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


Keep up-to-date on the latest news from CANSCAIP through the CANSCAIP blog, including news about upcoming meetings and conferences, industry events, awards, new creations and more.

Note: Members and Friends of CANSCAIP can submit information about events, awards and new creations for posting on the CANSCAIP blog. To submit, click here.
  • Wednesday, October 11, 2017 6:58 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    NOTES from October 11 meeting SPEAKER: Sue Todd


    President Sharon Jennings welcomed everyone and introduced some attending CANSCAIP volunteers and staff: Rita Bailey, Patricia Storms, Michele Nidenoff, Holly Main, Rob Morphy, Theo Heras, Anne Laurel Carter, Bev Katz Rosenbaum and Helena Aalto

    Sharon thanked Barbara Greenwood for another outstanding issue of CANSCAIP News and noted that attendee Jo Ellen Bogart did a great job on the Jean Little profile. 


    Three people, attending for the first time, introduced themselves. 


    Celebrate with author Sylvia McNicoll as she launches The Artsy Mistake Mystery at the Art Gallery of Burlington on Sunday, November 5 from 2:00 - 3:30. 

    Melanie Fishbane has several events promoting Maud

    • Saturday, October 14 at 6:30: Book signing at Chapters in Peterborough
    • Sunday, October 22 at 11:00: Books and Brunch with three other authors, presented by Blue Heron Books and held at Wooden Sticks in Uxbridge. Tickets are 25.00 and include food.
    • Saturday, November 11: Melanie is on the Breaking In panel at our Packaging Your Imagination conference. 


    Picture book author Lana Button is CANSCAIP’s new liaison with IBBY - International Board on Books for Young People. IBBY’s Canadian branch was founded in 1980 with a mandate to introduce Canadian children’s literature to the world as well as bring international works to Canada’s attention. IBBY Canada gives out awards and grants and also nominates Canadians for prestigious international awards. Their Children in Crisis fund offers bibliotherapy and helps replace libraries that are destroyed due to war or natural disasters. This year, IBBY has nominated Kenneth Oppel and Isabelle Arsenault for the prestigious international Hans Christian Anderson Award (the little Nobel). Lana urged CANSCAIP members to get more involved with IBBY by volunteering. 

    Sharon passed on message from Teresa Toten about BookShout, on Sunday, October 22 from 1:30 to 6:00 at the Toronto Reference Library’s Bluma Appel Salon. This is the TPL’s inaugural festival of reading for young adults. The afternoon will feature some of YA’s current stars, including S.K. Ali, Kelley Armstrong, Elly Blake, Vicki Grant, Melanie Florence, Lesley Livingston, Richard Scrimger, and Teresa. There will be presentations, questions, and signings. This event is free but you have to register. 


    CANSCAIP’s Administrative Director Helena Aalto noted that our Packaging Your Imagination conference will be on Saturday, November 11. This year, you will be able to buy an audio recording of any additional sessions for an extra $25. Virtual PYI will be offered once again. 

    Our September 20 webinar on grants, given by Heather O’Connor, was very successful. Forty-two people registered. Anyone who missed it can still buy/watch the video recording. 

    Helena noted that at our September meeting she had forgotten to thank Melanie Fishbane for her two years of overseeing CANSCAIP’s social media presence. 


    Sharon relayed the message sent by Eric Walters: Sue Todd’s illustrations on their latest picture book collaboration, Wild Beasts, are “quite frankly, simply brilliant.” 

    Patricia Storms (programming committee) introduced Sue Todd.  A graduate of OCA (now OCADU), she was initially a freelance designer who took up lino carving in her spare time. She has created art for advertising, editorial, and publishing (first for educational books and now trade). She has also created book covers, posters and tee shirts. Her work can be found in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. She has recently taken up portrait painting and is also working on her first graphic novel. In addition to making art, Sue enjoys opera, yoga, and cycling. 

    Sue said she came late to the lino cutting technique, (using ordinary linoleum flooring), but now she has been doing it for twenty years, and the technique provided her with a second career. 

    She began with a slide show on the different tracks her career has taken. She pointed out that it’s useful for artists to make and see their mistakes and failures along the way. She reminded us it’s a journey and that artists are always learning. She did a ton of advertising illustrations for about ten years. These jobs were challenging because the deadlines were incredibly tight.  She did a lot of work for business and legal magazines, until stock images took over from illustrations.  She never tried licensing (wants to) but her work has wound up on products, including Walmart shopping bags. 

    Sue reminded us it’s never too late to bloom. She came very late to children’s trade publishing. She got her first two trade book commissions only in the last couple of years, for books by Tomson Highway and Eric Walters. 

    A highlight of the evening was Sue’s demonstration of her lino cutting technique, pointing out that whatever you carve is a reverse image; it is the space around the line that gets inked. She brought all her tools, and showed us how to carve – always away from the body! Once the linoleum is clamped down and carved, Sue spreads ink evenly on a platen. She uses a tabletop printmaking press for small works, but does larger pieces by hand. Sue mentioned that she likes every stage of this process—thinking of the image, carving it, printing it, and coloring it (computer or analogue). 

    Next, Sue puts printmaking paper on the plate and presses on it to make her print. Her initial thumbnails, only two inches, usually end up being remarkably similar to the final product. She refines and colors the illustrations in Photoshop and likes to use textured backgrounds.  She scans in Kraft paper and colorizes/darkens. 

    Her second trade book was with Orca. She’d mailed them postcards for years and they finally wrote back saying they had a project for her – An African Alphabet, written by Eric Walters. She talked with the editor about how the animals were to be presented (friendly but not anthropomorphic), and she did her sketches after reading about the animals’ habits and habitats. 

    Sue mentioned she had signed a boilerplate contract for her first book, but on An African Alphabet, she hired Sally Keefe Cohen (met through CANSCAIP), who negotiated contract changes for her. 

    She also noted the importance of not putting all your eggs in one basket. She buys mailing lists, sends postcards and bulk emailers, and also has a presence on several websites. 

    She quoted Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: ‘In the realm of ideas, everything depends on the real world, all rests on perseverance.’ 

    She cited as creative inspirations, among others: Barbara Klunder, PeeWee’s Playhouse, Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, mythology, Jim Flora, and George Walker. Sue ended by inviting us to try printmaking with the equipment and linos she brought with her. 

    Sharon thanked Sue for her generosity in sharing her experiences.  





  • Wednesday, September 13, 2017 4:37 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    NOTES from September 13 meeting: 40th Anniversary

    SPECIAL GUESTS: Michael Martchenko, Jean Little 


    President Sharon Jennings welcomed attendees and those tuning in from across the country via our first-ever live-streamed meeting! Sharon is proud to be CANSCAIP’s president for the third time; she hung in for the 40th anniversary cake! 

    Past presidents Nancy Hartry, Sylvia McNicoll, Bill Swan, Sonja Dunn and Kathleen Willing attended this special evening.

    Eleven creators started CANSCAIP on July 1, 1977 in a conversation at a literary festival; they felt a group was needed for support, friendship, advice, and the sharing of professional information. Our CANSCAIP News editor Barbara Greenwood, also a past president, wrote a summary of our organization’s history for the Fall issue. 

    Board members Holly Main, Michele Nidenoff, Patricia Storms, Bill Swan, Cathy Rondina and Recording Secretary Bev Katz Rosenbaum and Administrative Director Helena Aalto were acknowledged. Mireille Messier and Jennifer Mook-Sang were thanked for helping set up and bringing refreshments. In the midst of celebration, Sharon noted the recent losses of Members Janet Lunn and Jan Andrews. 

    Sharon noted that we are trying to make the organization more inclusive for Members across the country. Now, people can attend PYI virtually, and we’re also holding webinars. And tonight is our first attempt at live-streaming a meeting!


    Barbara Reid presented her new book Picture the Sky, published by Scholastic. 

    Patricia Storms presented her new illustrated book If You’re Thankful and You Know It, published by Scholastic, with text by Chrissy Bozik. 

    Lorna Poplak presented her adult book, Drop Dead: A Horrible History of Hanging in Canada, published by Dundurn Press. 

    Jennifer Mook-Sang presented Captain Monty Takes the Plunge, published by Kids Can Press. Jennifer pointed out this book was a former winner of CANSCAIP’s Writing for Children competition. 

    Heather Camlot presented Clutch, a middle-grade novel, published by Red Deer Press. Set in Montreal during the time Jackie Robinson played baseball there, the story features a boy trying to get out of his poor Plateau neighbourhood. This debut novel was also a winner in the CANSCAIP Writing for Children competition. 

    Nadia Hohn first announced that her picture book Malaika’s Costume won an honorable mention at the Americas Awards and she will attend the ceremony in Washington at the Library of Congress. Next, Nadia presented the sequel to that book, Malaika’s Winter Carnival, in which Malaika joins her mother in Canada. 

    Michelle Kadarusman presented The Theory of Hummingbirds (Pajama Press), a mid-grade novel about becoming your truest self. 

    Kate Blair presented her second book, Tangled Planet, published by DCB, Cormorant’s young adult science fiction imprint. It features a young engineer on a starship planet not as uninhabited as previously thought. 

    Mireille Messier presented Moi Aussi!, the story of two girls striking up a friendship. One gets so caught up in the spirit of things that she lies about something they have in common. 

    Sylvia McNicoll presented The Artsy Mistake Mystery, the latest in her Great Mistake Mysteries series. It is based on an experience she had losing a painting of Michael Martchenko’s while in charge of a CANSCAIP art show! 

    Sharon presented several books on behalf of Members not attending.  Charis Cotter’s The Painting, is a middle-grade novel published by Tundra, in which a girl going through a difficult time finds she can walk into a painting. Margriet Ruurs’ latest non-fiction picture book, Birthdays Around the World (Kids Can Press), illustrated by Ashley Barron, depicts the various ways birthdays are celebrated. Mine, by Natalie Hyde, is a mid-grade laugh-out-loud novel (Scholastic) in which a boy tries to thwart the long run of bad luck that has plagued his family. The launch for Mine is on November 4 at the Earth Sciences Museum at the University of Waterloo. Holly Hatam has illustrated a picture book Dear Girl (Harper Collins) which  encourages girls to love who they are, inside and out. 


    Helena Aalto, CANSCAIP’s Administrative Director, announced that she and Debbie Ohi are looking for volunteers for CANSCAIP’s newly formed Social Media Committee. Also on the committee are Melanie Fishbane and Karen Krossing. Volunteers need only spend 15-30 minutes a week on this. They must be comfortable with social media. There is a sign-up form Debbie’s website. 

    Our annual PYI conference will take place on Saturday, November 11th, at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute. Andrea Beck, the author of this year’s grade one book giveaway, is our morning Keynote speaker; Ken Setterington will give the Claire Mackay Memorial Lecture. 


    For our 40th anniversary, we celebrated some early Canadian children’s publishing success stories. The partnership of Michael Martchenko and Robert Munsch is certainly that. Their story began with the 1980 publication of The Paper Bag Princess, which is still in print! Jean Little was one of the eleven founding Members of CANSCAIP. On that memorable day, when planning this support group, Jean said, “This will never last.”  A very funny program of reminiscences and advice ensued. 

    You can view the entire evening at the recording of our live-streamed meeting.










  • Wednesday, July 19, 2017 10:22 PM | Sharon Plumb (Administrator)

    Registration is now open for the CANSCAIP Prairie Horizons 2017 Conference: Beyond Limits!

    The conference takes place September 15-17 at Queen's House Retreat and Renewal Centre in Saskatoon. 

    Find details and registration information at the CANSCAIP Sask Horizons website

  • Wednesday, June 14, 2017 4:55 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    NOTES from June 14 Meeting; SPEAKER: Frank Viva


    CANSCAIP President Sharon Jennings greeted a large and very enthusiastic crowd to our last meeting of the season until September. Sharon introduced and thanked the volunteers present: Michelle Nidenoff, Holy Main, Patricia Storms, Theo Heras, Gillian O’Reilly, Heather Camlot, Gillian Dobson, and also our one staff person, Administrative Director Helena Aalto.

    Sharon invited Mahtab Narsimhan to the front as we say good-bye. Mahtab is moving to Vancouver, and although she will be missed here, she will be a fabulous friend to our British Columbia community. Finally, Sharon invited newcomers to introduce themselves.

    Sharon welcomed Christie Williamson, Manager of Children’s Books at the nearby Indigo. Suggested by Jennifer Mook-Sang, Jennifer Maruno and Sylvia McNicoll, Christie coordinated a book signing from 4:00 to 7:00 today, open to any CANSCAIP members available to drop in, and the signed books will be part of a local authors display in the store.  Eric Walters asked to introduce Christie, and said she is one of the best booksellers in the business. Christie talked about the importance of a relationship with bookstores and booksellers, and encouraged us to introduce ourselves and to bring our books to her attention – these people want to sell our books!


    Jennifer Mook-Sang announced that she won the Surrey Schools’ Book of the Year Award for Speechless.


    Mireille Messier is the author of Fatima and the Clementine Thieves (Red Deer Press), illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard. Based in Morocco and inspired by an African proverb, it is the story of a young girl who struggles to save her family’s clementine orchard from mysterious thieves.

    Eric Walters presented 90 Days of Different (Orca), a YA novel with a twist. Sophie’s boyfriend breaks up with her at the end of high school because she is too predictable. Her best friend makes her try all kinds of new things – and she has to write about them on social media. Readers can use social media to actually interact with “Sophie” (who Eric said is NOT him pretending to be a high school girl!) and give her advice.

    Patricia Storms illustrated By the Time You Read This, written by Jennifer Lanthier (Clockwise Press), in which Oscar pens the ultimate break-up letter to his former Partner in Adventure and now Sworn Mortal Enemy. Is this childhood friendship doomed to destruction along with the world of imagination the two have built together?


    Anna Aleksanyan, co-founder of the new Canadian Contemporary School of Art in Toronto, invited creators to check out their website ( regarding visits and exhibits.

    The Canadian Children’s Book Centre is now accepting applications for 2018 Book Week Tour.

    Gillian O’Reilly invited everyone to the Osborne Collection’s summer exhibit “Paws, Claws, Wings and Stings: Children’s Books About Animals”, featuring bestiaries, picture books and early science texts, as well as modern works encouraging conservation of our natural world. On until September 9 at the Lillian H. Smith branch of Toronto Public Library. 


    Patricia Storms introduced and welcomed our speaker Frank Viva.

    Frank Viva is an image-maker, art director, brand developer, and highly talented illustrator and author. His artwork appears regularly in The New York Times, and on the cover of The New Yorker. (He couldn’t show us, or give us any hint, but he is finally getting his “punch at Trump” on an upcoming cover.) 

    His Toronto based Viva & Co. studio does branding, product design, corporate identities, digital and website design. He had slides of much of his work and we were surprised at the number of clients: Cottage Life, Le Crueset, vineyards in France and Italy (or Frataly, as he put it), Butterfield & Robinson, the New York subway, private schools, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and so many more. Frank told a funny story about riding his bike past the New York Life Insurance Company building in Manhattan as an art student (he studied Fine Art), certain that he would never be part of that ‘big money’ world; he now he designs the company’s annual reports.

    Frank started doodling in sketch books 30 years ago and has kept them all. He noted that his sketches are “all over the map” – just his “daily impressions”.  Frank informed us that he “trained his eye” to see colour, and that he always sees colour first. He finds that there are “threads” within his sketches that will connect in some way for him even though they were drawn years apart. An editor at Little, Brown saw a sketch of a “zany” character riding a bike, and suggested a book based on this character. Along a Long Road, his first book, was the result (nominated for a GG), and was created as one long 40 foot illustration. Frank lamented that once in book format, nobody noticed! But it is now on display in all its glory at the Eric Carle Museum of children’s book illustration. 

    Outstanding in the Rain: A Whole Book with Holes is based on oronyms – phrases which sound the same: I scream – ice cream. It was a two year challenge to figure out a story around a complicated art/design of die-cuts in the pages, where the holes turn into pictures that have to make sense on both sides of the page; fork handles become four candles, and so on. One of his best experiences was a trip to Antarctica – talk about colour! A Trip to the Bottom of the World resulted. After a few picture books, Frank wrote, illustrated, and designed the well-reviewed middle grade coming of age novel Sea Change.

    Frank said he started as a designer and moved to writing copy. He then tried illustration and thought about writing and illustrating books for young people. He humbly told us that he decided to combine his three talents – design, illustration, writing – because “I’m not the best at any of these.” Audience members laughingly disagreed: one noted that he has an immediately recognizable style; another noted that the creativity in his books is truly inspiring. Frank mentioned that his day job was design, and that he worked on books evenings and weekends. But now his books are bringing his design work to the attention of new clients, and so his two careers “bleed” back and forth.

    After Frank answered questions, he finished his fascinating talk by telling us that, “I never grew up, and I’m happiest in the middle of solving a design problem.”

    Sharon thanked Frank for his inspirational session, commenting that it is always fascinating to learn of another’s zigzag career to the wonderful world of children’s books.

  • Thursday, June 01, 2017 7:36 PM | Sharon Plumb (Administrator)

    CANSCAIP Sask Horizons presents award-winning children's authors Alice Kuipers and Arthur Slade for two online talks on June 19, 2017 between 1 and 3 pm.

    Alice Kuipers will speak at 1 pm on "A Writing Life: Maximizing your Writing Time while Finding the Joy in your Work".

    Arthur Slade will speak at 2 pm on "10,000 Easy Ways to Market Your Book".

    Both talks will be shown as live Facebook videos on the authors' Facebook fan pages. You will be able to ask questions during the presentations, or you can email your questions in advance to the authors at or .

    Alice's Facebook page is and Art's page is

    Both talks will be recorded for future viewing.

    For more information, go to .

    Thank you to the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild for sponsoring these talks through a Writing Group Grant.

  • Monday, May 29, 2017 10:05 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)


    President Sharon Jennings welcomed everyone, including a sprinkling of newcomers. Sharon noted that she was still at the front of the room because at last month’s AGM, she agreed to stay on for a second term to finish projects started. Enthusiastic applause followed this announcement. 

    Mentioning that we are such a great group of friends, she then announced the sudden death of Gisela Sherman, a friend to many for so many years. Gisela was a Past President of CANSCAIP, an author, actor, and environmentalist. Her last book, The Farmerettes, was nominated last year for The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction. Always the dedicated CANSCAIP volunteer, Gisela will be missed. 


    JoEllen Bogart presented her new picture book Counting Chickens (Tundra Penguin/Random House). A different kind of counting book, it invites readers to count groups of chickens with something in common, as in "How many chicks have chicken pox?"

    Michele Nidenoff presented a book she illustrated, Children's Prayers with Hope Bear (written by Judy Rois), published by the Anglican Foundation of Canada to coincide with their 60th Anniversary. The book has 24 prayers for liturgical seasons, holidays and everyday situations in a child's life such as starting school, the arrival of a new sibling, loss of a loved one, and it features a teddy bear named Hope Bear. There will be a book launch and exhibition of original artwork with a reception Saturday, June 10th 7:00 - 9:00 pm, exhibit continuing Sunday June 11th 12:00 to 4:00 pm at Rosedale Presbyterian Church, 129 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto. 

    Jennifer Maruno presented her first picture book. Moose’s Roof (Tuckamore). Until he found a park pavilion, Moose had never thought about a roof. His friends Beaver, Bear and Squirrel all seem to be roof experts. With their help, Moose puts his antlers to good use and soon has his own roof. But Moose finds that carrying a roof day and night makes him very tired and cranky. Can Moose learn to be himself again?           


    Theo Heras, IBBY Canada Vice President, noted that IBBY is still looking for a CANSCAIP/IBBY liaison. Ruth Bradley-St-Cyr has received IBBY Canada’s Frances E. Russell Grant to support her research on the development of children’s literature in Canada in the early 1970s. The annual USBBY conference will be at the University of Washington in Seattle from October 20 to 22. The USBBY conference will include keynotes by CANSCAIPers Sarah Ellis and Teresa Toten and Theo Heras will present a paper. 

    Sylvia McNicoll sent an Access Copyright update. Payback claims will be accepted until May 31st. All writers and visual artists affiliated with Access Copyright as of December 31, 2016 are eligible to submit a claim for the 2017 Payback payment, distributed in November. Visit for more information. Access Copyright royalties, will be significantly lower this year. These diminished payments are directly related to decreased licensing revenue from the education sector, which is attempting to enshrine broad “fair dealing” policies surrounding content use that are designed to permit much of what is offered through Access Copyright’s licences for free. Canadian creators as well as publishers have been impacted by these policies. The federal government’s upcoming review of the Copyright Act this fall will be an important opportunity for members of Canada’s creative community to be vocal and share their perspective. Prior to the launch of the review, we encourage you to contact your local MP and illustrate how the issue of “educational fair dealing” has impacted you. Access Copyright has prepared a public advocacy tool kit, available here:


    CANSCAIP's administrative director Helena Aalto noted that CANSCAIP has concluded its strategic planning with Jennifer Murray, who advised us to try and raise more money to undertake initiatives and provided suggestions for likely sources of government funding. 

    CANSCAIP wants to make our meetings accessible to members across country via livestreaming and will also doing more webinars. (Webinars, for which we charge a low fee, also raise revenue for CANSCAIP). In September, Heather O’Conner will be doing a webinar for us on grant writing. 

    The Writing for Children Competition deadline is June 30th. This is a good opportunity for unpublished writers to get feedback. Submissions go through one to three rounds with readers, and three publishers will read the works of finalists and winners. 

    The Packaging Your Imagination conference will be held Saturday, November 11th the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, where it was held last year. 

    SPEAKERS: Panel of Forest of Reading Award Nominees 

    Sharon Jennings introduced our panel of writers who have been nominated for one of the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Awards (Tree Awards). Teresa Toten, author of a dozen books and winner of the GG, is nominated for the Red Maple for Shattered Glass.  John Spray, who sponsors The John Spray Mystery Award presented annually at the TD Gala, is nominated for the Golden Oak for Next Round: A Young Athlete’s Journey to Gold. Sue Irwin, Silver Birch Non-fiction nominee for her first book, Safety Stars: Players Who Fought to Make the Hard Hitting Game of Hockey Safer, is an elementary school teacher and avid hockey fan. Lena Coakley, nominated for the White Pine for Worlds of Ink and Shadow, was formerly CANSCAIP’s office administrator; her first YA novel The Witchlanders won SCBWI’s Crystal Kite Award. 

    Jennifer Maruno moderated the panel and presented a series of questions. 

    What is your writing routine? 

    Lena is at her desk by 9 and works until 4:30. It took her a long time to get this disciplined.

    Teresa can only do a first draft at home. As she spends so much time on the road these days, when she’s home she writes for long hours every day. 

    Sue has a day job, so her writing starts at 7 pm. During her writing time, she tries not to go online. She aims for 500 words a day and uses Scrivener software. She writes on Saturdays, too. 

    John Spray has his own investigative agency so he writes from 10 pm to 1 am, and also on weekends. 

    How do you measure success? 

    John says if he’s pleased with what he’s written and gets accolades/gratitude from kids, that’s all the reward he needs. 

    Sue loves researching and celebrating discoveries; she finds her satisfaction in finding out something new and sharing it with kids. 

    Teresa says that on her 12th book, she is still as anxious and fearful and nervous as she was when she started. She says her books are never as close to what they are in her head. It’s always a struggle, but you have to believe the struggle is worth it. 

    Lena has come to love the process and says you have to find satisfaction in that. If she’s not having fun, she will write something else that she really loves. 

    What one thing would you liked to have known before you started this career? 

    Sue didn’t realize that so much was involved in marketing and promoting, and would have done more research and implementation of marketing/promotion initiatives. 

    John says he spent a lot of time interviewing, but wished he had spent more time with his subject beyond interviews. 

    Teresa feels blissful ignorance is needed to feed you at the beginning. 

    Lena told us how, after publishing her first novel, she said to Barbara Greenwood, “Now I know how to do it,” and Barbara replied, “No, you don’t.” 

    Which book do you think made you a writer? 

    Lena first wrote a lot of short stories, and she found it helpful to get positive feedback on those stories while she spent ten years writing The Witchlanders

    Teresa said her writing group kept her feet to the fire. She said she learns nothing from one book to the next, but she finds it useful to say to herself, “I’ve felt this fear before and got through it.” 

    Sue reminded us that this is her first book; she is working on another one and has been working on it for ten years. 

    John said that in his day job, he wrote 1000 investigative reports before he wrote his book. He had to get more poetic for the book, but the reports gave him good writing practice. He’s working on a novel now, and the experience is very different. 

    What was your most difficult experience with an audience? 

    John said “this one!” It’s difficult because people are asking about mechanics. 

    Sue speaks with children every day, so is in her comfort zone when giving a presentation. She is more nervous talking to adults here because a lot of them are seasoned writers. 

    Teresa said it’s difficult to get in front of your peers. As for schools, at the beginning of her career, she asked for challenging schools. She went to one where the students had never seen an author. She was presenting Me and the Blondes, and students were smoking at the back, nor did the audience react at all. Also, there was a stabbing afterwards! 

    Lena said all her audiences have been good this season, but all her presentations have been White Pine related, and the kids have read the book. She said in the past, her audiences let her know she needed to be more honest. 

    Where do you go for support? 

    John: The liquor cabinet! 

    Sue: Chocolate and her husband! 

    Teresa: Her writing group, her stitch-and-bitch group – anyone who will listen! 

    Lena: CANSCAIP; her writing community; the author friends she makes writing dates with. 

    Where do you go for inspiration/how does inspiration come to you? 

    Teresa does not plot; she starts with an idea or visual image. For Beware That Girl, it was the visual image of two beautiful girls in a hospital. 

    Sue came to the idea for her book via her husband, who was tall but not fast, and put in the net when he played hockey. He wrote to Jacques Pont, the first person to wear a mask regularly in games. Jacques wrote back with a list of tips for goalies. Sue’s book started out as a biography of Jacques Pont.  When she hears about interesting adults, she feels compelled to tailor their stories for children. 

    John writes to music, which helps with rhythm and mood. While writing this book, he listened to gypsy violin music and the theme from Rocky.

    Lena is always telling herself stories; has a lot of people in her head. 

    What are you currently working on? 

    Lena just sold her first middle grade book, about a feral boy living in the forest who thinks he’s a fairy. She is also working on a new YA fantasy. 

    Teresa is working on a new book that started with the image of three characters doing a blood brother ritual and girl screams ‘Third on the match’. 

    Sue is continuing work on the book about a Canadian no one knows by name, but everyone knows what they’ve done. 

    John is working on one mystery and one fantasy. The first is called Looking for Nancy Drew. The other is called Mike Mantis PI. Mike is half human, half mantis. 

    What would you never write? 

    John: Soap commercials; nothing boring. 

    Sue: Fantasy. 

    Teresa: Game for anything! 

    Lena: mystery would be difficult, but would welcome the challenge. 

    Q & A 

    Lena, can you give specifics about being honest with teens?

    Lena said she, a normally reserved person, learned she had to talk more honestly about her own background and how it related to Worlds of Ink and Shadow

    Sue, how do you manage to teach and write?

    Sue said her husband retired a few years ago, and he takes care of the day-to-day stuff. And she doesn’t have children. She is not a classroom teacher—she works one on one with students and doesn’t have the responsibilities of regular teachers (report cards, etc.). 

    How do you all keep from comparing yourself to other writers?

    John said the important thing is to develop your own voice. The right books for you just come out. 

    Sue writes non-fiction and is very satisfied when she discovers a story and finds a publisher who wants to share it with others. 

    Teresa said it’s always tempting to compare yourself to others, but urges writers to nurture their original voices, their own visions, to write about personal humiliations and ecstasies. That is what’s important. 

    Lena said if you nurture your own voice and get a child coming up to you saying yours is my favorite book, that’s an amazing feeling you may not have gotten if you hadn’t developed your own voice. 

    How do you feel about the editing process?

    Lena loves getting feedback and tries to incorporate it all. She works with US and Canadian editors and generally, they don’t disagree. For Worlds of Ink and Shadow, her US editor wanted her to focus on a different character than she’d originally intended – a suggestion she followed. 

    Teresa said her US and Canadian editors get together with their comments. She likes the revision process because it means the hard part is over. There’s a book there with a beginning, middle and end; she’s just tidying it up! 

    Sue enjoyed the process. The editors made it better and were very encouraging. 

    John reads his employees’ investigative reports and is a practiced editor himself, so his non-fiction was not edited much. He expects much more editing with his fiction projects. 

    Did you get a lot of rejection letters? Can you explain the process of getting published? 

    Lena published two picture books before the novels. She worked at the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Knowing editors didn’t help. She sent her projects out cold and got rejections. Orca published her picture books, but she got an agent before she sent out her novels. She got many rejections from agents, but once an agent took her on, her books sold fairly quickly. 

    Teresa took Peter Carver’s class in 1995, and wrote her first book there, which got picked up by Red Deer. Tim Wynne Jones was her first editor. Her next few books were not agented. Now she has an agent. The business gets more complex with international rights, etc. It isn’t necessary to have agent in Canada.  Go to PYI and introduce yourself to editors, etc.  

    Sue started small with magazine articles. She got nice, personal rejection letters that she found encouraging. She went to a PYI conference and researched a publisher because of what someone said at the conference. She recommends studying the books released by the publisher you want. She made her manuscript fit their guidelines; it was all very targeted. 

    John says part of it for him was luck and timing. His subject got the first gold medal in his sport for his country in 40 years. He said he knew the sport, as he himself was an amateur boxer for several years. He had writing experience from his job and he also used to write for TV.  And he was inspired by the story of his subject. 


    The meeting concluded with Sharon thanking everyone for coming and telling attendees that when stuck on a book, she often goes through old PYI notes and is amazed at the helpful advice! She also reminded us that our last meeting before the summer break is next month – June 14th – and the featured speaker is renowned illustrator Frank Viva.

  • Monday, April 17, 2017 11:00 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    Presentation and tour of the Osborne Collection by Dr. Leslie McGrath

    The Annual Meeting of Members on April 12 was held at the Lillian H. Smith Branch of Toronto Public Library, and was followed by a presentation and tour of the world-renowned Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books.

    After the Annual Meeting adjourned, CANSCAIP's administrative director Helena Aalto introduced longtime Member Gillian O’Reilly, former editor of Children’s Book News for 20 years, and recent recipient of IBBY Canada’s Claude Aubry Award. Gillian is on the board of the Friends of the Osborne Collection, which is the oldest friends organization in the Toronto Public Library. The Friends' fundraising supplements the Collection's art conservation budget, and sponsors three lectures a year. Gillian encouraged us to join; member benefits include newsletters and invitations to the lectures.

    Gillian introduced Dr. Leslie McGrath, head of the Osborne Collection since 1995. Leslie told us that early in Toronto's history, children’s books were too expensive for most families, and schools provided only basic readers.  For many years, children’s books weren’t a significant or important part of library collections and the first chief librarian in Toronto was even opposed to children’s services. But as the city grew, the public began to demand change and by 1908 the provision of children’s services was considered long overdue. In 1912 Lillian H. Smith was hired to head children’s services for the Toronto Public Library.

    Lillian Smith believed reading in a library setting prevented kids from getting into trouble, and that they should be given quality books to grow up to. She thoroughly reviewed books geared to children, and revamped the children’s collection, including fairy tales and folk tales to promote tolerance and understanding.  However, she disapproved of comics and popular series books, and assembled a shelf of ‘bad’ books as a reference for other librarians!

    Boys and Girls House, the first separate children's library in the British Commonwealth, opened in 1922 on St. George Street.  Under Lillian Smith’s direction, many branches of the Toronto Public Library expanded children's services and book selections. Inspired by the outstanding work of Lillian Smith, Edgar Osborne donated his extensive collection of rare children’s books to the Toronto Public Library in 1949, and thousands more books and other resources have been added since. Lillian Smith retired in 1962, but her aim of broader, inclusive children’s collections continued.

    The Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books now has over 80,000 rare and modern books, book-related art, novelties like movables and miniatures, and archives of contemporary authors. Leslie McGrath's presentation included images of a 14th century Aesop’s Fables, the first written version of The Three Bears, handwritten stories by Beatrix Potter, and horn books. Leslie noted that most of the fairy tales, myths and legends in the Osborne Collection are now fully digitized, and nursery rhymes and poetry soon will be.

    CANSCAIPers take note! Osborne Collection librarians can provide extensive reference and research services to authors and illustrators. They can make presentations to individuals or groups, tailored to themes as requested. When contacted ahead, they will gather books and other resources for your visit, which can also be held for you over the course of several visits. For example, an author wanting authentic background for a historical story could request books from the period that their character might read. And if that sounds like too much to ask of a librarian, Leslie McGrath assured us that using the Osborne Collection is the point of this world-renowned resource, and she urged CANSCAIP to spread the word! 

    After Leslie’s presentation, we oohed and aahed over the manuscripts, picture book dummies, books, and original art from the Collection on display for us. We also loved “Worlds and their Stories: Wielders of Wonders”, the current exhibit in the Osborne's gallery, with its wonderful selection of books and artwork depicting ancient civilizations.  

    The Osborne Collection is a treasure trove for children's book creators and for anyone who loves books. Some creators even plan visits to Toronto that centre around the Osborne Collection. And like all libraries, it's free and open to the public!  

    Thanks to everyone at the Osborne Collection for a terrific evening!

  • Thursday, March 23, 2017 10:40 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)


    President Sharon Jennings welcomed everyone including newcomers, and introduced attending board members and staff: Helena Aalto, Jennifer Maruno, Lorna Poplak (noting that Lorna has a Dundurn book coming out, moving her from the CANSCAIP ‘Friend’ category to the ‘Member’ category), Bev Katz Rosenbaum, Theo Heras, Patricia Storms, Holly Main, and Heather Camlot

    Sharon warned us that her monologue tonight would be more of a Rick Mercer rant.  She noted that a social media post ‘The Ugly Truth About Children’s Books’ is currently circulating. The post shows a mother and daughter going into a library and finding many books without female characters, or with females who don’t speak, or have no dreams or aspirations. Sharon found this odd because our colleagues have published many books with strong female characters. It turned out the authors had set up a fake argument to advertise their self-published book of female biographies.  She told us: Don’t click ‘like’! 


    On March 6, CANSCAIP held its first webinar. There were 50 people registered ($25.00 fee), with 15 participating live and the others requesting the video link. The webinar topic was publisher contracts, and lawyer Warren Sheffer, partner with Marion Hebb, showed participants five pages of a book contract, highlighting relevant sections, and took questions. Thanks to Angela Misri for her technical help. The office plans to organize more webinars and reach more members across Canada, who don’t have opportunities to attend CANSCAIP’s monthly meetings and annual conferences in Toronto. CANSCAIP members who wish to get the link to the webinar can still pay $25.00 to do so through the CANSCAIP office. 

    Helena also serves as volunteer promotions officer for IBBY Canada (International Board for Books for Young People). IBBY Canada is issuing a call for submissions for their Illustrator in Residence program. This position offers published illustrators a month in a public library (Northern District Branch of Toronto Public Library in October 2017), plus school visits. The residency pays $4000 for the month. Watch for submission details. 


    Sue Todd illustrated African Alphabet, a board book written by Eric Walters (Orca Books), introducing readers to the animals of Africa. Sue described her mixed analogue-digital process: she does a linocut first, then scans the carving, then colors the black-and-white image in Photoshop. Orca has also approached Sue about illustrating an African folktale by Eric. 

    Susan Marshall presented her first YA novel, releasing on April 4th, entitled NemeSIS, about sister bullies, published by the indie press Blue Moon. 

    Deb Lougheed presented The Secrets We Keep (Dundurn), a YA novel about secrets, lies, guilt, and moral dilemmas faced by four characters who think that they are to blame for a tragedy. Sylvia McNicoll and Deb had a co-launch recently in Burlington. 


    Theo Heras said that IBBY is looking for a CANSCAIP liaison officer to share news and info between both organizations. There are six meetings a year. The meetings take place in the Orchard View Library, but if from outside Toronto, the officer can do it via phone. IBBY believes books for children can build bridges to understanding and to help children talk about what they are going through. 

    Alfonso Ruano, the acclaimed illustrator of The Composition (Groundwood, 2003), is donating his original art from We Are Like the Clouds (by Jorge Argueta) to the IBBY/REFORMA Children in Crisis project, directed at Central American children from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who are in grave danger in their home countries. They’ve fled to the US but their refugee claims are being denied and they are being detained and returned to their countries, where they face an uncertain fate.  You can go to the IBBY website ( to see the artwork and make a bid. The auction is running from January 20th to Wednesday, April 5 

    IBBY Canada and the Toronto Storytelling Festival invite you to a luncheon with one of Newfoundland’s favourite sons, Andy Jones, a founding member of CODCO, on March 31st, at the Free Times Café. Seating is limited. RSVP to Theo. Andy’s books will be available to purchase.  

    IBBY’s English language Claude Aubry award for contributions to children’s literature in Canada goes to Gillian O’Reilly this year. As many of us know, Gillian, an editor, writer, and board leader, has been a tireless advocate for children’s literature for many years, notably as editor for the CCBC’s Book News. 


    Sharon introduced our guest speaker, Sarah Ramsey, Manager of the Book City in Toronto’s Bloor West Village and media co-ordinator for the four stores. Sarah is a former social worker who counseled abused women and children. She transitioned to working in restaurants, but after working at The Cookbook Store in Toronto, this lifelong lover of books moved to her current gig. One of her favourite quotations is by John Waters: “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t (ahem) them!” 

    Sarah said she has always loved books. She has been a bookseller for 16 years. ‘Books are my comfort, my life.’ How many times, she said, have we been told to never judge a book by its cover? But people do it all the time – even the youngest readers. They will look for books that look like others they have. Sarah herself owns eleven editions of a favourite book, Candide

    Sarah pointed out that children’s book covers carry a unique challenge, as they must be designed to appeal to three buyers: kids, parents and grandparents. She notes that young kids are playing a bigger part in the buying decision process than ever before, as corporations are appealing them to more and more. Technology plays a big part. Young children are using iPhones and apps, and can operate the remote, etc. Sarah tries to steer kids away from big, commercial stuff. 

    In terms of colour, studies in marketing science say young kids prefer red, pink and blue. It’s hard to know whether the gender stuff has been shoved on them or is innate. Also, they prefer cool colors over warm colors. Older buyers seem to prefer soft, kind, gentle illustrations in soft tones. Again, it’s a struggle to market to three different buyers. 

    As kids get older, they start associating colors with emotions—yellow is joy, etc. Language plays a part in this, e.g. ‘I feel blue today’. This leads to color associations. 

    Sarah says really simple images are key. A cover doesn’t need to be crowded or complicated. The cover is trying to achieve two things: give the reader a preview of the story plus entice the reader to buy it. Style, colors, and font—all these elements play key roles. 

    There is a current trend to retro design. Little Golden Books is celebrating a big anniversary this year. Reissues of classic books are coming out. 

    As a bookseller, Sarah advises against black or white covers (they get dirty), and she says font choice is important (no comic sans!) Cutouts on dust jackets look amazing but are easily torn.  Simple is best. 

    Sarah advises making friends with booksellers to sell your book. 

     Q & A 

    Sharon Jennings noted that authors have very little control over their covers. She brought Connecting Dots, a two-year-old book of hers. The girl looks seven (she’s twelve), and there’s a movie projector on the cover when there’s no projector in the book. (The heroine wants to be an actress.)  The girl looks cute and young, but this is a book about how she’s been abused.  The content and the cover don’t match. Sarah said this cover would probably appeal to grandmas. It has a dated feel. If she tried to sell it to a reader, she would be told she’s square.  Savvy MG readers would not be into it.  Kids want flash. Sarah reminded us that the first edition of Harry Potter was really ugly. Sometimes cover design doesn’t matter if the book is getting good word of mouth. Sharon added that different booksellers have different ideas about covers. A lot is about taste and preference. 

    Jennifer Maruno asked about store placement. Sarah said that in her store, order quantity determines placement (table, face out, etc.). Six or more books get table placement, four get face out, three get spined. Publishers pay for windows and end caps. In other (big chain) stores, publishers pay for table placement. Jennifer talked about how difficult it was to match books to readers at Chapters when she worked as a bookseller there. She would frequently recommend books the store had only one copy of, and she often couldn’t find the book! 

    Sylvia McNicoll noted it’s hard to get kids away from Diary of a Wimpy Kid type stuff. Sarah noted that’s the type of stuff that’s aggressively marketed, even at schools, in the Scholastic flyer. Sarah tries to make sure her ‘book army’ is educated about other books. ‘We’re better than algorithms.’ Sarah advises kids to sit and read a chapter, and tells parents to take a book home and return it if their kid doesn’t like it. She doesn’t recommend the big huge books. She stays on top of what’s happening in the Canadian kid lit scene. 

    Gillian O’Reilly talked about cover trends in YA lit such as floating girls. Sarah says teen readers are a little more willing to pick something up based on merit, content. They’ll read what their friends tell them to read. Sarah mentioned that she originally ordered only one copy of a YA book based on the Black Lives Matter movement, and when it sold, she cautiously ordered two more, and has now sold twenty copies. 

    Sarah puts tags on books if she doesn’t like a cover, saying she thinks this book is good – ignore the cover! She also noted that parents enforce gender stereotypes at the store. They won’t buy books with male protagonists for girls, etc. 

    Theo Heras asked for examples of standout covers and stinko covers.  Sarah gave the example of Nicola Yoon’s YA novel The Sun Is Also a Star as a great cover, even though it’s white and gets dirty. Readers have responded strongly to both this one and Yoon’s Everything, Everything. In picture books, Sarah likes Sometimes I Think I’m a Fox. It’s simple. But she noted the trim size is too small and it gets lost on the shelf. The Night Gardener (by the Fan brothers) is really good. Kenneth Opel’s The Nest got a great response. 

    Sharon commented about how some publishers go for simple images while others go for busier covers. 

    A discussion about stock art ensued. Sarah has seen several books with the same stock art. 

    She also addressed the trend to the word ‘Girl’ in titles. This seems to be going away now. 

    She noted that kids look at the cover first, then the back cover, then will read some of the book. Again, after age 12, they don’t care as much about covers as about recommendations from their friends. Grownups will ask a bookseller for recommendations. 

    Trends are cyclical. Lately, a trend in children’s books is to different trim sizes, which is frustrating to Sarah because a small sized book gets lost on the shelves.  She has also seen a lot of green and blue lately. 

    She noted that brown books don’t sell. 

    RE: CDN vs. US books, Sarah says kids get very excited about the Forest of Reading books. Sarah uses the list as a jumping off point to talk about other Canadian kids’ books. 

    Heather Camlot said she has found it’s a good idea to take reluctant readers to meet authors. Kids will line up for a signed book and get a kick out of talking to authors. 

    Jennifer said maybe the author’s picture should be on the back cover.


    Sharon concluded by advising us the April 12th meeting is our Annual General Meeting. It will start at 6:00 p.m.  and will be at the Lillian H. Smith library at College and Spadina. After the AGM, attendees will be given a private tour of the Osborne Collection, as well as refreshments.














  • Friday, February 17, 2017 10:48 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    Notes from February 8, 2017 Meeting; SPEAKER: Lynda Hill (Theatre Direct) 


    President Sharon Jennings welcomed a slightly smaller audience, commenting about the bleak weather and the urge to stay in one’s nest. She also lamented the lack of new books and/or awards this month! 


    Beloved Canadian children’s writer Norah McClintock passed away on Monday, February 6th. Norah wrote over 60 books for young people and won numerous awards. She was also a very popular presenter. Her PYI talk a few years ago has been cited in recent days as inspirational. She was most recently at a CANSCAIP meeting as one of the seven authors of the ‘Secrets’ series, discussing the challenges of writing a series with a team of authors. Sharon offered our condolences to Norah’s husband Herman, their two children and families. A memorial service is planned for February 26. The CANSCAIP office will send out further information. 

    Next month’s speaker is Sarah Ramsay, who manages two Book City locations in Toronto. Sarah will be talking covers - what works and what doesn’t.

    Sharon also announced that the SCBWI Canada East conference takes place in Montreal from May 26th-28th. There is a great lineup of authors, editors, agents from the U.S., in addition to Canadians Sydney Smith and Martha Skrypuch


    Helena Aalto announced that CANSCAIP’s annual Writing for Children competition will launch in March this year. This is a competition for unpublished writers that requires entrants to submit a 1500 word excerpt from a longer work or a complete picture book or other short work of that length. Submissions are read by first round readers, who whittle down the entrants for a second round of judging. The second round judges send their choices to a jury for final evaluations. The jury selects ten finalists, including two winners. Applicants receive feedback from all readers at the end. The deadline for submission will be the end of June.

    CANSCAIP is undergoing a strategic planning process. A recent membership survey got a thirty percent response, which, by survey standards, is excellent. 

    The cancelled February webinar by Warren Sheffer on publishing contracts will now take place on Monday, March 6 at 2:00. It will be recorded if you cannot ‘attend’ live. The cost is $25.00 either way. CANSCAIP intends to offer more webinars for the benefit of out of town members who cannot attend the monthly Toronto meetings. 

    Helena also told us that the PYI 2017 planning meeting took place a couple of weeks ago. The date for this year’s conference is Saturday, November 11. 

    SPEAKER: Lynda Hill, Theatre Direct

    Programming Committee member, author, performer, storyteller and librarian Theo Heras introduced speaker Lynda Hill, Artistic Director of Theatre Direct, which produces plays for young people – some adapted from children’s books – that have an education focus. Theatre Direct’s plays are regularly nominated for Dora awards, and in 2014, Theatre Direct launched the first international arts festival (the ‘WeeFestival’) dedicated to early childhood. Theatre Direct Firefly project brings storytelling and drama into kindergarten classes. Theatre Direct also leads professional development workshops for educators, and holds classes and camps for young people.   

    Lynda thanked Theo for the invitation to talk to us about theatre for young people and the intersection of her world with the children’s publishing world. She noted that her love of storytelling came to her in elementary school via her school librarian. 

    Lynda told us that their plays are entertaining, but often tackle difficult subject matter. Theatre Direct fights for the rights of children to access complex arts and culture without censorship or compromise. Their mission statement notes that young people deserve the truth and meaningful cultural content. They don’t regard audiences as a market, but as emerging citizens who deserve theatre that engages their intellect and discusses big ideas. 

    They have not done a lot of adaptations but are constantly reading children’s books to help them arrive at relevant content.  Their most recent adaptation was Deborah Ellis’s The Heaven Shop, which became Binti’s Journey. This play is aimed at the middle school audience, aged 12-15, an audience that tends to get skipped over in children’s theatre. Lynda is trying to take care of the ‘orphans’. 

    Lynda happened to read Deborah’s book the year Stephen Lewis did his Massey Lecture on AIDS in Africa.  Binti loses her father to AIDS and in the aftermath, she and her family exhibit resilience and determination despite the obstacles they face. Lynda felt this was an important story to share with young people, and though she couldn’t offer Deborah a lot in the way of royalties, Deborah was on-board. Deborah did not review drafts of the play and did not see it until was produced.  She did speak to the young people from Kent Middle School involved in developing ‘Our Stories, Ourselves’, a kind of companion work to Binti’s Journey. The piece of theatre the students created complemented the work featuring professional actors. 

    The main challenge to mounting Binti’s Journey was not having the money to produce a play with a large cast. So it started off as one-person show, but ended up featuring the four young people in the book. The actors playing these roles also took on the voices of the adults. This creative choice served to diminish the strength of the mostly negative adults in the story. One character was so powerful, all four actors spoke her, chorally. Young people and Deborah loved that artistic choice. 

    In trying to attract educators to the play, Lynda initially encountered resistance from Toronto District School Board, who didn’t want to talk about AIDS.  People also questioned aiming the show at middle school audiences. Lynda noted that Catholic schools (the Catholic Board has a strong HIV/AIDS curriculum) were the first to book. 

    Binti’s Journey premiered in 2008 and has toured and been remounted several times. It is coming back this season at Theatre Direct’s Wychwood Barns Theatre in Toronto.  And the bonus: if kids hadn’t read Ellis’ work before seeing the show, they read/bought it after. 

    Q & A

    How did you arrive at that choral speaking choice?

    Via workshops/rehearsals. 

    How did you get from book to script?

    Playwrights are not always great at adapting things. They want to write in their own voices. Marcia Johnson was chosen because although she had never adapted a work, she had a humility in her approach. But there were twelve drafts of the work; Lynda wasn’t sure it was going to work. The big challenge for Marcia was paring a 178-page novel down to a 50-minute piece.  But Marcia didn’t have any ego about it—kept chipping away. 

    The development process took a couple of years. The budget was $30,000 before production, $75,000 all in. Had Theatre Direct not received Laidlaw Fund and Canada Council funding, it wouldn’t have happened. They don’t have same kind of commissioning funds anymore. Over the next number of months, Theatre Direct will be establishing a dedicated commissioning fund and will be fundraising specifically for that.  For a few years, Theatre Direct relied on the same works, but new works have been coming out in the past couple of years.  When you invest in development, great art happens. And playwrights can get good royalties from remounts. 

    How can children’s authors get a theatre producer to look at their books?

    Sure, pitch to theatres. But the pond is very small. Lynda has more ideas than money. She and an illustrator friend came up with the idea of a theatre-book club; they will talk about dramatization as they read. (They are particularly in love with wordless books.) Shaun Tan’s wordless book The Arrival was produced by Red Leap Theatre, which collaborated with the author-illustrator in creating a wonderful piece of dance theatre. 

    After the Q and A, Lynda talked about the WeeFestival, whose pieces are most often text-free and incorporate installation, dance, and song. It’s exciting to make theatre without text and to see very young children engage without that stunned look they have when they watch television! 

    Theatre Direct also works in kindergarten classes. The children tell their stories, which are transcribed and illustrated, made into books and dramatized.  The kids make their own artistic choices regarding, for example, what part of the story to illustrate. This work can spark a love of the written word, illustration, storytelling, and/or theatre. 

    Lynda also talked about Old Man and the River, which has a set design inspired by children’s books illustrations. This is a work of puppetry without words, featuring an original score. Now they want to turn it into a children’s book!

  • Friday, February 17, 2017 10:34 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    Notes from January 11 2017 CANSCAIP meeting in Toronto

     Speaker: Christie Harkin, Clockwise Press


    President Sharon Jennings welcomed everyone and commented how meetings have been starting later and later – everyone loves to chat! 


    Rina Singh presented Diwali, Festival of Lights, which came out in September, and has already gone into second printing. It’s the second book in Orca’s Origins series, after Monique Polak’s Passover: Festival of Freedom. The book explores how Diwali is celebrated around the world. Included are photos, recipes and personal stories. 

    Joanne Levy presented Crushing It, which came out January 10th. It’s a tween version of Cyrano de Bergerac with a gender twist. And humour. 

    Josephine Vaccaro-Chang was excited to announce she was recently approached by two schools to deliver workshops. 

    Gillian O’Reilly announced that three children’s authors were recently awarded the Order of Canada: Deborah Ellis, Jan Andrews and Jacqueline Guest. All are CANSCAIP members. As well, Annabelle Slaight, co-founder of Owl. 


    Helena Aalto announced that CANSCAIP has embarked on a strategic plan, and the office will be sending a survey to all members. 

    Helena also introduced meeting attendee Terry Ibele, who, among other things, put together a complicated e-mail merge for the Children’s Writing Competition that gave each candidate feedback from the various readers. 


    Jennifer Maruno introduced speaker Christie Harkin, co-founder of Clockwise Press, which has a mandate of promoting diversity in children’s literature. Jennifer mentioned how President Obama, in his farewell speech, promoted diversity, and Jennifer said she cried when she read Missing Nimama, Clockwise’s first picture book, which recently won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award. Before starting Clockwise, Christie worked as a bookseller and an editor at other Canadian publishing companies, and has published many prominent Canadian writers. 

    Christie started by talking about her own background, and how she is aware of her own privilege. She is trying to use her privilege to do what she can. She may be screwing it up, but she’s trying! 

    The books she’s making now are the ones she wants to make. She and her partner Solange Messier look for books that will fill in some of the representation blanks in the marketplace, and they focus on contemporary, not historical, books. 

    She is not looking for issue/problem books, just stories that include characters from under-represented communities.  Ideally, stories about under-represented communities would be by authors from those communities.  Who is the right person to tell these stories? Are you the author who should tell it?’ It’s up to you, your publisher and your editor to figure this out on a case-by-case basis. 

    When she was working at Fitzhenry and Whiteside, she bought a story called Sasha’s Search for Circles. It was about a boy who goes on a bedtime flight of fancy before settling in to sleep. There was no reason the character had to be named Sasha, or be white. She and the author decided to give Sasha a Caribbean name. At a conference, an African-American stopped by the booth, picked up Tadeo’s Search for Circles, and exclaimed, “Wow, a book about a black boy who isn’t being oppressed.” Diversity in the US tends to be more about racial controversy, but it doesn’t need to be.  

    We hear books should be windows or mirrors. Christie wants Clockwise books to be both. She wants all kids to see themselves (mirror) as normal kids getting into trouble, solving problems, etc. But readers should also get to see who and what else is out there (window).   

    Christie brought in some books she’s worked on at both Fitzhenry and Whiteside and Clockwise. 

    With When Mama Goes to Work, by Marsha Skrypuch, she and Marsha tried to include all kinds of different jobs and different forms of daycare. The book reveals common ground in all scenarios-- universal experiences: the moms and kids all have lunch, miss each other, etc. 

    The second book was Gabby by Joyce Grant.  Her friend Roy is indigenous. Joyce discussed the book with a band leader, said she didn’t want to be disrespectful. He gave her suggestions for a symbol for a tee shirt that wasn’t a cliché. He said stay away from feathers and dreamcatchers, and suggested a circle with lines through it of different colors representing different bands. The band leader was credited at the front of book. 

    Next, Christie showed us That Squeak by Caroline Beck, illustrated by Francois Thisdale. (That Squeak was also nominated for TD award this year.) This is the story of a boy whose best friend has died. Nothing in the story makes it about a white kid, so why not mix it up? The author and publisher have been criticized. One person objected to a blond woman writing about the black experience. Christie says they were going for the childhood experience. They didn’t see the story about a black boy who lost his friend, but about a boy who lost his friend. 

    Finally, Christie showed us Missing Nimama. This was Clockwise’s first picture book. It’s about a young girl growing up without her mother – one of the missing, murdered indigenous women. Author Melanie Florence (who is Cree) has been criticized for writing the story because it didn’t happen in her family. Christie said there is always going to be a hurdle/conflict. The tricky part is deciding when the pros of publishing outweigh the cons and who is going to be negatively impacted. 

    Christie mentioned the Clockwise One to One series, set in high school with a Best Buddies Club. This real, international organization pairs up kids with developmental handicaps with peer buddies. Each book focuses on a pairing. The first book is about an autistic guy and girl trying to get into pre-med program.  The book is about their relationship, not about autism. Author Lorna Schultz Nicholson does not have an autistic child, but she researched the heck out of the topic, talked to families and kids. Then Clockwise had parents of autistic kids read it, tell them what was clichéd, realistic, etc. 

    Another One to One features a girl with traumatic brain injury. There were still people who said there was no way certain things could happen, but when Christie went back to her vetters, they said she didn’t screw up—those people just had a different experience from the people she and the author talked to. You can’t represent everyone, Christie said, but you can try. 

    She also talked about a non-fiction series on the topic of immigration. One book is about a fellow from the Congo who came to Winnipeg with his family. He started a music outreach program for youth and won civic community awards. Music saved him, and he saved others. By reading a book like this, a kid can look at a kid who doesn’t speak English yet, and think, ‘This is the potential.’ 

    Christie noted that Missing Nimama was printed in a dyslexia-friendly font, as most of their books will be. Someone asked what about it makes the font dyslexia friendly. Christie said it weights the bottoms of the letters, which helps anchor the type to the page so the letters and words are less likely to flip or turn or duplicate in the reader’s brain. Some non-dyslexic readers find it ugly. Some dyslexic readers find it too easy—they are so used to straining! 

    Q and A 

    An attendee asked how the books have been accepted in schools. Christie mentioned that some teachers and librarians – the gatekeepers – have said they don’t have indigenous kids, or theirs is a pretty white neighbourhood. Christie is trying to get the gatekeepers to understand that if you have a really white classroom, this is what they need. Clockwise has awesome sales reps, and they go to book fairs, and Christie does talks on creating the inclusive bookshelf. She wants the gatekeepers to go beyond what kids identify with now. 

    An attendee mentioned Ezra Keats, who created a black character and was criticized. But he saw these kids in his Brooklyn neighbourhood.  Christie responded once again: You have to decide if you’re the right person to write this story.  Some people have told her the story they have brought to her came from friends who gave permission to tell the story. Not everyone is a writer, and sometimes it’s just a matter of helping to bring a story to the world. Christie said you have to be willing to share credit. 

    Someone asked how long the submission window is. Christie said, ‘Till I get overwhelmed!’  Clockwise is currently only publishing four books a year.


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