Notes from October 12 2016 meeting; SPEAKER Joel Sutherland

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!