NOTES from November 2017 Meeting; SPEAKER: Amanda West Lewis

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 8:31 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)


President Sharon Jennings welcomed attendees. 


Gwenda, an author-editor, joined as a friend. 

Tina joined in September. She is an author who also works at Indigo. 

Vincent and Lonni are collaborating on an illustrated book. 

Ashley Barron is an illustrator. She just completed her term as Illustrator-in-Residence at Orchard View Library. 


Gillian Chan presented her young adult mystery The Disappearance, published by Annick, featuring a fictional group home. Gillian urges readers to ‘embrace the strange’. 

Theo Heras presented her new picture book, Baby Cakes, illustrated by Renee Benoit. The two kids from Hat On, Hat Off are now in the kitchen baking. 

Deb Lougheed presented the fourth book, Payback, in her Orca Currents series set in a Bracebridge type town and featuring a hero who gets in scrapes and solves crimes. Deb also presented Crackerjack Debutante, a collection of poems by Deb and Jack Livesay.


Lana Button, CANSCAIP liaison with IBBY Canada, announced IBBY’s General Meeting on Monday, March 3rd at 8:30. IBBY Canada introduces Canadian children’s literature around the world and also promotes international books in Canada, as well as providing bibliotherapy in troubled regions. IBBY membership will be discounted at this weekend’s PYI conference. 

Teresa Toten will be appearing on a CCBC panel called Getting It Done on Monday, December 4th at 6:00 PM in Room 200 at Orchard View Library. This is a free event. 

Gillian O’Reilly announced the Friends of the Osborne annual Helen Stubbs Memorial Lecture featuring Deborah Ellis on Reading and Freedom at 7:00 PM at TPL’s Lillian Smith branch on Thursday, November 9th at 7:00 PM. 

Helena Aalto reminded CANSCAIP members of the upcoming PYI conference with a great lineup of speakers, including Arthur Slade and Richard Scrimger. 

She is in need of a person to act as a timer for the one-on-one sessions at PYI. 

She also reminded everyone of the upcoming (January) Judy Brunsek marketing webinar. 

Lena Coakley attended an IFOA panel with representatives from the TAC, OAC and CC on grants and brought handouts. Her big takeaway: they want to hear from you. Don’t be afraid to call and ask questions. 

GUEST SPEAKER – Amanda West Lewis

Theo Heras introduced Amanda, a Renaissance woman who has written novels alone and with Tim Wynne-Jones and many craft books for Kids Can, and is also an artist and calligrapher, actor, director, producer, and Executive Director of Ottawa Theatre. She recently co-produced Brian Doyle’s novel Down to Low for theatre. 

Amanda talked about the role of a co-producer for the Down to Low adaptation. She worked with an adapter, raised money, did contracts, organized venues for readings and performances through the entire process. 

While Brian is so well respected in the literary community, few theatre company people had heard of him. As well, the show required seven actors and three musicians and no theatre companies were willing to take on a show with this many people involved.  All this led to the decision to independently produce the show. 

A budget of $100,000 was settled on for a two-and-a-half week run. Amanda knew Doyle fans would help fund it. As well, they did an Indiegogo campaign and received some grants. 

Big challenges, in terms of the play itself, were not to lose Doyle’s unique voice, and to keep the sense of storytelling without relying too heavily on a narrator on stage. 

These issues were solved with the help of talented collaborators. The designer came up with the idea of creating a bar-like stage that involved the audience. The actors and musicians and costume designer also provided solutions to these challenges. Theatre, unlike novel writing, is collaborative, and brainstorming with your team is a big part of it. Brian was there all along the way, too. 

To solve the narrator problem and bring scenes to life, narrator Tommy became younger Tommy after a sentence of a scene and then stepped into the scene as the younger version of himself. (This solution was decided on after a workshop presentation with two different Tommys.) 

To solve the problem of Frank’s drinking-driving scene for a family audience, more background was provided by Brian (the character only started drinking after coming home from war), which was incorporated into the play. 

The show opened on Brian Doyle day and was a big hit. 

It has been programmed into the National Arts Centre’s 2018 season.  Amanda is currently consulting with the designer on tweaks for this move into a much larger venue. 

In response to a question about the script’s suitability for both an adult and children’s audience, Amanda said they did not change the script for the different audiences. It remained the same, geared to a family audience. 

In response to a question about how they handled Bridget’s one arm, Amanda demonstrated how the costume designer managed it. 

In response to a question about how whether she wants to adapt more of Brian’s work, Amanda said that her co-producer (and the adapter of the show), is adapting more work. 

Someone asked if the musicians were brought on more for music or sound effects, and Amanda said both. 

Asked about the possibility of a tour, Amanda said that isn’t something she’d want to take on. 

Asked for advice for a writer adapting her own book, Amanda recommended using an adapter familiar with theatre, or getting input from playwrights and directors. 

Asked what she is currently working on, Amanda, who just received her MFA in Children’s Writing from Vermont College, said she is working on a novel and thinking (because of her MFA experience) about her writing very differently. 


Sharon reminded members of the December holiday party, featuring a panel of publishing people who are also authors:  Vikki Van Sickle, Naseem Hrab, Liz MacLeod, Mary Beth Leatherdale, and Hadley Dyer.