 schedule

    If you haven’t signed up for Smart Dummies do so here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/