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  • PYI 2018: Packaging Your Imagination Conference

PYI 2018: Packaging Your Imagination Conference

  • Saturday, November 10, 2018
  • 9:00 AM
  • Toronto ON


(depends on selected options)

Base fee:

Saturday, November 10, 2018

  • Fantastic sessions--choose 4 of the 12 offered. (Session descriptions and speaker bios BELOW)
  • Memorable keynote speakers: Ruth Ohi and Deborah Ellis 
  • A warm and welcoming day with the CANSCAIP community.


  • $200 for CANSCAIP Friends and Members ($225 for non-members) with lunch and good snacks included. 
  • NOTE: If you're not currently a Friend or Member, to get the $200 rate, please join or renew first and then come back to register for PYI. 
  • For an additional $75 with your PYI registration, have a 15-minute meeting with a publisher or other expert for their evaluation of your manuscript, illustration portfolio or author website/social media.  
  • See below for more info on this very popular option. 


  • When you register for PYI, you can order videos of additional sessions for just $10 each. 
  • You can choose four sessions to attend live, and then choose more to watch later on video! 
  • We're back at Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, 209 Victoria Street (near Yonge and Dundas), close to subways, hotels, theatres, shopping. 
  • DRIVE: Underground parking is right below the building for $10 a day. 
  • TRANSIT: A short walk from the Dundas and Queen subway stations.  
  • Pantages Hotel is the closest, just across the street from our PYI venue. 
  • Cambridge Suites Hotel and the Marriott Toronto Eaton Centre are a short walk from the PYI venue. 


  • Can't be there in person? All PYI sessions will be professionally recorded. About two weeks after the live conference, you'll be emailed links to the recordings of your selections. 
  • Virtual PYI is $125 for CANSCAIP Friends and Members ($150 for non-members)
  • Virtual PYI registration will OPEN SOON.

PYI 2018 and Virtual PYI 2018 are supported by Toronto Arts Council. Thank you!

    OPENING KEYNOTE   9:00-9:30 

    Falling to Pieces vs. Peace of Mind: Planning for the Long Run

    A conversation about safe spaces, maker spaces, and sometimes telling that inner voice to just hush.
    RUTH OHI is the author-illustrator of 20 books, and illustrator of over 60. Her most recent are Scribble and Fox and Squirrel Help Out (both Scholastic Canada). Ruth is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art.

    MORNING SESSIONS   9:45-10:45 
    (Choose #1, #2 or #3)

    1. Building a Better Story: The Art of Picture Book Story Construction

    These days, “picture book” describes a wide range of sub-genres that include story books, biographies, concept books, non-fiction and poetic moments. The only rule you can't break when writing one is that it must be entertaining! With a focus on story structure, explore how to tackle this most challenging genre of writing. 

    RUKHSANA KHAN is the author of 13 books, and has won or been nominated for 42 local and international awards. Her picture book Big Red Lollipop was chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the 100 greatest children’s books in the last 100 years.

    2. Going Deep: Creating Characters of Depth and Dimension

    Multifaceted characters who come across as authentic are essential to every good story, every genre, and every age of reader you’re writing for. Explore methods to find a character’s voice, write dialogue that feels real, and dig deep into POV, all to help create powerful, resonant stories. 

    DANIELLE YOUNGE-ULLMAN is the author of three YA novels, including Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined, which was nominated for the Governor General’s Award, the White Pine Award, the Prix Sorcieres of France, and the Prix des Libraires du Quebec, and named one of CBC’s Best Books of 2017.

    3. Writing Middle Grade Humour and Fantasy

    Want to enthrall your readers with memorable characters and fantastical worlds? Want to make them laugh out loud? How about both? Humour and fantasy are a winning combination to capture the hearts and minds of young readers. This workshop explains how to craft a story that both sparks the imagination and tickles the funny bone.

    WADE ALBERT WHITE writes middle grade fantasy and science fiction and is the author of the Adventurer’s Guide series, including The Adventurer's Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me). His time is dictated by three children, a cat, and a hamster, and he strongly believes that a mid-afternoon nap is a legitimate method of research.

    MID-MORNING SESSIONS   11:00-12:00
    (Choose #4, #5 or #6) 

    4. Taking the Mystery Out of Negotiating Your Book Contract  

    Your publisher sent you a book contract offer and it's so exciting that you're tempted to simply sign it. But should you? In this session, which includes Q&A from participants, you'll learn about basic, often confusing, clauses, conditions and termsfrom premium sales to electronic and film rights and morecontained in a typical contract, to ensure you don’t sign everything away. 

    SALLY KEEFE COHEN is a literary consultant, based in Toronto, who has been acting on behalf of Canadian writers and writers’ estates for over 30 years, negotiating book contracts with both large and small publishers to ensure that creators’ rights are protected and respected.

    5. Become Your Own Plot Doctor 

    Whether you’re outlining, writing or revising, an analytical examination of your story will help diagnose and treat any plot problems. Learn how to become your own plot doctor by asking yourself questions about your characters and story, and then intuitively answering those questions.

    KAREN KROSSING has written seven novels for kids and teens, including Punch Like a Girl, runner-up for the Kaywell Books Save Lives Award, and Bog, winner of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award. She conducts writing workshops to empower emerging writers, and is currently enrolled in an MFA at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. 

    6. Picture Your Cover!

    What makes an eye-catching and memorable picture book cover? A few weeks ahead, Rebecca will provide you with details and art direction on a mock cover assignment for a picture book. You’ll bring rough work and/or final art for discussion to learn what works and what doesn't.

    REBECCA BENDER is the art director at Pajama Press, and an author-illustrator. Her Giraffe and Bird was chosen as the TD Grade One Book Giveaway for 2018.  

    LUNCH  12:00-1:00 
    (lunch is provided)

    (Choose #7, #8 or #9)

    7. Breaking-in Panel

    If you’re a kidlit writer trying to get your first book published, this is the session for you! Our panel of newly-published authors tell how they got there. Lots of specific, practical advice... plus bring your questions for the Q&A.

    S. K. ALI is a Toronto-based author and teacher. She has a degree in creative writing and has written about Muslim life for various media. Her first novel, Saints and Misfits, was featured on many top ten YA lists and was a finalist for best debut YA fiction by the American Library Association. She is working on her second YA novel, a story about love.  

    NASEEM HRAB is the marketing director at Kids Can Press and the author of the picture books Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend and Ira Crumb Feels the Feelings. Her comedy writing has appeared on McSweeney's Internet Tendency and The Rumpus. 

    JEAN MILLS has a communications background in writing, editing and college teaching. Her features, reviews and children’s stories have appeared in publications across Canada, and two novels were published in the educational market. Skating Over Thin Ice is her first YA novel to make it through the door at a trade publishing house.

    8. Get Crafty:  Practical Tips for Finding Your Focus

    Great idea! Now, how do you actually start? Get crafty to get the best story. How do character and plot work for different ages? Which genre is best for you? What voice to use? What makes a first chapter?  Can an outline help? Show or tell? Tips and tools of tradecraft that could make the difference for you. 
    TED STAUNTON writes picture books, novels, non-fiction, and graphic novels. In 2013 he won the CCBC John Spray Mystery award and his work has been nominated for many others. His newest novel, What Blows Up (Scholastic), will be published in December. Ted teaches the Writing Children’s Fiction courses at George Brown College and has presented everywhere from Inuvik to Addis Ababa.

    9. The Essentials of Character Design

    When creating a picture book world, designing a character that compliments the story is key. How do you develop an endearing, eye-catching and original protagonist? How do you give them energy and personality in a few simple strokes? This workshop will guide you to creating the humans or animals who will inhabit those stories and bring them to life.
    QIN LENG is an award-winning illustrator of over 40 picture books, board books and chapter books. She made her authorial debut with I am Small (Kids Can Press). Qin won the APALA Prize for best picture book in 2015 and was a finalist for the Governor General’s award in 2014.

    (Choose #10, #11 or #12)

    10. PANEL—Three Publishers and an Agent

    Our annual publishing panel always packs the room. Hear the latest about the state of kids lit from the book industry’s best.

    BARBARA BERSON is a literary agent with the Helen Heller Agency, specializing in YA, literary fiction and memoir; and a freelance editor recently named a finalist for the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence. Previously, she was Penguin Canada’s children’s publisher, and worked with many award-winning authors. 

    PATRICIA OCAMPO was most recently managing editor and children’s book editor at Simon and Schuster Canada. She is a past president of IBBY Canada (International Board on Books for Young People) and a former literary agent. She acquires early readers, middle-grade fiction, young adult fiction, and parenting books.

    ERIN O'CONNOR is senior editor at Scholastic Canada,for non-fiction, picture books, and book-plus projects. Erin began her publishing career as assistant art director and editor at Owl and Chickadee Magazines, and at Scholastic spent many years with the school book clubs division.

    ANDREW WOOLDRIDGE is the owner and publisher at Orca Book Publishers in Victoria, BC. After starting in the warehouse more than 25 years ago, he has performed many publishing duties including editor, marketer, forklift driver and, most successfully, squirrel catcher. 

    11. Turning Fear into Stories Readers Will Die For

    Two authors share their insights on writing horror for middle grade and young teens. From plot to pace, character to setting, lots of tips and tricks to help you craft your own horrific masterpiece. 

    MARINA COHEN is the author of middle-grade horror novels including, The Inn BetweenThe Doll’s Eye, and coming in 2019, A Box of Bones. Her books have been nominated for awards in both Canada and the US. 

    JOEL A. SUTHERLAND is the Silver Birch and Hackmatack Award-winning author of Haunted Canada 4 to 8 andSummer's End. His new series, Haunted, includes The House Next Door and Kill Screen, and has been praised by Goosebumps author R.L. Stine. 

    12. From the Lab to the Library: Science Writing for Kids

    Fresh, fun science writing not only conveys facts, it inspires future scientists. In this workshop, explore genres in science writing and discover the best publishing pathway for your working style and goals. Then learn advanced research techniques that will take you well beyond Wikipedia… and into editors’ hearts. Strategies for organizing and managing research will also be discussed.

    L. E. CARMICHAEL is an escaped lab monkey with a PhD in wildlife population genetics. She’d much rather talk about science than actually do it, and has written 21 books for kids and teens, including the award-winning Fox Talk and Fuzzy Forensics.

    CLOSING KEYNOTE   3:30-4:30 

    Claire Mackay Memorial Lecture   

    DEBORAH ELLIS is best known for The Breadwinner, recently made into an Oscar-nominated animated film. She is the author of more than 40 works of fiction and non-fiction. Her books are populated by resourceful young people around the globe, living in war, poverty, and oppression. Named to the Order of Canada in 2016, Deborah's literary awards include the Governor General’s Award, the Ruth Schwartz Award, the Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work, and the Ontario Library Association’s President’s Award for Exceptional Achievement.  

    BOOK SIGNINGS   4:30-5:00 

    Books by the speakers will be available to purchase on-site from Another Story Bookstore. 

    ONE-TO-ONE EVALUATIONS   4:45-7:00

    For an additional $75, you can get a 15-minute One-to-One evaluation of your manuscript, illustration portfolio, author website or online presence. CANSCAIP pairs participants with publishers, agents, art directors, marketing directors, or other industry experts. 

    About a month before PYI, we ask participants for 1000-word manuscript excerpts, illustration portfolios, or website/social media. We forward those to your mentor before PYI so they can prepare for their 15-minute session with you. One-to-One meetings get started following PYI's closing keynote speaker. 

    Registration for the conference is required for a One-to-One evaluation. Space runs out quickly for these unique and highly useful sessions.

    One-to-One Manuscript Mentors to date (more to come): 

    Mentors will be announced shortly.

    One-to-One Portfolio 

    Mentor will be announced shortly. 

    One-to-One Website/Social Media 

    Mentors will be announced shortly.

    720 Bathurst St., Suite 412, Toronto, ON M5S 2R4

    Phone: 1-416-515-1559

    Copyright 2023 Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers

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