Notes from June 8 meeting at Durham College in Whitby: Group discussion on diversity in publishing

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.