NOTES from December 2017 meeting; SPEAKERS Hadley Dyer, Naseem Hrab, Mary Beth Leatherdale, Liz MacLeod, Vikki VanSickle,

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 4:10 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

NOTES from December 13th, 2017 General Meeting

President Sharon Jennings welcomed us to this, our Holiday meeting, and commenting that it was Chanukah, quoted: “May the miracle of the light of this season stay with you all the year long.” She introduced and thanked those volunteers present tonight: Michele Nidenoff, Holly Main, Maureen McGowan, Theo Heras, Anne Laurel Carter, Jennifer Mook-Sang, and our Administrative Director Helena Aalto. Also a shout-out to Starbucks for their generous donation of coffee, and to all those who brought holiday treats.

On November 15, we received the sad news of the death of Sheila Barry. She was the publisher at Groundwood since 2012, editor-in-chief at Kids Can Press, on the Board of Directors for The Canadian Children’s Book Centre, involved with IBBY Canada, and a dear friend to so many. She gave generously of her time to CANSCAIP, and will be forever known as the force behind so many beautiful, ground-breaking, award-winning books.


Vladyana Krykorka presented the latest edition of Baseball Bats for Christmas, by Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak (illustrated by Vladyana) and first published by Annick Press in 1990.

Eric Walters presented three new titles. Fourth Dimension (the 4th in the Rule of Three “trilogy” is dedicated to Eric’s grade 5 teacher who told him he could be a writer when he grew up. (She is also a character in this book.) Penguin Random House.  From The Heart of Africa – A Book of Wisdom contains 15 African sayings with15 different illustrators from Africa and North America (Penguin Random House). Surfer Dog (Orca) Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes, is a friendship story about a boy and his dog who surf together every day.

General Announcements

Lana Button urged us to join IBBY (The International Board on Books for Young People), mentioning the chance to network with like-minded souls, and the opportunity to be profiled in the IBBY Canada Newsletter.

Helena Aalto updated us on The Writing for Children Competition, and informed us that PYI will take place on Saturday November 10th, 2018.


Sharon introduced tonight’s fabulous panel – five women who are authors and who also work in publishing. As well, they have all volunteered their time with many of our kidlit organizations.

Vikki VanSickle is the Marketing and Publicity Manger for the Young Readers’ Program at Penguin Random House, and the author of many mid-grade/YA books (and one picture book). Her latest is The Winnowing, nominated for the 2018 Red Maple.

Liz MacLeod is a freelance editor, working for both Annick Press and Kids Can press, and is the author of dozens of non-fiction books. Her latest book, Canada Year by Year, won the Norma Fleck Award, and is nominated for the 2018 Silver Birch non-fiction award.

Mary Beth Leatherdale is a freelance editor at Annick Press, the founder of CHIRP and a former editor of OWL Magazine. Her latest book, Not Your Princess, is an anthology written with Lisa Charleyboy. Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees is nominated for the 2018 Silver Birch non-fiction award.

Naseem Hrab works as the Marketing Director at Kids Can Press and published her first book in 2017: Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend.

Hadley Dyer was for many years the Children’s Editor at Harper Collins, before ‘retiring’ to work on her own writing – both fiction and informational. Her first book, Johnny Kellock Died Today, 2006, won the CLA book of the year. Her latest is Here So Far Away, which will be published March 2018.

Our presenters spoke and answered questions for almost two hours. Afterwards, someone noted that this was a “killer panel”! We were treated to insight, expertise, advice, encouragement, the ups, the downs, the angst, and the joy of lives lived in the cankidlit world.

The presenters were asked questions about their path into the publishing world – booksellers, librarians, editors – about their working day, about whether or not they can take off their editor/marketing hat as they write their own manuscripts, how often they revise and/or edit. Hadley noted that even though she is an editor, she is on the 7th draft of her latest manuscript. She warned us not to assume that just because we’ve written a manuscript, it will get published.

Of course, we were all wondering if they each had a special ‘in’ because of their jobs, and Naseem informed us that her agent urged her to submit her picture book with a pseudonym to ensure fair treatment.

We were urged to find a critique group of trusted individuals, to take workshops, to pursue professional development, and to join organizations like CANSCAIP. Advice was offered about seeking a publisher: check out their websites and make certain that your submission fits a publisher’s vision.

In one way or another, they all said something along the lines of ‘get over yourself’ when receiving a rejection and resubmit – again and again and again. There was some discussion about marketing and sales, about promoting ourselves, about the need for diversity. Everyone agreed on the importance of being a great and avid reader.

At the end, they were asked what brings them the most joy, the paid job or the writing, and they all agreed: the writing.

We adjourned for a last hour of delicious desserts, the buying of each other’s books, and the chit-chat of good colleagues and friends.