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

NOTES from Past Meetings

To extend the content of our monthly Toronto meetings to our full membership across Canada, we provide notes from these meetings on our website.
  • Wednesday, February 14, 2018 2:14 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    NOTES from February 14, 2018 meeting: SPEAKER Milan Pavlovic

    President Sharon Jennings welcomed everyone, expressing surprise at such a large turnout on Valentine’s Day. She thanked the CANSCAIP volunteers present: Patricia Storms, Holly Main, Michele Nidenoff, Theo Heras, and Bev Rosenbaum. She also thanked Karen Rankin and Rita Bates for tonight’s cookies and Starbucks for the coffee. Welcome, too, to the many first-timers in the audience.


    Sylvia McNicoll presented Norma CharlesHarry Jerome: World’s Fastest Man, a work of historical middle grade fiction. She also introduced her own Snake Mistake Mystery, another book in her Mistake Mysteries Series


    Michelle Nidenoff told us about an upcoming exhibit of art by CANSCAIP Members and Friends at the Canadian Contemporary School of Art in the Eglinton-Brentcliffe Toronto area. Works will be exhibited over the month of May. A call for submissions has been sent out to CANSCAIP Members and Friends. The works will be hung on May 2 and a reception is planned for that evening. Volunteers welcome!

    Our administrative director Helena Aalto announced that PYI 2018 will take place on Saturday November 10. Save the date postcards are already available for individuals or for writing teachers or writing group members to distribute. 

    The recent marketing webinar with Judy Brunsek is still available for viewing. You can register on the CANSCAIP website.


    Patricia Storms introduced the evening’s speaker, Milan Pavlovic, an illustrator, graphic artist, and teacher at OCADU and Seneca.  Milan began by recalling his childhood in Croatia, where he spent summers on beaches and his grandfather’s farm, which influenced his colour palette.  He also recalled playing with animal stickers with his dad and redrawing the animals.  He still loves drawing animals and experiences a childlike inner joy when he draws. Non-visual early influences included biologists David Bellamy and Jacques Cousteau and the musicians Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards.

    Milan loved comic books. Krazy Kat and Little Nemo are great for detail in drawings.  Cheap Thrills by Robert Crumb dealt with the ‘Summer of Love’ while it was actually happening, and showed Milan that comic artists could deal with real events in real time.

    Milan mentioned many favourite designers and illustrators: George McManus; Milton Glaser; Joseph Muller-Brockmann; Shigeo Fukuda; Peter Saville; John Audubon; Boris Artzybasheff; Lorenzo Matodi; and Javier Mariscal. Milan also loves medieval illustrations, noting that with some of these images, we can see a connection to modern day works like Maus.

    In Serbia, Milan was approached at an exhibition of his adult work and, asked if he’d like to do something for children, proceeded to do several books. In Canada, his first book was Hey, Canada! for Tundra. Then Sheila Barry invited him to illustrate Cary Fagan’s book Danny Who Fell in a Hole. He stressed that illustrators must be able to have conversations and be able to compromise, and that this process was especially fun with Sheila.  He argued that you can’t be a good illustrator if you aren’t a good reader; you need to grasp narrative so you can recognize the big moments.

    Milan mentioned the challenges posed by each project. In Patricia Storm’s upcoming book, Moon Wishes, every page-spread took place on a moonlit night. He used shades of colour to make each picture unique, and he gave the moon an expressive face. And he managed to sneak in animals on each page.

    Milan showed us his sketchbook, which he fills with everything that comes to mind, using pen and ink. He often designs something like an abstract landscape, and only later does he add human forms and some kind of narrative. He exhorted us to draw for no reason and not wait for a story to come. It’s a continuous process, and you can put your designs in a context later. But….Milan was wearing a tee shirt his Seneca students presented to him with ‘What’s the Story?’ written on it. This is the question that he always asks students: What’s the story? What did you want to communicate with this piece? In other words, it isn’t art until it conveys meaning.

    Milan ended by describing the joy he experiences presenting to and doing workshops with kids.

  • Wednesday, January 10, 2018 5:12 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    NOTES from January 10, 2018 General Meeting: SPEAKER: Mireille Messier

    President Sharon Jennings welcomed us to the first meeting of the year, and thanked those volunteers present tonight: Michele Nidenoff, Holly Main, Theo Heras, Anne Thackery, Cathy Rondina and our Administrative Director Helena Aalto. She also gave a shout-out to Starbucks for their generous donation of coffee.


    Cathy Rondina introduced speaker Mireille Messier, who was born in Montreal, raised in Ottawa, and has published over 20 books. The Branch is nominated for the 2018 Blue Spruce Award. Mireille’s topic was “Breaking In Through the French Doors”. Mireille started writing for children through television and magazines, and although she has published 27 books, only 4 are in English. She delighted her audience with the trials and tribulations – and successes – of moving back and forth from French to English. Her first book, Mirouille, was published in 1999, the second, Twiga, in 2003 and two more in 2008 – Charlotte au chocolat and Luca. This last book was translated into English and Mireille told herself, “This is it!” She was crushed when, a few years later, the English version was pulped.

    After many failed attempts to get her books translated into English, Mireille realized that there was a barrier to doing so; perhaps those few picture book words didn’t resonate the same way; perhaps the illustrations didn’t work for publishers. Luca, which became Night Flight, also had a different illustrator and cover.

    Mireille knew she wouldn’t have the same publicity, profile, or profit if she didn’t try to publish in English, and she spoke about her difficulties in doing so, and her own self-doubt. Certainly, she felt more comfortable with word play and humour in her mother tongue. But she took courses with Ted Staunton and Cathy Rondina and soon got her big break. She sent two manuscripts to Kids Can Press; they turned the first one down, and then came the email accepting The Branch. Is it irony that Quebec artist Pierre Pratt did the beautiful illustrations?

    Mireille talked about translations, right sales, royalties, and that her mother wants to know why she doesn’t just write in French. Not to worry, Mom: she has two French picture books coming out this year, and three picture books under contract for 2019 with three different publishers.

    We ended the evening admiring the display of books Mireille brought for us to enjoy.

  • Wednesday, December 13, 2017 4:10 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    NOTES from December 13th, 2017 General Meeting

    President Sharon Jennings welcomed us to this, our Holiday meeting, and commenting that it was Chanukah, quoted: “May the miracle of the light of this season stay with you all the year long.” She introduced and thanked those volunteers present tonight: Michele Nidenoff, Holly Main, Maureen McGowan, Theo Heras, Anne Laurel Carter, Jennifer Mook-Sang, and our Administrative Director Helena Aalto. Also a shout-out to Starbucks for their generous donation of coffee, and to all those who brought holiday treats.

    On November 15, we received the sad news of the death of Sheila Barry. She was the publisher at Groundwood since 2012, editor-in-chief at Kids Can Press, on the Board of Directors for The Canadian Children’s Book Centre, involved with IBBY Canada, and a dear friend to so many. She gave generously of her time to CANSCAIP, and will be forever known as the force behind so many beautiful, ground-breaking, award-winning books.


    Vladyana Krykorka presented the latest edition of Baseball Bats for Christmas, by Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak (illustrated by Vladyana) and first published by Annick Press in 1990.

    Eric Walters presented three new titles. Fourth Dimension (the 4th in the Rule of Three “trilogy” is dedicated to Eric’s grade 5 teacher who told him he could be a writer when he grew up. (She is also a character in this book.) Penguin Random House.  From The Heart of Africa – A Book of Wisdom contains 15 African sayings with15 different illustrators from Africa and North America (Penguin Random House). Surfer Dog (Orca) Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, is a friendship story about a boy and his dog who surf together every day.

    General Announcements

    Lana Button urged us to join IBBY (The International Board on Books for Young People), mentioning the chance to network with like-minded souls, and the opportunity to be profiled in the IBBY Canada Newsletter.

    Helena Aalto updated us on The Writing for Children Competition, and informed us that PYI will take place on Saturday November 10th, 2018.


    Sharon introduced tonight’s fabulous panel – five women who are authors and who also work in publishing. As well, they have all volunteered their time with many of our kidlit organizations.

    Vikki VanSickle is the Marketing and Publicity Manger for the Young Readers’ Program at Penguin Random House, and the author of many mid-grade/YA books (and one picture book). Her latest is The Winnowing, nominated for the 2018 Red Maple.

    Liz MacLeod is a freelance editor, working for both Annick Press and Kids Can press, and is the author of dozens of non-fiction books. Her latest book, Canada Year by Year, won the Norma Fleck Award, and is nominated for the 2018 Silver Birch non-fiction award.

    Mary Beth Leatherdale is a freelance editor at Annick Press, the founder of CHIRP and a former editor of OWL Magazine. Her latest book, Not Your Princess, is an anthology written with Lisa Charleyboy. Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees is nominated for the 2018 Silver Birch non-fiction award.

    Naseem Hrab works as the Marketing Director at Kids Can Press and published her first book in 2017: Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend.

    Hadley Dyer was for many years the Children’s Editor at Harper Collins, before ‘retiring’ to work on her own writing – both fiction and informational. Her first book, Johnny Kellock Died Today, 2006, won the CLA book of the year. Her latest is Here So Far Away, which will be published March 2018.

    Our presenters spoke and answered questions for almost two hours. Afterwards, someone noted that this was a “killer panel”! We were treated to insight, expertise, advice, encouragement, the ups, the downs, the angst, and the joy of lives lived in the cankidlit world.

    The presenters were asked questions about their path into the publishing world – booksellers, librarians, editors – about their working day, about whether or not they can take off their editor/marketing hat as they write their own manuscripts, how often they revise and/or edit. Hadley noted that even though she is an editor, she is on the 7th draft of her latest manuscript. She warned us not to assume that just because we’ve written a manuscript, it will get published.

    Of course, we were all wondering if they each had a special ‘in’ because of their jobs, and Naseem informed us that her agent urged her to submit her picture book with a pseudonym to ensure fair treatment.

    We were urged to find a critique group of trusted individuals, to take workshops, to pursue professional development, and to join organizations like CANSCAIP. Advice was offered about seeking a publisher: check out their websites and make certain that your submission fits a publisher’s vision.

    In one way or another, they all said something along the lines of ‘get over yourself’ when receiving a rejection and resubmit – again and again and again. There was some discussion about marketing and sales, about promoting ourselves, about the need for diversity. Everyone agreed on the importance of being a great and avid reader.

    At the end, they were asked what brings them the most joy, the paid job or the writing, and they all agreed: the writing.

    We adjourned for a last hour of delicious desserts, the buying of each other’s books, and the chit-chat of good colleagues and friends. 

  • Tuesday, November 28, 2017 8:31 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)


    President Sharon Jennings welcomed attendees. 


    Gwenda, an author-editor, joined as a friend. 

    Tina joined in September. She is an author who also works at Indigo. 

    Vincent and Lonni are collaborating on an illustrated book. 

    Ashley Barron is an illustrator. She just completed her term as Illustrator-in-Residence at Orchard View Library. 


    Gillian Chan presented her young adult mystery The Disappearance, published by Annick, featuring a fictional group home. Gillian urges readers to ‘embrace the strange’. 

    Theo Heras presented her new picture book, Baby Cakes, illustrated by Renee Benoit. The two kids from Hat On, Hat Off are now in the kitchen baking. 

    Deb Lougheed presented the fourth book, Payback, in her Orca Currents series set in a Bracebridge type town and featuring a hero who gets in scrapes and solves crimes. Deb also presented Crackerjack Debutante, a collection of poems by Deb and Jack Livesay.


    Lana Button, CANSCAIP liaison with IBBY Canada, announced IBBY’s General Meeting on Monday, March 3rd at 8:30. IBBY Canada introduces Canadian children’s literature around the world and also promotes international books in Canada, as well as providing bibliotherapy in troubled regions. IBBY membership will be discounted at this weekend’s PYI conference. 

    Teresa Toten will be appearing on a CCBC panel called Getting It Done on Monday, December 4th at 6:00 PM in Room 200 at Orchard View Library. This is a free event. 

    Gillian O’Reilly announced the Friends of the Osborne annual Helen Stubbs Memorial Lecture featuring Deborah Ellis on Reading and Freedom at 7:00 PM at TPL’s Lillian Smith branch on Thursday, November 9th at 7:00 PM. 

    Helena Aalto reminded CANSCAIP members of the upcoming PYI conference with a great lineup of speakers, including Arthur Slade and Richard Scrimger. 

    She is in need of a person to act as a timer for the one-on-one sessions at PYI. 

    She also reminded everyone of the upcoming (January) Judy Brunsek marketing webinar. 

    Lena Coakley attended an IFOA panel with representatives from the TAC, OAC and CC on grants and brought handouts. Her big takeaway: they want to hear from you. Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions. 

    GUEST SPEAKER – Amanda West Lewis

    Theo Heras introduced Amanda, a Renaissance woman who has written novels alone and with Tim Wynne-Jones and many craft books for Kids Can, and is also an artist and calligrapher, actor, director, producer, and Executive Director of Ottawa Theatre. She recently co-produced Brian Doyle’s novel Down to Low for theatre. 

    Amanda talked about the role of a co-producer for the Down to Low adaptation. She worked with an adapter, raised money, did contracts, organized venues for readings and performances through the entire process. 

    While Brian is so well respected in the literary community, few theatre company people had heard of him. As well, the show required seven actors and three musicians and no theatre companies were willing to take on a show with this many people involved.  All this led to the decision to independently produce the show. 

    A budget of $100,000 was settled on for a two-and-a-half week run. Amanda knew Doyle fans would help fund it. As well, they did an Indiegogo campaign and received some grants. 

    Big challenges, in terms of the play itself, were not to lose Doyle’s unique voice, and to keep the sense of storytelling without relying too heavily on a narrator on stage. 

    These issues were solved with the help of talented collaborators. The designer came up with the idea of creating a bar-like stage that involved the audience. The actors and musicians and costume designer also provided solutions to these challenges. Theatre, unlike novel writing, is collaborative, and brainstorming with your team is a big part of it. Brian was there all along the way, too. 

    To solve the narrator problem and bring scenes to life, narrator Tommy became younger Tommy after a sentence of a scene and then stepped into the scene as the younger version of himself. (This solution was decided on after a workshop presentation with two different Tommys.) 

    To solve the problem of Frank’s drinking-driving scene for a family audience, more background was provided by Brian (the character only started drinking after coming home from war), which was incorporated into the play. 

    The show opened on Brian Doyle day and was a big hit. 

    It has been programmed into the National Arts Centre’s 2018 season.  Amanda is currently consulting with the designer on tweaks for this move into a much larger venue. 

    In response to a question about the script’s suitability for both an adult and children’s audience, Amanda said they did not change the script for the different audiences. It remained the same, geared to a family audience. 

    In response to a question about how they handled Bridget’s one arm, Amanda demonstrated how the costume designer managed it. 

    In response to a question about how whether she wants to adapt more of Brian’s work, Amanda said that her co-producer (and the adapter of the show), is adapting more work. 

    Someone asked if the musicians were brought on more for music or sound effects, and Amanda said both. 

    Asked about the possibility of a tour, Amanda said that isn’t something she’d want to take on. 

    Asked for advice for a writer adapting her own book, Amanda recommended using an adapter familiar with theatre, or getting input from playwrights and directors. 

    Asked what she is currently working on, Amanda, who just received her MFA in Children’s Writing from Vermont College, said she is working on a novel and thinking (because of her MFA experience) about her writing very differently. 


    Sharon reminded members of the December holiday party, featuring a panel of publishing people who are also authors:  Vikki Van Sickle, Naseem Hrab, Liz MacLeod, Mary Beth Leatherdale, and Hadley Dyer.

  • 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.

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