NOTES from June 13, 2018 Meeting in Guelph

Wednesday, June 13, 2018 8:49 PM | Helena Aalto (Administrator)

CANSCAIP has endeavored in past years to hold a meeting outside Toronto, as an outreach effort to our many Members who despise Toronto traffic. Many thanks to organizers Lisa Dalrymple, Kira Vermond, Eric Walters, Jeans Mills, and Werner Zimmerman for setting up a wonderful event in Guelph. And thanks, too, to Helena Aalto, our Administrative Director, for sending out promotion information and arranging car pools.

It was a beautiful sunny day (except for ten minutes of tornado-ish weather) as hordes of creators – published and not – traipsed between The Book Shelf (celebrating its 45th anniversary) and Werner’s studio for a tour. Around 5:00 we headed upstairs to the bookstore’s event hall where 82 of us enjoyed dinner before the meeting began. Somehow, most managed to be fed and ready at 7:00 to hear our panel of five discuss the topic: What I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Got Into This Business.

President Sharon Jennings welcomed everyone, thanked the organizers, and proudly noted that one of our founding Members, Jean Little, was in the audience, as well as the beloved Robert Munsch.


Jean Mills presented Skating Over Thin Ice, YA fiction, published by Red Deer Press. A young musical prodigy faces a dilemma when the trio she performs with begins to falter. In her search to discover what to do next, and what will make her happy, she connects with a disgraced junior hockey star facing an uncertain future of his own.

PROGRAM: Erin Bow, Kathy Stinson, Kira Vermond, Eric Walters, Werner Zimmerman

Moderator Lisa Dalrymple introduced our speakers and began with the question: What is the best/worst thing about being a creator? Many mentioned the self-doubt, not feeling good enough, waiting to hear back, working with the “wrong” editor, the financial insecurity, books that get remaindered too soon, and the pressure of deadlines.

All mentioned “joy” and the importance of remembering why we started this in the first place. There was mention of being in the flow, of being in a quiet place with one’s characters.  Everyone agreed that talking to kids was one of the best, perhaps the best, aspect of writing and illustrating books for young people. That, and the beginning of the project (and not the hard middle part). Being asked really insightful questions by kids was important and, of course, receiving the royalty cheque – getting paid for what we want to do anyway.

Lisa then moved to tonight’s topic question: What do you wish someone had told you? Erin wished that someone had told her to see a financial planner. (She gave up her day job as a physicist to pursue her passion.) She had to remind herself several times about the joy she found writing. Kathy found it very important not to compare herself to anyone else’s highs and lows and to find satisfaction with what she has achieved. Eric mentioned that this is a business and hard work. Kira agreed: she takes on many assignment tasks (magazines, newspapers, Costco) as well as her creative work, and often puts in 18 hour days to meet her deadlines and her goal for annual income.  Werner chimed in as well about the hard work and business aspect. His art is a craft, a business, and it is a long, long process to build a career. Eric mentioned that even with 100 books to his credit, he still goes into every book store in his path and puts stickers (signed by author) on every book. Someone told him that this was “beneath” him at his career stage, but he scoffed, noting that this is what it takes. Kathy said that she hates the self-promoting part of writing, but agrees that it has to be done. Because, as Eric added, publishers will only do so much and we have to champion our books.

Lisa also asked: if the muse leaves, what do you do? Erin gives herself stickers each time she finishes a task (noting that her muse is a three-year-old). Kira sets a timer for 25 minutes, grits her teeth, and tells herself  that she can do this for 25 minutes. Then she sets the timer again and again. Kathy and Eric like to go for walks, have naps (not together) – something physical to give the brain a rest. Werner confessed that he likes to wash dishes.

Two great summary comments: Kira noted that the creator and editor are colleagues. We are not subordinates in the publishing world, nor should the relationship be adversarial. Eric reminded us to value ourselves and get paid.

We’ll give the final word to Jean Little. “I’m 86 years old. But when I’m writing, I’m ten.”

Sharon thanked everyone for such great advice and stated that this willingness to share our knowledge and expertise is why CANSCAIP is in its 41st year.