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.
  • 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.


  • Thursday, February 02, 2017 5:20 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)


    PRESIDENT: Sharon Jennings

    RECORDING SECRETARY: Sharon Jennings (filling in)


    President Sharon Jennings welcomed an enthusiastic holiday crowd. The delicious goodies contributed by our attendees helped to make the evening bright!


    Sylvia McNicoll announced her new book The Best Mistake Mystery (Dundurn Press), a humourous middle-grade mystery, the first of The Great Mistake Mystery series. Twelve-year-old dog-walker extraordinaire Stephen Noble counts and analyzes his mistakes while solving crime with the help of flashy feisty side kick Renée Kobai and furry clients Ping the Jack Russell terrier, and Pong the rescue greyhound. By the way, Sylvia is teaching a course Writing for Young Audiences at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre; registration is $155; classes begin on January 23 and end March 7.

    Nell Coleman talked about her Osmid series (Amazon/CreateSpace) with the titles The Osmid Version, The Seedlings, Earth Boy and The Listener. An advanced species, the Osmids are planning to take over the universe, starting with Earth, because they think we’ll be the easiest. Big mistake! The Osmids are clever but no match for children being, well, just children!  Each of the books deals with a different Osmid plan, and a different set of children who thwart it.

    Anne Braun is the author of I Dreamed About a Hippopotamus in a Lipstick Factory, a novel for ages 8-12 (Friesen Press). Eight year old Nicoletta and her most unusual friend Deloris are the main characters in this story of friendship, coping with change, finding value in your own unique gifts and talents, overcoming challenges, and realizing that you don’t have to be like everyone else to be special.

    Joanne Levy announced the release of her middle-grade novel Crushing It (Aladdin Mix, Simon & Schuster), and the launch party on January 28, 2017 at 2:00 at Hamilton Public Library Westdale Branch. Twelve-year-old Kat woos the boy next door on behalf of her best friend, and in the process realizes that true beauty—and true confidence—comes from the inside. Joanne is also author of Small Medium at Large.

    Nicole Winters announced the Toronto Romance Writers Contest, deadline January 31, 2017. There are 8 categories, and you might win a 3-month mentorship.

    Sharon Jennings announced her 8 week winter term at Ryerson – Writing for the Children’s Market – beginning January 21st. Check out CWWR298 in the Ryerson calendar.


    Patricia Storms introduced our speakers, sisters Ruth Ohi and Debbie Ridpath Ohi and their presentation Siblings in the Biz.

    Watching these two in action was highly entertaining and begged the question: how did they survive growing up together?! The energy was overwhelming, and their presentation was fun and informative, answering such important questions as, “Who is older?” We were treated to lots of slides and background information, including their conviction that their creativity stemmed from their parents’ encouragement of a love of reading from the get-go.

    They’re frequently asked if they compete with each other, but because they came into the business from different backgrounds, they celebrate and support each other. They’d love to work together on a project, but it would have to be right for both their styles. Debbie works mostly digitally, but is starting to incorporate non-digital media into her illustrations; Ruth uses traditional watercolour plus ink or pencil, but is beginning to incorporate digital work. They don’t brainstorm their independent projects with each other because they each have their own creative process. Ruth creates book dummies a bunch at a time, and then revisits and revises them over months or even years. Debbie will often talk over her ideas with her agent or editor.

    Debbie offers a free, 15-minute Q&A Skype visit to schools as a way of growing her market. She insists that the kids have read at least one of her books and have prepared questions. Because the students are looking at her through a screen, she seeks interesting visual ways to engage with them.

    Ruth offered loads of advice on a successful, in person school visit. Rule # 1 – never be late! She googles the nearest coffee shop and arrives in the area at least an hour ahead of her start time. She always has a back-up plan in case something goes wrong with tech at the school, and has questions ready if kids don’t have any prepared. “Does anyone want to know about how I….?” That allows her to control the visit and keep it lively. Which is probably her Rule # 2 – keep it lively!

    Debbie cautioned that there is angst at every level of an artist’s career, everything from “Will I ever be successful?” to “How can I maintain this level of success?” But perhaps the best advice came from Ruth: Never cut your bangs before a school visit.

  • Thursday, November 24, 2016 5:26 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)


    SPEAKERS: Joyce Grant and Angela Misri 

    PRESIDENT: Sharon Jennings

    RECORDING SECRETARY: Bev Katz Rosenbaum


    Sharon welcomed a full house and riffed on the fact that her presidency was an uncontested election.

    Several first-time attendees introduced themselves, including Kim McDougall (Kim Chatel for YA), Andrea Curtis and Claudia White.


    Helaine Becker has three new books. Monster Science, which answers the question, if monsters were real, how would they work? Don’t Stress: How to Handle Life’s Little Problems, for adults as well as kids. Deck the Halls, Helaine’s third holiday-themed book, illustrated by Werner Zimmerman. Helaine will present writing children’s non-fiction at PYI, and the following week, she’ll be doing a CCBC workshop.

    Gillian O’Reilly presented a new edition of The Great Number Rumble: A Story of Math in Surprising Places (Annick Press), which she wrote with Cora Lee. With new illustrations from the funny and talented Nova Scotian illustrator Lil Crump, updated information and lots of info-graphics, the new book is a fresh and improved version. 

    Patricia Faithfull reported that her middle grade novel The Tale of the Last Souris Dynasty got her an offer of representation by the Stimola Literary Studio, which represents Suzanne Collins! Talia, a five-week old mouse, discovers she’s the rightful heir to the Mousterian throne. That makes her number one on the hit list of the ruthless dictator Lothair. Talia must overthrow the despot to save herself, her siblings, and the Mousterian way of life. But how does a young mouse who hasn’t even studied civics overthrow a cold-blooded tyrant? 

    First time meeting attendee Kim Chatel introduced her new picture book, Twice Thrice, published by Missouri-based Guardian Angel Publishing.

    Jo Ellen Bogart announced that her picture book, The White Cat and the Monk, illustrated by Sydney Smith, was named by The New York Times as one of the year’s best illustrated books. Sharon mentioned that both designer (Michael Solomon) and illustrator will appear at CANSCAIP’s upcoming PYI conference.

    Sharon Jennings gave details about the Tom Schlesinger workshop, “The Heroine’s Journey: Writing Powerful Female-Driven Films and Television Shows” on Nov 26 and 27 in Toronto. $425. (

    Sharon also noted that many CANSCAIP members were nominated for awards at the upcoming CCBC TD Awards gala. Gisela Sherman, a past president of CANSCAIP, has been nominated for Geoffrey Bilson Award, and was invited to stand up and take a bow!

    Administrative Director Helena Aalto gave an update on the upcoming PYI conference on November 19. Registration is up from last year, with 161 people registered at that point for the in-person conference, and 25 for the virtual conference. During lunch at PYI, Groundwood publisher Sheila Barry will present Sydney Smith, Teresa Toten, and Kenneth Oppel with IBBY awards. Helena reminded us that CANSCAIP, run mostly by volunteers, is not government funded, and that we earn our operating revenue through membership and conference fees.

    Vice-President Jennifer Maruno introduced the evening’s speakers, Joyce Grant and Angela Misri.

    Angela Misri is the author of the Portia Adams adventure series, published by Fierce Ink Press. Angela spent fourteen years at the CBC and now teaches digital journalism at Ryerson. Joyce Grant is the author of the Gabby picture book series (Fitzhenry & Whiteside), and Tagged Out, a middle-grade sports novel (Lorimer). Joyce runs a website that helps teachers explain news to children, and is the former co-owner of an ad agency. Joyce is on the PYI committee and will be moderating PYI’s Breaking In panel and, along with Angela, offering one-on-one website assessments. Together, Joyce and Angela run the, a site that helps people figure out how to sell their books online. 

    A basic marketing fundamental, the pair said, is to know your audience. Precisely who are you appealing to when you’re trying to get people to events, engage with fans, or sell your books? For example, younger children cannot get themselves to events, so you need to connect to your readers’ parents.

    Writers absolutely need to have a social presence. Agents, publishers and editors look for you online. When you send a query, if they’re interested, they Google you. They do not want to be caught unawares about what they might find.

    Angela advised Googling your name and book often to find out what people see and how hard it is to find stuff about you when they look for you. She also suggested Googling these things on someone else’s computer for a fair assessment, because your own search history will have an impact.

    The pair noted that you should know what your website looks like on a phone as well as on a computer. You want your viewers to see your content the way you want them to.

    On both a phone and a computer, your sell buttons and important information should be at the top right. This may not currently be the case on your phone – it may be dropped to the bottom. You will want to correct this.

    They ordered members not to be shy about the buy-my-book thing. You want to make it easy for readers to buy and contact you.

    Angela said if you are blogging on your site, you should do it often or have an ‘evergreened’ site (keep it the same all the time). A good blogging guideline when you start out is twice a week. The more you blog, the more your following will grow, but don’t grow it if you don’t want to feed it.

    When creating a marketing campaign, said Joyce, you need to think about three things: What is my product? What is my audience? What do I want people to do? (This is your call to action). Your product might be your book, your audience might be parents of picture book readers, and you want them to buy your book.

    She suggested creating a marketing calendar with dates and a list of all the platforms you’re on and what you want to do re: the above at various junctures. If your publisher is doing some marketing – giving away books on Goodreads, for example – work their activities into your marketing calendar. (You will post about the publisher’s giveaway on the various social media platforms before the giveaway takes place.)

    You can use your blog as a jumping off point for your other social media, and simply use the content from your blog posts so you don’t have to keep coming up with new material. Blog about events, your book research or process, others in your writing community.

    On Twitter, say three things about yourself (e.g. I write books, eat chocolate, and drink coffee) and tweet about those three things a lot.

    Joyce said writers overthink things and suggested releasing yourself from perfection. She advised writing social media posts simply, clearly, and with brevity. 

    She said you don’t require blog posts of 500 words, and that all posts should probably be shorter than you think.

    And again, target your material. You can have a mix of content on your website, clearly differentiated by tabs for different people—readers, librarians, etcetera.

    Angela pointed out that young adults don’t read websites; they are more likely to read tweets.

    Joyce said it’s okay to do similar stuff on various platforms; you can’t assume people will be following you on all the platforms, or seeing all your posts on any one platform.

    And tailor your post to the platform. You would post only the highlight(s) of a longer blog post on Facebook, for example, with your graphic.

    You can send the same post to the various platforms, but it’s advisable to adjust your posts for the individual platforms. (mostly free) is recommended image-building software. Joyce showed us the graphic she will be using for her PYI Breaking In session, which included her author photo, another image, and words. You can save your created graphic a bunch of different ways and can use it electronically as well as for brochures, posters, etc.

    Hootsuite is a timesaving tool with a dashboard that helps you manage Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You can schedule your posts on the various platforms.

    Tweetdeck is similar.

    Dropial controls only Twitter. It’s free up to 50 tweets. It lets out tweets a drop at a time on a schedule. This is useful because nobody’s looking at Twitter all the time. People miss a lot of your tweets because they have lots of other followers.

    Nobody likes somebody who is constantly just hawking books.

    Try to figure out why certain posts do better (e.g. what’s liked, commented on, retweeted) by looking at the times of day they were posted, etcetera.

    Experiment with different hashtags. But always use less than four.

    Take advantage of author pages on the electronic platforms as well as those offered by your writing organizations (CANSCAIP, CCBC, The Writers’ Union), booksellers like Amazon, and review sites like Goodreads.

    On her various pages, Angela always sends authors to her website so they have a choice of where to buy her books.

    An author page on Facebook is particularly recommended so you don’t have to engage with followers as you do on your personal page.

    If your books are on Goodreads, talk to a librarian there about creating an author page for you.

    Your publisher can start an author page for you on Goodreads, but make sure to get the key so you have control over it.

    If you ever want to post a link to Amazon, link to your author page, which features all your books, not just to one book’s Amazon page. That way, readers may buy more than one book.

    Don’t take a selfie as an author photo; use a real picture.

    It’s okay to have different voices on the various platforms.

    If you are a journalist or editor as well as an author, it’s a good idea to have separate websites or one website with different tabs/pages.

    You can lead your publishers in terms of graphics, publicity, etc. Let them know what you’re doing. When you do more, they do more.

    Joyce and Angela recommended Tumblr and Wordpress for building easy websites. is a great resource featuring videos that teach you things. YouTube is great for tutorials as well.

    Re: online advertising, Facebook ads work. They are cheap and targeted (a very good thing!) but still reach loads of people. Angela used an FB ad to advertise a signing event in Waterloo, targeting people in Waterloo interested in YA books and who had bought books before. The ad brought many people to her event.

    With FB ad graphics, there are rules about the number of words. You can Google, How to make a Facebook ad, or go on YouTube.

    Make short videos to promote your book. (Hold your phone sideways so no black bars, and no longer than a couple minutes.) Put them on YouTube.

    More from Joyce and Angela on, which features free videos re: digital marketing for authors, and the slide presentation they used for this CANSCAIP presentation is there as well.

  • Tuesday, October 25, 2016 3:23 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    NOTES FROM CANSCAIP MEETING Wednesday, October 12, 2016

    President: Sharon Jennings

    Recording Secretary: Sharon Jennings recording tonight for Bev Katz Rosenbaum


    • Sharon Jennings welcomed attendees.


    • Jocelyn Shipley presented Shatterproof,  part of the Orca Currents series for reluctant readers.
    • Michael Parrish announced an offer of representation from New York Agency Dystel & Goderich for his picture book debut.
    • Michelle Nidenoff's Pictures and Words, an exhibit of illustration, fine art and calligraphy, will be on display for the month of October in the 2nd floor gallery of the Northern District Library. (Right outside our meeting room.)
    • Josephine Vaccaro-Chang will be presenting a series of interactive workshops in Newmarket using her JK-Grade Three book We Are All Colourful Friends.


    • Humber College, where PYI was hosted from 2013 to 2015, offered CANSCAIP live-streaming equipment and technicians for well below market rates. With Humber’s support, CANSCAIP launched Virtual PYI in 2013.
    • In the first year, there were about 20 registrations for Virtual PYI, in 2014 almost 30, and in 2015 more than 40. It was pretty clear that Virtual PYI had growth potential.
    • Our new PYI location at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute doesn’t have in-house tech staff and equipment for live-streaming or videotaping. We’ve been getting quotes for equipment and technicians to produce Virtual PYI.
    • Live-streaming isn’t feasible because it is just too expensive for us, but quotes for videotaping were below what we expected (although still higher than Humber). 
    • We are delighted that we will be able to offer Virtual PYI as online video in 2016. Virtual PYI makes our conference truly a national event, allowing attendees from anywhere to participate.

    GUEST SPEAKER: Joel Sutherland

    Joel Sutherland, author of Scholastic’s Haunted Canada series, books Four to Seven, often described as the Stephen King for kids, began his presentation with this interesting tidbit: he can’t wait for this season of The Walking Dead to start.

    Joel’s fun and lively speech was dotted with Lessons He Has Learned, and he noted that there is no one path to a writing career. His took a rather long-ish route. He graduated with a BFA in film, liked the writing part best, and began writing short stories.

    LESSON #1: Write a lot, be rejected a lot, learn a lot. “Writing short stories,” said Joel, “allowed me to be rejected often and fast”. Doing so also gave him a thick skin. But one short story, combining a haunted house and the Ottawa ice storm, so impressed a publisher that he was asked to make it novel length. The result was Frozen Blood, which sold 23 copies.

    LESSON #2: You are your own best salesperson. Joel bought several copies of Frozen Blood himself and sent them to horror authors he admired. The result? He was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award (awarded to a debut horror novel).

    LESSON #3: Stock up on Kleenex and Scotch. Joel went to L.A. for the award ceremony and met an editor who bought the paperback rights to Frozen Blood. Soon after, the company went bankrupt.

    LESSON #4: You never know what will lead to what. In the meantime, Joel went back to school, earning a Master’s in Library Science, and was further inspired by his work with young people, seeing how kids reacted to the books he read to them, plus watching and learning from visiting authors. (He gets invigorated by being around like-minded people, such as through CANSCAIP.) He began a column in which he interviewed children’s authors and illustrators and asked them Five Silly Questions. He had so much fun with this that he got the idea to turn the columns into a book. Then he met a sales rep from Scholastic, e-mailed her his idea (LESSON #5: Confidence is king), and – after a lot of drafts – published Be a Writing Superstar.

    LESSON #6: Meet people and be polite. And LESSON #7: Be persistent/never give up. While all this was going on, Joel enrolled in the famous Peter Carver/Ted Staunton writing course at George Brown College, learning some tricks of the trade. And through his relationship with Scholastic, and because of his interest in haunted places (he’s stayed in a haunted hotel), he was asked to take over the Haunted Canada series.

    LESSON #8: Give non-fiction a shot. Joel was asked from the audience about submitting non-fiction proposals. Although he noted that we can obtain all this information using Google, he gave us the top three things to keep in mind when approaching a publisher/editor/agent with your proposal:

    1)    So What? Why is your proposal unique? What sets you apart?
    2)    Who Cares? What is your targeted readership? What evidence is there for a need in the marketplace?
    3)    Who Are You? Show that you have sufficient authority to write this non-fiction book.

    Joel began writing horror fiction that didn’t do very well (see above re: 23 copies), then moved into horror non-fiction, which did very well, and then, by way of all his research into haunted locations across Canada, he came up with an idea for his soon to be published YA novel, Summer’s End. He had gathered lots of information on sanatoriums for the insane over the years, and…you can guess the rest.

    When asked about what is popular now in non-fiction, Joel said, “all the weird, quirky fact-type books”. Jo-Ellen Bogart mentioned The Horn Book Guide, an annual list of books by subject – a handy way to spot what is missing in the marketplace.

    Back to Joel staying in a haunted hotel…  Joel’s daughter gave him her toy bunny to help him get through the night. He propped it up on a shelf, and in the morning, the bunny was turned the other way, facing the wall. “Do not bring that bunny back home,” his wife instructed him. Sounds like a great idea for a picture book!

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2016 11:41 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    NOTES FROM CANSCAIP MEETING September 14, 2016

    SPEAKER:  Anne Shone, Scholastic Canada

    President: Sharon Jennings

    Recording Secretary: Bev Katz Rosenbaum


    • Sharon Jennings welcomed a large audience of about 90.


    • Sibling Shenanigans, an early chapter book by author Marjorie Cripps, published by Your Nickel's Worth in Regina, is a collection of the adventures of a close-knit brother and sister, with references that highlight the author’s love of quilts.
    • Theo Heras presented her new picture book, Hat On, Hat Off, illustrated by Renné Benoit, published by Pajama Press. When it’s time for a toddler to go outside, is his hat on or off? Her other new book, Reading the World’s Stories: An Annotated Bibliography of International Youth Literature, co-edited by Annette Goldsmith and Susan Corapi, published by Rowman & Littlefield. It’s the fifth volume in a US IBBY initiative, covering international children's books published in English from 2010 to 2014. Recommended Canadian books are well represented!                                                                 
    • Author Mireille Messier presented The Branch, a picture book illustrated by Pierre Pratt, published by Kids Can Press. A young girl is crestfallen when a branch from her favourite tree breaks off during an ice storm. With the help of her elderly neighbour, she finds new potential in her beloved branch and repurposes it into something to be cherished forever.
    • The Doll’s Eye, by Marina Cohen, is a middle grade novel published by Roaring Brook Press. The day 12 year-old Hadley discovers the lone glass eye under the bed in her new house is the day her life changes forever. Marina also shared the story of how her earlier version of the book was rejected, and after putting it aside for two years, Marina substantially reworked it and her editor loved the new version.
    • Rona Arato presented Sammy and the Headless Horseman, a middle grade sequel to Ice Cream Town, published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside. Thanks to his Aunt Pearl, 11 year-old Sammy is stuck in the Catskill Mountains for the summer with his awful cousin Joshua.
    • Barbara Reid presented Baby’s First Treasury, published by Scholastic, which includes seven of her books for and about babies.
    • Maple Moon by Connie Brummel Crook and illustrator Scott Cameron, published in 1997, has been chosen by Open Book/Open History as part of its promotion of Canadian history.


    • The list of nominees for the eight categories in the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s TD Children’s Literature Awards were recently announced. Many CANSCAIPers are on the list!
    • The fall newsletter is now available, and has many terrific articles. Sharon congratulated Barbara Greenwood for another great job. Barbara is currently recovering from surgery.
    • Sad news that we recently lost two members: Nancy Prasad, poet and author, and former CANSCAIP office secretary, known as ‘the kind voice of CANSCAIP’, and William Bell, author of 19 books.  


    • Packaging Your Imagination conference is on Saturday, November 19th.  PYI committee is Heather Camlot, Joyce Grant, Holly Main, and Jennifer Maruno. Registration is going great, perhaps due to the new downtown location Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.
    • Sharon noted that the CCBC’S TD Awards Gala is on Thursday, November 17, which is two days before PYI – a double great reason for out of towners to come to Toronto.  All members of CCBC get an invitation to the Gala.
    • The new PYI location doesn’t have in-house tech staff and equipment needed for live-streaming PYI. Committee is looking into market costs of rentals for Virtual PYI in 2016. Humber College, where PYI had been since 2013, offered their equipment and staff for well below market rates.
    • Two PYI volunteers needed: Communications coordinator to write weekly promotional e-mail blasts AND Virtual PYI volunteer to work with an AV company prior to and during the conference. Both volunteers would participate in the weekly PYI planning conference calls.
    • Volunteer also needed for the Blue Pencil program, in which a writer or illustrator is matched with a published author who evaluates their manuscript.


    Wed. Oct. 12   Joel Sutherland - Writing Non-Fiction

    Wed. Nov. 9    Joyce Grant and Angela Misri - Author Websites & Social Media 

    Wed. Dec. 14   Ruth Ohi and Debbie Ohi - Seasonal Books

    Wed. Jan. 11    Kat Mototsune - Diversity in Kids Publishing

    GUEST SPEAKER: Anne Shone

    Patricia Storms introduced our speaker for the evening, Scholastic Senior Editor Anne Shone, speaking on the topic ‘Is Funny Worthy?’

    Anne opened her talk by saying that obviously the answer to ‘Is Funny Worthy?’ is a resounding yes! Awards are nice, but editors are equally concerned about how the books connect with real live kids. On the same day Anne learned a book she’d worked on had been nominated for a big award, she got a text from a parent saying her son had shared a book she’d also worked on with his daycare class and they all loved it—both of those acknowledgments were thrilling! High quality books can also be books kids want to read, and a big goal of Anne’s is to create lifelong readers.

    Anne shared a childhood experience in which a teacher crossed out many of the books on Anne’s ‘Books I Read Over the Summer’ list (including stories by Enid Blyton), and the teacher’s note said, ‘These don’t count.’ Even then, Anne said, she knew the teacher was wrong.

    Funny books invite kids into the world of reading, which competes with TV and computers. Captain Underpants author Dave Pilkey is a strong advocate for kids and reading. Funny books also provide respite from the turmoil of childhood, can teach readers to look at things critically, and blast things open and get kids to look at things in new ways. Studies show that kids are more likely to read books that they choose themselves, and they often choose funny.

    It takes great skill to get humour on the page and to get it right. Anne presented some Scholastic examples. What Is Peace? by Wallace Edwards is philosophical, but his sense of whimsy comes through, and he makes the inaccessible accessible, opening up an important conversation. Ruth Ohi’s Fox and Squirrel: The Best Christmas Ever, never overtells, and her humour is deadpan. Patricia Storms’ Never Let You Go has unexpected humour as well as sweetness, which makes it different from many other books about parents expressing love for their children. Both kids and parents need to love a book, and the humour must not be at the expense of the child.

    Frieda Wishinsky’s and Elizabeth MacLeod’s Colossal Canada (non-fiction) has an energetic, fun tone. They added speech balloons and thought bubbles to photos that were a bit boring, and there are running gags throughout to engage the reader and make connections to the material. Stacey Matson’s A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius is about a kid who pushes everybody’s buttons, drives everybody crazy, but underneath the humour is the tragedy of losing his mother. Emil Sher’s Young Man With Camera doesn’t feature a traditional happy ending, but the protagonist has a wicked sense of humour and a unique way of seeing the world, which mitigates the bleakness and leaves you with the feeling the kid will be okay. In Jennifer Mook-Sang’s Speechless, the main character would have preferred to fly under the radar, but gets involved in a speech competition and learns that while he may fall on his face, he won’t die. Ted Staunton’s upcoming Bounced is a funny, touching detective story, with humour that comes mostly from the characters’ smart dialogue.

    Anne encouraged writers not just to add more jokes, but to become a better writer and write the stories that speak to you. She mentioned that she read an interview with one of Seth Myers’ TV writers who said she became funnier when she started writing to please herself, not others.

    Highlights from the Q&A that followed Anne’s talk:

    • There is a recently announced Canadian award for humour in children’s books--the Joan Betty Stuchner ‘Oy Vey’ Funniest Children’s Book Award
    • The Forest of Reading award-winning titles are voted on by kids and include a lot of humourous books
    • The illustrator generally takes ownership of the humour-within-the-illustrations aspect of a book
    • The element of surprise is important but hard to get right
    • Sometimes kids pick up stuff in art that adults miss – don’t underestimate their ability to understand things
    • You can’t just “add farts” to make book a funny; there has to be something more to it (the way Captain Underpants is not just about underpants)
    • Funny is all around us; finding it and reflecting it back is the skill
    • Scholastic looks at everything across all age groups, not just funny books, and is always looking for Canadian content
    • Scholastic has a rights team; which rights they request is on a case-by-case basis

  • Tuesday, July 12, 2016 8:48 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    Notes from CANSCAIP Meeting on June 8, 2016

    To give out-of-towners an opportunity to attend, CANSCAIP’s Toronto meetings are occasionally held outside the city.  Our meeting on June 8 was held at Durham College in Whitby, and many members from the area, including Oshawa, Ajax, Pickering, Kawartha Lakes, and Peterborough were there, along with some from Toronto and Burlington.  

    The meeting was preceded by a fixed-price dinner prepared by the culinary students at the college’s Bistro 67 restaurant.  

    Kat Mototsune, the kids editor at James Lorimer Publishers, was scheduled to speak about diversity in publishing but cancelled due to illness.  However, the topic was well-covered at the meeting with the attendees participating in a lively and wide-ranging discussion on defining  and demystifying diversity.  We’ll arrange for Kat to speak at a future meeting in Toronto.  

     President Sharon Jennings hosted the meeting and co-recording secretary Saumiya  Balasubramaniam took notes. 

    Member Announcements:  New Books and Projects

    • Patricia Storms:  Presented her new picture book The Ghosts Go Spooking.
    • Jennifer Maruno and Sylvia McNicoll: Have both contributed recent articles to Write magazine, a publication of The Writers Union of Canada.
    • Nadia Hohn:  Her picture book Malaika’s Costume won the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario Children’s Literature Award.
    • Heather M. O’Connor: Presented her debut YA novel Betting Game, which was included in Best Book for Kids and Teens, published bi-annually by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
    • Theo Heras:  Recently finished working on a published bibliography of children’s books for USBBY; of the 800 titles in the book, 200 are Canadian.

    Administrative Director’s Announcements (Helena Aalto)

    • Our annual conference Packaging Your Imagination on Saturday, November 19 will be held at a terrific new downtown location:  Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at Victoria and Shuter, close to the subway, hotels, restaurants, theatres and Art Gallery of Ontario, as well a short walk to the Eaton Centre and other shopping venues.  Award-winning illustrator Sydney Smith is one of our presenters, and during our lunch break IBBY Canada will present him with the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award for Sidewalk Flowers.
    • The Writing for Children Competition opened in May, and the deadline for submissions is July 30. A unique and important benefit of the Competition is that every entrant receives feedback from the readers who evaluate the entries.
    • The Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s AGM will be held on Monday June 27 at 6 pm at the Northern District Library. Speaker Gillian O’Reilly will talk about her passion for Canadian children’s books, which promises to be an excellent talk from her vast knowledge of the field.

    Discussion on Diversity in Publishing

    The floor was then open to discussion on the topic of diversity.  Among the issues discussed:

    • Canada’s publishing industry is different from the US. Our population and cultural heritage is more diverse than the US, which is reflected in the numbers of books we publish that have diversity themes, and in the extensive diverse collections in our public libraries which play a significant role in culture in Canada. However, Canada’s children’s publishing industry is only about 40 years old, and we are still catching up with the world.
    • Appropriation of culture and the authenticity of the writer’s voice was discussed. It was mentioned that The Writers Union of Canada states there is no such thing as cultural appropriation.
    • Jennifer Maruno, who married into Japanese culture, noted a negative bias by educators against writers telling stories about cultures that are not in the writer’s blood, even if the stories themselves are authentic. Her Cherry Blossoms series, about a ten-year old Japanese girl and based on her mother-in-law’s childhood, were recognized for making a contribution to Japanese culture in Canada.  When Jennifer was invited by the Japanese Cultural Centre to a program honouring successful Japanese women, she told them was not Japanese by birth;  a lengthy and non-responsive silence ensued.  Eventually the books and her mother-in-law were honored at another presentation.
    • Catherine Rondina talked about writing Lighting Our World: A Year of Celebrations, a non-fiction title about cultural festivals such as Ramadan, Hanukkah, Diwali, Halloween and many others, seen from a child’s perspective. For a section  in a native child’s voice,  Cathy arranged to get approval from an expert in the native community before including it in the book.
    • Nadia Hohn discussed the We Need Diverse Books campaign and what we need to be doing in Canada to tell our stories, and tell them right.
    • The general agreement from the floor seemed to be that it is important to be true to history and that imposing current values on a historical perspective isn’t authentic.

    Sharon Jennings concluded the meeting by stating that we should all focus on good writing.

  • Sunday, May 29, 2016 12:46 AM | Sharon Plumb (Administrator)

    Edward Willett, author of over 50 books for young people including two acclaimed YA Fantasy series (Masks of Agyrima and Shards of Excalibur) will be giving a talk on Writing Young Adult Fantasy on May 30 at 1 pm CST.

    You can watch in person at the Saskatchewan Writers Guild office in Regina, SK, or online at . The talk will be archived for three weeks afterwards on livestream.

    Details are at

    Find out more about Ed at

    Thank you to the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild for sponsoring this talk with a Writing Group Grant!

  • Tuesday, May 24, 2016 6:58 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

    Notes for Meeting May 11th, 2016

    Recording Secretary : Anne Laurel Carter (

    Our Vice-President, Jennifer Maruno, chaired the meeting and began by welcoming visitors and new members.

    New Creations:

    Stepping Into Traffic, fiction by Karen Rankin for ages 13 + from Thistledown Press about a sixteen year old boy who plans to make good in his eighth foster home.


    Helena Aalto announced that our PYI annual conference will be held Sat Nov 19th at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, downtown Toronto at Shuter & Victoria close to the subway and the Eaton’s Centre. 

    Helena reminded us that CANSCAIP is providing some of the programming at the Canadian Writers’ Summit at Harbourfront June 16th - 19th, 2016. 

    The deadline for the new Writing for Children competition for unpublished writers is July 31st, 2016. 

    Note: Our meeting location on June 8th only will be Durham College in Whitby (near Hwy 401). All are welcome at the dinner in the College with our speaker Kat Mototsune, the editor for children and teens at Lorimer Books. 

    Speakers Panel: 

    Jennifer Maruno introduced this evening’s panel of speakers: 

    Don Aker from Nova Scotia (right), Karen Bass Alberta (centre), and Charis Cotter from Newfoundland (left). These authors were visiting Toronto for the as nominees for the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Awards, and CANSCAIP President Sharon Jennings arranged for them all to come to our meeting.

    Jennifer asked the panel the following questions:

    1)    Describe your writing environment and how long you actually write.

    2)    Where did your desire to write come from?

    3)    What advice do you have for a writer who’s maybe experiencing the doldrums?

    4)    Describe the ideal publisher.

    5)    Do you ever say no to your editor?

    6)    Do you work with a critique group? 

    Don Aker

    1)    Don wishes he was more disciplined but thinks every successful writer needs a “wife” (or supportive spouse). He wrote his first 2 novels writing from 5 - 6:30 am before his children got up and then worked all day as a teacher. He tours (now that he’s retired) and feels he has less time for writing. But when he’s home, he’s an early riser, has breakfast with his wife, goes for a walk on the beach and then works straight until 4 pm.

    2)    He became a writer because he didn’t know how to teach writing and had to in the classroom. He went back to do his Masters and one of his courses was the Martha Vineyard 2 week Writers’ Course where he had to face a blank page and create/write every day and read something at the end of the 2 weeks. The instructor told him his piece was publishable and he started writing and struggling WITH his students. Writing a story with the critiquing support of a class, he won the Atlantic Writing Competition and didn’t look back.

    3)    Don quoted Phillip Pullman saying Plumbers don’t get plumbers block, Writers don’t get writers’ block. It’s a matter of putting one word down after another. Don remembers writing a novel about a young man coming to terms with his brother’s suicide and feeling stuck about the scene where the boy found his dead brother. Sitting beside a woman on a plane, as usual he questioned her intensely and she told her story about seeing the towers come down in Manhattan and first reactions which were of shock. That conversation enabled him to write the scene: the boy would go and do something normal.

    4)    Don believes the most important quality is promotion. Harper Collins has had excellent editors who have helped him make the best book. They also helped him laugh at himself. Don suggests writing competitions are an excellent way to get exposure.

    5)    He had a book in 2012 he hated and asked the publisher to delay it. When he got a new editor, every suggestion she made was excellent and he trusted her and the book as a result was much better.

    6)    He had a critique group early in his career and liked it. He no longer does because he became too busy. His first reader is his wife whose opinion he respects.  

    Karen Bass

    1)    She has an office where she squirrels away to write a first draft. She feels she wastes her morning time on social media before settling down to work 2 - 10 pm.  When she’s doing research she has no schedule.

    2)    Karen was always an avid reader and when her daughter was four she went to work at the local library and took a writing course and got hooked.

    3)    Karen went through a crisis when there were medical emergencies in her family and had to set it aside. Karen thinks instead of trying to empty yourself on the page, go fill yourself up with reading or travelling or any kind of life experience.

    4)    Karen feels she has a great publisher, Pajama Press.

    5)    Karen feels they are mostly right although she has argued a historical fact when she knows she’s right. She has hired a freelance editor.

    6)    Karen lives in a small community and has two trusted readers not a critique group. 

    Charis Cotter

    1)    She lives near the water 90 minutes from St. Johns and begins her day with a walk, thinking about the story. She often sits on her couch looking out over the water when she’s not at her desk.  She feels she’s like a cat, getting tea, getting up, and finally settles down to a couple of hours in the morning, and couple in the afternoon 3-4 hours in a day. If she’s editing a story she can spend longer.

    2)    Charis loved daydreaming as a child and put herself in her stories. As an adult she wrote her first novel for her nephew (which didn’t get published). She worked freelance as an editor for publishers. It took her five years from her nonfiction books to make the switch to writing fiction.

    3)    Charis has recently thought about writers’ block and her only advice is to persevere. If Charis is stuck she writes about anything, the weather, her family, anything. Keep at it.

    4)    Charis would like to be taken her out to expensive lunches, respect her ideas, listen, give her a great advance so she could live on it, they’d market and sell her books. Charis doesn’t have an agent but uses Sally Keefe Cohen to negotiate her contracts.

    5)    Charis generally tries to trust her editors and consider their questions and suggestions although she will fight for something she feels strongly about.

    6)    Charis prefers to work on her own.

  • Friday, May 13, 2016 3:07 PM | Sharon Plumb (Administrator)

    Award-winning author and professor of Children's Literature Beverley Brenna's presentation "Writing the World for Today's Kids: Diversity Essentials" is now available on YouTube!.

    Beverley gave an overview of Canadian books that have characters with diverse abilities (all 134!) and provided 10 tips for writing about such characters. She also identified some gaps in topics in existing books, and read from some of her own work. Her website is .

    Thank you to the Saskatchewan Writers Guild for sponsoring this talk through a Writing Group Grant.

    You can watch her presentation at

  • Wednesday, April 27, 2016 1:11 PM | Lena Coakley (Administrator)

    Notes for Meeting April 13th, 2016

    Recording Secretary : Anne Laurel Carter (

    Our president, Sharon Jennings, chaired the meeting and began by welcoming visitors and new members.

    New Creations:

    Stepping Into Traffic, fiction by Karen Rankin for ages 13 + from Thistledown Press. Book Launch is May 1st at 2pm in the Lillian H. Smith Library rotunda.

    Shire Summer, fiction by Noelle Jack for middle grade readers from Archway Publishing. For  Book Launch details check out:


    SCBWI members remember to vote for Crystal Kite Award. Voting ends April 14th at 5 pm.

    A week of inspiration and feedback for your YA Novel

    with Anne Laurel Carter

    at the University of Toronto Summer Writing School

    Mon-Fri July 11 -15, 9:30 am - 3:00 pm

    Downtown Toronto Campus

    Helena Alto announced that our PYI annual conference will be held Sat Nov 19th at the Li Ka Shing Institute, downtown Toronto at Shuter & Victoria.

    Don Aker, Karen Bass and Charis Cotter will be visiting Toronto from Nova Scotia, Alberta and Newfoundland and part of a lively and informative panel discussion for our May meeting.


    Catherine Rondina introduced our two talented speakers and siblings, Ann and David Powell. They formed Puppetmongers Theatre in1974 and have become internationally recognized and awarded for their decades of fine work.

                Ann began their presentation by showing us a gift she received from her brother when she was eight: her first marionette (with useful instructions in the box). They both loved playing with the dog on strings, received more puppets as gifts, and began making their own. Their puppet creations and story-telling grew as they did and both Ann and David eventually graduated from OCAD.

                David showed us the first marionette he made as a boy: a wolf made of cardboard covered in cloth whose body could slink and pounce and whose jaws opened wide to reveal a long red tongue.

                They love to perform on stage, visibly moving their puppets in front of a clever background set designed and built by them to enhance the story they are telling. They took their first show, The Miller, to Iran and came home to create a story and puppets fitted with rods into the back or into the top of the head based on a style of puppets from that country. Puppet bodies were rag doll and of different sizes to denote social status. They used cranking movie boxes in which the audience viewed pictures painted on a scroll of paper that enhance the story.

                Invited to festivals, they became more and more inspired by creative ideas they’d seen around the world in Object Theatre. They showed us numerous video clips of their past performances to illustrate how they used shadow puppets on the wall to show violence and puppets made from fabric, wood, bricks, whatever material and tradition they needed to enhance the telling of a particular story. Large and small puppets can show characters in the foreground or the background of the story setting.

                Ann often uses ideas from fairy and folk tales to inspire her works. For both of them, the goal has been to tell stories to contemporary audiences in historical ways that spoke of a slower and more relaxed time.

                They don’t tend to sketch but see the puppets in their heads, then make them. They also don’t start by writing out a script but use storyboards to visually help them tell the story, then create the puppets needed as characters. Then the puppets tell them what they will say. As puppeteers, they are on stage and part of the show. They visibly move the puppets’ bodies and arms (which have no joints). David explained that he feels and directs the puppets’ movements from his fingertips.

                In the eighties (as now) when funding collapsed for their performances in schools, they diversified their work and began performing live in theatres. They continue to create and performed shows for adults, families, and children and offer workshops to other puppeteers and the general public called: Teach Your Puppet To Act.

                Puppeteers often start their careers as children who discover the delight of acting out a story using puppets as their characters. Watching Ann and David perform and interact throughout their unique presentation gave us the magical sense that we were watching a brother and sister who were lucky, talented and creative enough to maintain a life-long enjoyment of playing and telling stories to each other as children.

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