We also had a panel discussion. Topic? Climbing through the thorns. Two panelists gave us their take on the down side of writing. You know, the rejection, the revision, the recycling ... Did I miss a 're'? Writing requires toughness. And you only get that by sticking to it and re-sending those re-written manuscripts. (Because I was the supposed 'moderator' of this session I have no notes, and my memory is spotty because I was trying to think of clever things to say in case there was a lull - which there wasn't.)

Dianne Young went first and got us all laughing as she told the story of her now finally accepted picture book manuscript. (Years and years later.) The story of her stick-to-it-tive-ness was a great story.

Gillian Richardson told of how opportunity comes when you least expect it and maybe when you most need it? She's got an impressive list of titles and has shown that tenacity pays off.

Heather Nickel shared information about her company, a self-publishing option in Regina. (Your Nickel's Worth Publishing). Her books are beautifully produced and a viable option for those interested in a more limited distribution and print run.

The session was over too fast and conversation spilled over into the next session - which was a meeting for local writers involved in the founding of a Saskatchewan Chapter of CANSCAIP. (Sniff, sniff - I'm an outsider from Manitoba). But it's inspiring to see such a lively kids' lit group in Saskatchewan.

Interesting note: There was nobody east of Winnipeg at the conference. I guess the east has enough happening in their more densely populated areas.

Anita Daher

Anita Daher was my choice for presenter for the Prairie Horizon's conference. (Hey, as organizers that was our big thrill - choosing the presenters). I know from the general reaction that Anita disappointed no one. She's the author of seven books - most recent being On the Trail of the Bushman (Orca). She's also an editor at Great Plains in Winnipeg, where she's been a past marketing director. So Anita knows the children's publishing business inside and out.

Her presentation focused on the 'macro' and 'micro' edit and on the author/editor relationship. Everyone took notes. There was a lot of information. As I glance through mine, a couple of things stand out.
- Perfect your 'elevator pitch'. What is the story about?
- Remember the editor is on your side.
- If at all possible talk to the editor on the phone - not just through email.
- You need to trust - not just your editor's love of the story - but yourself to challenge the editor's suggestions.
I also got to watch Anita in action at a local library. I wish I'd video-taped it so I could see again how she managed to keep two grade five and six classes so focused and involved in her talk. It was the kind of presentation where I'm sure the kids went home to talk to family over dinner (families still do that, don't they?) - or in the car - about 'that interesting author we got to hear.'

Anita's next writing project involved summer research of wild horses. No wonder kids love her.

Linda Aksomitis

Our Saturday morning presentation was by Linda Aksomitis. Her topic? The Internet. Seems we can't be authors anymore without it. The internet has changed 'the writing life.' No longer do we write in solitude - well we do, but now we have more ways to get distracted. Linda gave us a list of 17 different 'writerly' applications of the world wide web. The information she shared was quite overwhelming, actually. Luckily we don't have to use all the ways she talked about - just what we feel comfortable with. (And for me that appears to be limited to blogging.)

The internet is a great way to promote yourself and your book. At the very least, she recommends taking advantage of the page profiles in professional organizations like CANSCAIP, Manitoba or Saskatchewan Writers' Guilds, etc. Blogs, of course, are also free, user-friendly and inter-active.

Then there's the newer, shorter way to communicate - Twitter. Don't forget Myspace and Facebook.

One knew thing I must try out is the Ping-O-Matic! It's a way to let the blogging service know you have news. (http:/

Linda is not only an online guru, but she's written many books and been published worldwide. Her most recent one, Longhorns and Outlaws, was selected to be in 2008's McNally Robinson's Christmas catalogue.

The information that Linda shared was vital for today's children's writing and I learned so much. Thank you, Linda!

Hazel Hutchins

What's so great about being 'creative' is that there is no right way to do. And maybe that's why we're so eager to hear how others beome successful. Each path, or should I say, each climb of the beanstalk, is unique. What we do look for when hearing other's stories of success, is validation for our own journey.

And with that little intro, let me introduce Hazel Hutchins. As our 'keynote' speaker - which implies Canada Council funding - she did two presentations, including one that was open to the public. Hazel was on fire. It's easy to see why she's published more than forty children's books - in a variety of genres. Not that she looks like a writer (ooh, and that's a good one - what does a children's writer look like?) When Hazel talked about her writing career she had everyone's rapt attention. She had energy, passion and attitude - and humility!
I also got to watch her in action when she presented to a room full of kids at a library. She demonstrated her juggling skills - research for one of her books.

I bet we all left the conference determined to be worse housekeepers than ever. Hazel has given us permission. Here's a sample of her advice. The spoon falls on the floor. Don't pick it up. Why? Because then you'll take it to the sink. Then you'll notice the dishes and wash them. Then you'll break something and get the broom. You'll sweep. Then you'll decide to wash the floor and before you know it two hours have passed, the kids are home, you're tired, or you've lost that creative juice. Thank you, Hazel!

She was a true inspiration. Her most recent book is After - a young adult novel.

The woman was dynamite!

Prairie Horizons Conference

We had, in total, 7 presenters sharing with us how they approach the beanstalk to achieve creative success. Before I tell you about them - let me first mention the obvious - they had to believe in that beanstalk before they could climb it. That was the neatest part about this weekend gathering in Lumsden - we were all there because we believed in the magic of words and images. And there's just something so empowering in hanging out with people who think like you ... and people who've faced some of the same frustrations and joys.

But before I go on - here's an image of the prairie horizon at dawn - The Prairie Horizons CANSCAIP conference got its name from the amazing sky that is so 'in your face' in that place.

Climbing the Beanstalk

Well we did it! We planted the seeds, we watered them with great funding, we emailed a zillion times back and forth, and then we shared the golden eggs! Now let's put this Jack and the Beanstalk metaphor back on the shelf.

Honestly, I so enjoyed this bi-annual conference and it's got to be because Saskatchewan and its people are simply the warmest, most approachable, most nurturing people around, and their children's writers are the cream of that crop.

It was CANSCAIP's bi-anual Prairie Horizon's conference and I've got photos and more to share in the next while.

Eating crow

I go visit my mom and she's sitting in her wheelchair looking out the window. I saw three yellow cars, she tells me. Only two red. She's becoming more like a kid, even as my own kids have moved past counting cars by their color. 

But then she surprises me. I see that tree...and she points at an ordinary mature maple or ash and she says...that tree reminds me of when we would throw stones at the crows.

She proceeds to tell me of how when she was a prisoner of war after WWII in the Ural Mountains, they would eat crow to supplement their watery cabbage soup rations. And I think, wow, there is still so much I've not known about you.

Book Trailer (tweaked!)

I got my dear daughter to tweak my trailer - just a bit. Now she's in back-to-school mode and that's all the tweaking I'll get. But I really do like it and I love her for doing this for her old technically-challenged ma! (I love her for other reasons, too!)


Long weekend coming up and I had the music on loud as I drove home from work - after all - it is the last weekend of summer and the weather is gorgeous.  I was indulging in the Abba music of the Mama Mia soundtrack. (I'd just seen Julia Julie this week - a movie I totally loved). I must admit that the determination to become a writer was fueled by Abba music (and the rock from my grandfather's windmill).

Anyway, I want to share a dream that's been hovering in my dreamscape. I like to imagine the The Kulak's Daughter as... (gulp - don't laugh) ... as a drama - maybe with some choreography and singing.  I saw a stage version of Naomi's Road a few years back while visiting in B.C. and was so impressed with how the printed word became a live stage production. I'd like to try writing a play version and have kids act out - not just characters -  but even objects in the book. 

I can hear you laughing. It's just a dream. But just let me learn some basic scriptwriting ... 

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