CANSCAIP’s 28th & 35th

Last weekend I attended the 28th Packaging Your Imagination conference organized by CANSCAIP – the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators, and Performers. It was a great example of what the organization, as I see it, is all about: creative people sharing information, knowledge, and wisdom with others.

Every person who attended will have picked up their own nuggets of information and inspiration to carry back to their works in progress, even those of us who attended the same sessions. (There were some tough choices to make.) Here are a few gems I’ve carried back to my desk with me.

Short stories I’ve been working on recently are all, I know, shy of details that will help ground readers in the stories’ settings, so Lena Coakley’s words about integrating setting and character so that the world of the story has a real impact on the characters inhabiting it were important words for me to hear. She was talking about writing fantasy, and my stories are realistic, but it didn’t matter. Her wise words about setting, character, and plot were relevant to any genre.

The concept of “real time” and “storyteller time” that Tim Wynne-Jones talked about – a scene takes place in real time; summary takes place in storyteller time – will, I hope, help me avoid one of the recurring problems in my work: Pause Button Violations, as Tim called them. PBVs occur when a writer (storyteller) interrupts action or dialogue (the elements of a scene) with stuff that belongs outside of it.

Allan Stratton brought his theatre background to his presentation and I’m keen to try out the techniques he recommended for getting to know our characters better. Also, to consider implications for the development of characters and stories of some of the statements Allan made about the nature of human beings: We are all the same under the skin. We are all a multitude of different people. Nobody thinks they’re a villain.

Richard Scrimger and Allan Stratton

Richard Scrimger told us that readers want two things: to be surprised and to be convinced. (Almost everyone spoke of the element of surprise, come to think of it. I guess I better remember that!) Throughout his keynote address, Richard surprised his audience time and again. One minute he had us laughing, and the next I was wishing I could write fast enough to take down every word of his meditation on what writing is, for him. Who knew this funny guy is also a poet?

What a treat of a day it was. If you were there, please feel free to pass along as a Comment what you carried away.

But wait, why is the title of this post CANSCAIP’s 28th and 35th?

Because I want to tell you that next year, as part of the organization’s 35th anniversary celebrations, I will have the great honour of serving as CANSCAIP’s writer Creator-in-Residence. While I’m mentoring writers, Dianna Bonder will be doing the same for illustrators as CANSCAIP’s illustrator Creator-in-Residence. We both very much welcome the opportunity to share with others some of what we have learned as we’ve practiced our respective crafts. After all, that is what this great organization is all about.

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson


  1. Janet Barclay on November 14, 2012 at 1:48 am

    Congratulations, Kathy! They are lucky to have access to your wisdom and experience.

    It sounds like it was a great conference. The trouble with those is coming home with pages of notes and a headful of ideas, then trying to remember to use them once you get back to the real world.

  2. Kathy Stinson on November 14, 2012 at 2:16 am

    So true, Janet. But in this case, what I was hearing so precisely matched what I knew I needed to know that I feel as if it's become part of me already. Sifting through my notes to find the essence for this blog post helped, too. Now to apply what I heard at PYI to my work!

  3. Janet Barclay on November 14, 2012 at 2:29 am

    That's great! Isn't that what some call kismet?

    I've also found sharing my conference takeaways with my blog readers a very effective way to review my notes, though not intentional.

  4. Kathy Stinson on November 14, 2012 at 5:02 am

    Kismet? Maybe. But what occurred Saturday certainly reminded me of the saying, "When the student is ready, the right teacher will appear." Does anyone know who said that?

  5. Janet Barclay on November 14, 2012 at 7:03 am

    I don't know who said it, but it definitely fits!

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