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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sarah advises making friends with booksellers to sell your book. 

     Q & A 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    She noted that brown books don’t sell. 

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

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

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


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














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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    SPEAKER: Lynda Hill, Theatre Direct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Q & A

    How did you arrive at that choral speaking choice?

    Via workshops/rehearsals. 

    How did you get from book to script?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Notes from January 11 2017 CANSCAIP meeting in Toronto

     Speaker: Christie Harkin, Clockwise Press


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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Q and A 

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

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

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


  • 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!

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