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  • PYI 2019: Packaging Your Imagination Conference

PYI 2019: Packaging Your Imagination Conference

  • Saturday, October 26, 2019
  • 9:00 AM
  • Toronto ON


(depends on selected options)

Base fee:

Registration is closed

Saturday, October 26, 2019

  • Fantastic sessions--choose 4 of the 12 offered. (Session descriptions and speaker bios BELOW)
  • Memorable keynote speakers: Itah Sadu and Jan Thornhill 
  • 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. SOLD OUT 
  • 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 information and registration.

    OPENING KEYNOTE   9:00-9:30 

    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.  

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

    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, and the author and  illustrator of Sun Dog explain how a picture book gets created, with behind-the-scenes anecdotes about their book-making process. 

    DEBORAH KERBEL is the author of ten books for young readers; Sun Dog is her debut picture book. SUZANNE DEL RIZZO created the clay illustrations for Sun Dog and Before You Were Born by Deborah Kerbel; her author-illustrator debut is 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). 

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

    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.

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

    (Choose #7, #8 or #9)

    7. 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.

    (Choose #10, #11 or #12)

    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 format 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? 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.

    CLOSING KEYNOTE   3:30-4:30 

    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.

    BOOK SIGNINGS   4:30-5:00 

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


    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. (SOLD OUT!)


    Manuscript SOLD OUT

    CLAIRE CALDWELL, Annick Press

    PETER CARVER, Red Deer Press

    KATHRYN COLE, Second Story Press

    YVETTE GHIONE, Kids Can Press

    ERIN HAGGETT, Scholastic

    KAREN LI, Owl Kids Books

    DEBBIE ROGOSIN, Editorial Services

    KATIE SCOTT, Kids Can Press

    LÉONICKA VALCIUS, Transatlantic Agency

    Portfolio SOLD OUT

    REBECCA BENDER, Pajama Press 

    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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