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  • VIRTUAL PYI 2019: Packaging Your Imagination Conference Online

VIRTUAL PYI 2019: Packaging Your Imagination Conference Online

  • Friday, November 15, 2019
  • Friday, January 31, 2020
  • On your computer


(depends on selected options)

Base fee:

Registration is closed


If you can't attend our Packaging Your Imagination conference in person, Virtual PYI lets you be there on your computer and on your schedule.

Your choice of four professionally recorded PYI sessions plus two keynotes costs $125 for CANSCAIP Friends and Members and $150 for non-members. (The in-person conference was $200/$225.)

NOTE: If you're not already a CANSCAIP Friend or Member, to register at the $125 rate please join first and then register for Virtual PYI.  

You'll get links to online videos of the two keynotes plus the four sessions you've ordered. You'll also be emailed handouts that were part of the session (not all the sessions include handouts).

NOTE: The links to the online videos will be available around the middle of November--it takes about two weeks after PYI to edit and format the recordings of the sessions. 


  • Your registration for VIRTUAL PYI includes the two keynotes, plus four sessions of your choice.
  • And new this year, you can order videos of additional sessions for just $10 each. 

Scroll down for our fantastic PYI lineup!

KEYNOTES (Both keynotes included with your registration)

The World of Call and Response

ITAH SADU is an award-winning storyteller, children's author, and co-owner of the bookstore A Different Booklist, specializing in African and Caribbean Canadian literature and diverse resources from around the world. She is a founding member of Different Booklist Cultural Centre - The People’s Residence, a cultural hub at Bathurst and Bloor.  

Claire Mackay Memorial Lecture   

JAN THORNHILL has been writing and illustrating science- and nature-based non-fiction children’s books for the past thirty years. Her most recent title, The Triumphant Tale of the House Sparrow, is a companion volume to The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk, which won the 2017 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award, the Roundtables of Canada Information Book Award, and was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. Jan lives in the woods near Havelock where she immerses herself in the natural world she writes about.

SESSIONS (Choose any four)

1. The Building Blocks of Picture Books 

You’ve got an idea for a picture book…now what? How do you structure your manuscript? When do the pictures get added? How does the publisher bring the text and art together? The art director at Pajama Press, an author and an illustrator explain how a picture book gets created, with behind-the-scenes anecdotes about their book-making process. DEBORAH  KERBEL has written ten books for young readers; Sun Dog is her first picture book. SUZANNE DEL RIZZO created the clay illustrations for some of Deborah Kerbel's books--her author-illustrator debut was My Beautiful Birds. REBECCA BENDER is art director at Pajama Press, illustrator of Slug Days and Penguin Days by Sara Leach, and author-illustrator of Giraffe and Bird and Don't Laugh at Giraffe.

2. Eleven Essential Questions (to make your manuscript even stronger)

How do you know if you’ve done everything to make your work the best it can be? Use this eleven-point checklist to address essential elements of craft, whether you use an outline or depend on intuition. From Am I using too many words? to Does somebody have a secret? these touchstones will specifically guide your inventive process to a richer and more satisfying result. MARTHE JOCELYN is the author and sometimes illustrator of more than 40 books for young readers. She was the 2009 recipient of the prestigious Vicky Metcalf Award honouring a distinguished body of work--and she's kept on writing since then!  

3.  Writing LGBTQ+ Inclusive Books for All Ages

Fiction or non-fiction, toddlers to teens: all our readers need books that reflect their lives and the world they live in. So how can we ensure our writing is inclusive of the diverse LGBTQ+ community? When writing about identities we don’t share, what questions are important to consider? How can we avoid common tropes and create realistic, authentic characters? ROBIN STEVENSON is the award-winning author of 25 books for kids and teens, including board books (Pride Colors), picture books (Ghost’s Journey) middle-grade (Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community) and YA (When You Get the Chance).  

4. Writing, Plain and Simple: Intensifying the emotional landscape of your manuscript through less-is-more storytelling. 

Emotional stories don’t have to be melodramatic or over-the-top. Often it’s the quiet moments that resonate the loudest. These understated, but intense, moments add authenticity to your story and can move readers in deep and meaningful ways. Focus on creating stories that are quiet, yet powerful--stories that have the power to break your heart and put it together again. HEATHER SMITH is the author of Chicken Girl and The Agony of Bun O’Keefe, winner of the 2019 White Pine Award. Her middle grade novel, Ebb & Flow, was shortlisted for the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award. A proud Newfoundlander, Heather’s east coast roots inspire much of her writing.

5. You Can't Change History--or Can You? 

What makes a good historical novel? How do you capture the feeling of another time in a way that's accessible to modern readers? How do you tackle the necessary research and use it without doing info-dumps? Can you alter known historical facts? GILLIAN CHAN loves doing research and wants to share the tips she has picked up. She is the award-winning author of nine books, five of which have an historical base, ranging through time from the War of 1812 to World War II. Gillian is currently working on a novel about the Norse voyages of exploration. 

6. Exploring with Mixed Media

Do you fear the blank page? Crank up your creativity and step out of your comfort zone by learning new techniques for unique ways of illustrating--using collage, pastels, watercolor and more--to help you develop your style more deeply. JOSÉE BISAILLON has illustrated more than 35 picture books and won many awards, including the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award for The Snow Knows. Her first book as an author-illustrator Reviens sur Terre Esther was published in 2018, translated to English as Come Back to Earth, Esther! in 2019.

Breaking-in Panel

If you’re trying to get your first book published, this is the session for you! Our panel of newly-published authors will tell you how they got there, and share their specific, practical advice. Bring questions for the Q&A!

SAUMIYA BALASUBRAMANIAM's first book, When I Found Grandma, was in The Globe and Mail’s “Seven books to help kids make sense of the world,” and CBC’s "Kids books to look for". She's written for magazines and newspapers, and received the Bram and Bluma Appel Scholarship  for the Humber School for Writers. 

AARON LAM is a journalist, filmmaker and author. His documentaries include The Shaw Festival: Behind the Curtain which he co-directed for PBS, and he was managing editor of Business $ense and ENGINUITY magazines. His first book for young readers, The Fake-Chicken Kung Fu Fighting Blues, was released by Lorimer in 2018.

STAR SPIDER writes fiction, non-fiction, memoir and poetry, and her debut YA novel is Past Tense. A student of psychology at Ryerson University, her writing deals with mental health and LGBTQ themes. Star’s stories have been widely published and can be found both online and in print. 

8. LMAO:  Writing Funny Stuff for Teens

How to use your big mouth, issues with boundaries, painful adolescence and misplaced optimism to make teens laugh. The author shares her tips, insights and cringe-inducing experiences to help you hit your readers’ funny bones. VICKI GRANT has written 17 novels, including Quid pro QuoShort for Chameleon and 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You (sold to 20 territories and optioned for film.) 

9. Story Worthy - Creating characters to convey story as an author/illustrator

It's no easy feat for an author/illustrator to create characters with appeal, personality and motivation in 32 pages. Deep dive into Cale's process of creating characters that carry his stories, and balancing the drawing and writing. CALE ATKINSON is a self-taught author, illustrator, and animator in Kelowna, BC. You can usually find him up late drawing and watching cartoons. His work includes animated shorts, video games, and picture books such as To the SeaExplorers of the WildWhere Oliver FitsOff and Away, and Sir Simon: Super Scarer.

10. Publisher & Agent Panel — First Page Challenge 

Our publishing panel always packs the room--and this year's First Page Challenge panel will be packed with writing advice. The first pages of not-yet-published kids books are displayed on-screen, and each panelist evaluates the writing. The popular First Page Challenge fprmat was pioneered at the Humber School for Writers. 

CLAIRE CALDWELL is the Editor at Annick Press, where she acquires books for kids of all ages. Prior to joining Annick, Claire edited romance and action-adventure at Harlequin. She is also a poet, with a second collection forthcoming from Invisible Publishing.

KAREN LI is Editorial Director at Owlkids Books. Her list includes winners of the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Norma Fleck Award, and the Information Book Award, as well as books featured in publications such as the New York Times and

LÉONICKA VALCIUS is an Assistant Agent at Transatlantic Agency, representing authors of fiction for adults and children. A founding member of the Festival of Literary Diversity, and founder of #DiverseCanLit, working with writers of colour is a key part of Léonicka's mandate. 

11. Writing the Villain

Every great hero needs a great villain. In this workshop, we'll discuss the essential nature of villainy, the special relationship between villain and hero, and the critical role of the villain in shaping your story, with a particular eye toward common problems that get manuscripts rejected. KEVIN SANDS is the multiple award-winning author of the bestselling Blackthorn Key adventure series.

12. Words and Pictures

What makes a graphic novel truly sing? You'll widen your understanding of the special relationship between pictures and words in graphic novels, and apply techniques to get the most out of your ideas. Bring two characters of your own creation to experiment with. WILLOW DAWSON is the author and/or illustrator of award-winning books and graphic novels including The Wolf-Birds, Avis Dolphin,and White as Milk, Red as Blood. She teaches Creating Comics and Graphic Novels at U of T SCS.

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

Phone: 1-416-515-1559

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