Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers<br>La société canadienne des auteurs, illustrateurs et artistes pour enfants

NOTES from April 10, 2019 Meeting; PANEL: S.K. Ali, Tanaz Bhathena, Karen Li, Jael Richardson (moderated by Nadia Hohn)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 1:49 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

NOTES from April 10 Meeting; PANEL: S.K. Ali, Tanaz Bhathena, Karen Li, Jael Richardson (moderated by Nadia Hohn)

Sharon Jennings welcomed the panel, and although she had thanked all CANSCAIP volunteers at the AGM earlier that evening, she thanked again the volunteers in the room tonight.


Lana Button, our CANSCAIP liaison for IBBY Canada informed us about IBBY’s AGM on Monday, June 17 6:00 to 8:00, at the Toronto Public Library Northern District Branch.

Werner Zimmermann In conjunction with a show of the art and studies from At the Pond, he will be having a studio open house, Saturday May 11 and Sunday 12, from 10:00 to 5:00 each day. The show will hang until May 31. Werner’s studio and Gallery Catch 23 is in Guelph at 23 Wyndham St South, second floor. Please visit: 

Michele Nidenoff We currently have 22 illustrators confirmed with approximately 38 pieces of artwork for the CANSCAIP Art Show. The opening reception is Thursday, May 16 from 7:00 to 9:00 at the Canadian Contemporary School of Art at 109 Vanderhoof Avenue (Eglinton and Laird area). The show runs until May 31, and is open to the public Monday to Friday from 11:00 am to 7:30 pm, and Saturday from 9:00 to 12:00.

Bev Katz Rosenbaum Bev will be offering writing for children classes for beginning writers in her home (St. Clair-Bathurst area). Each session is four weeks long. Classes are held on Thursday evenings and will run from 7:00 to 9:00. The fee is $100 + HST per session. The Spring session starts Thursday, May 2.  Advanced classes will be offered according to demand.  Bev is an MG and YA author; her new book, Who is Tanksy? is being published by Orca Books (September 2019). For more details, see

John Corr This new CANSCAIP Member is having a book launch for Eight Times Up (Orca Book Publishers, 2019) on Saturday, May 4, from 12:00 to 2:00 at Hamilton Public Library, Central Branch. All are welcome! Story synopsis: Ever since his mom left, Riley has been a mess. When his dad signs him up for the martial art aikido, Riley meets much tougher boys, and Wafaa, a girl who is tougher than all of them put together. Riley comes to understand that it's not about winning or losing, but about finding allies to take on life together. 

Kathy Stinson The Dog Who Wanted to Fly, illustrated by Brandon James Scott, published by Annick Press in March 2019. Kirkus Reviews calls it "A heartwarming story of the powers of affirmation and determination… expertly illustrated." Kathy is also conducting an evening workshop on May 6 on "What's Important to You as a Writer" for Kitchener Public Library -  at Country Hills.

Kathy Kacer The Sound of Freedom (2017) and Masters of Silence (2019) are part of The Heroes Quartet, a four-book YA Historical Fiction series from Annick Press. The Sound of Freedom: Bronislaw Huberman, a famous violinist, rescued 100 Jewish musicians (and their families) from across Europe, as escape routes for Jews were disappearing. Masters of Silence: Marcel Marceau, one of the greatest mime artists of all time, rescued 150 Jewish children who were hiding in orphanages and convents in southern France. Books three and four will focus on women rescuers. Stay tuned!

Marthe Jocelyn One Patch of Blue (Orca, March 2019): A wordless board book that follows the journey of one patch of denim as it escapes from a pair of pants and transforms into many other objects. One Yellow Ribbon (Orca, March 2019): A wordless board book that follows the journey of one yellow ribbon as it transforms into many other objects.

Loretta Garbutt The Stopwatch (Kids Can Press, Spring 2020). A child remembers how he and Grampa used a stopwatch to time everything together. But now Grampa is gone and time has no meaning, but he’s closer to Grampa than he realizes. This story was a finalist in CANSCAIP's Writing for Children Competition.


Nadia Hohn introduced our panel: SK Ali, Tanaz Bhathena, Karen Li, Jael Richardson 

In this conversation about diversity in CanLit and CanYA Lit, Nadia began with some U.S. stats and facts: In 2014, 85 books out of 3500 have been written by African Americans. In 2018, the numbers were 202 out of 3,617. The numbers have grown significantly between creators of colour in 2014 to 2018 but the trend still remains. “As people of colour, we are still largely being written about instead of being the ones getting our writing published about ourselves. The numbers and sentiments are similar for First Nations and Asian Pacific peoples as well.”

Here are the highlights of the panel’s conversation about their own experiences, how they found their voices and what the future holds.

Jael Richardson  is the author of The Stone Thrower, and is the artistic director of FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity).  She grew up with books she didn’t identify with, and didn’t see any writer who looked like her. Diversity means looking for a range of people writing and, for example, those who grow up in poverty can’t navigate the system and get into publishing either as a writer or an editor. It’s not just about colour.

Jael was eventually empowered by authors she identified with. It’s about recognizing the power that you can claim to tell your own story. “When you read 10 stories a year and you aren’t in any of them, it’s a collective that says you don’t belong or you only show up as the bad guy.”

Thoughts on appropriation: Jael wants people to consider the stories that they were meant to write. “Think about the books you’ve read recently and think about whose story is missing.” Jael is on a mission to elevate the stories we haven’t seen enough of.

Tanaz Bhathena is the author of A Girl Like That and Beauty of the Moment. Growing up in India, there were no Farsi writers in fiction. She eventually discovered Rohinton Mistry and for the first time, discovered people who spoke and thought as she did. It was like being immersed into a different world. Even a recipe in his book amazed her. She thought ‘maybe I can do the same for teenagers.’ She didn’t know who her audience would be, but wanted to be real, in her voice.

Thoughts on appropriation: Even when writing in your own voice, remember that your perspective is only one perspective. There are many other Zoroastrian voices from other walks of life and they should be represented as well.

SK Ali is the author of Saints and Misfits and Love A to Z. As a Muslim, she found mostly negative representation for her culture. She grew up with books by Muslim writers but they weren’t children’s fiction. She realized she could define herself in a different way, and in university, decided to write in her Muslim voice. She felt emboldened when her prof liked that she wrote unapologetically. To find her voice she had to go against the grain.

Thoughts on appropriation: Muslim stories have been told by others for so long. “Is it really your story to tell?”

Karen Li is the Editorial Director at Owlkids, and has always worked at smaller publishing houses. She finds that they can sometimes take more risk with diverse stories. When children don’t see characters that look like them, they think they can’t do those things. Children are literal in how they are represented in the world.

Thoughts on appropriation: “We are always wrestling with that. I like to have conversations with authors to see if they have given thoughts as to why this is a story they want to tell. There are many ways to have this conversation and editors should.” The most moving stories are always personal ones.

There is a lot of desire to change the makeup of the publishing industry. Here are some tangible incentives: OAC (Ontario Arts Council) offers an internship to someone with indigenous background. Check out the Ontario Book Publishers Organization to see a list of priority groups.

Nadia Hohn is the author of Harriet Tubman, Freedom Fighter, Malaika’s Winter Carnival, Malaika’s Costume. Thoughts on appropriation: “There needs to be a humbleness when writing stories that aren’t your own. We can’t be the experts on another’s culture.”

After many thoughtful questions from Nadia, and lots of spirited discussion, Nadia thanked the panel, saying that she loves these conversations!

Sharon thanked the panel, noting that S.K. Ali and Karen Li presented at 2018 Packaging, and Tanaz Bhathena is a presenter at this year’s PYI conference. She thanked the panel for an informative, consciousness-raising session. “Everyone has the right to tell their own stories and to see themselves in a book.” She closed with a reminder that it is CANSCAIP’s mission to offer professional development so that these needed stories can get published.

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