One of the big advantages of having access to PYI (CANSCAIP’s conference for children’s authors, illustrators and performers), via recordings is that you can listen to them at any time in the comfort of your own home. The unfortunate part is usually I put it off, so I find myself with the deadline to watching the videos looming. Having that pressure though meant that I had to get them done, so I have spent the last couple of days catching up on some really thought provoking talks.
I have attended CANSCAIP’s conference live before, and there are advantages to that too. You can network with other writers, and it is always uplifting to meet with other people who have the same sort of successes and failures you do. Writing can be a lonely profession, so it helps to connect with others. On the other hand, I find it to be exhausting to spend an entire day at a conference, and often by the afternoon I don’t listen as well as I could. So recently I have chosen the recorded versions.
Here are some highlights that resonated with me from three of the workshops.
Heather Smith, “Writing, Plain and Simple”
I love Heather Smith’s books “Ebb & Flow” and “The Agony of Bun O’Keefe”.
Smith suggested that if you are stuck in a scene or feeling muddled, you use the “six word trick”. That is, you pare down the message into a six word story like rumour has it Ernest Hemingway was the first to do. Then you can flesh out the writing again.
Gillian Chan, “You Can’t Change History—Or Can You?”
I have never read any of her books before, which is surprising, because I do love history, and she writes a lot of historical fiction. I think in recent years I have spent a lot of time reading memoirs, and that’s because I have been thinking about writing a memoir, but perhaps it is time to switch it up a bit. I would like to write about my parents’ stories—my mother as a German girl and then an immigrant to Canada, and my father as a British protectorate in Africa and then an immigrant to first Germany and then Canada. The thing is that I’m not sure that I will ever be able to write their stories as creative nonfiction, so I think that I should also start exploring the world of historical fiction again.
Chan talked about political correctedness, and this is a subject I struggle with. It can be difficult to be politically correct when you are writing about a historical topic, because, as Chan mentioned, the attitudes and speech from the past may be abhorrent now. Chan suggested that we think carefully about what we want to include and be prepared to defend ourselves about our choices. She said that some of the offensive terminology of the day could be used only once or scattered sparingly throughout the text.
Chan like me is a Caucasian woman married to a Chinese man. She ended up writing some of her historical fiction books with his help. My husband and I wrote five books about communication together, but they are mainly in Chinese, and perhaps we should think about collaborating on other books too. Hmmmm…
Chan’s books include some from the series “I am Canada” and “Dear Canada”.
Marthe Jocelyn, “Eleven Elevating Questions”
I won one of Marthe Jocelyn’s books called “Sneaky Art” one year, which my daughter and I had a lot of fun with, but Jocelyn has more than 40 other books.
One of the questions Jocelyn suggested you ask is “Am I confusing anyone?” Jocelyn recommended that you get yourself a critique group or partner and you ask questions like
-“Do you understand?”
-“What are you curious about?”
-“Where did you think it was going?”
-“When did you lose interest?”
I have been thinking about critique groups lately and wondering why I sometimes don’t have success with them. Sometimes they give me so many wide and varied suggestions that I become confused about what to do, especially if there are many people in my group. I think perhaps that I need to prepare questions like these ones so that I can get more out of my critiques.
The Saskatchewan chapter of CANSCAIP also runs a conference yearly, and sometimes they post their workshops on the internet. If you want to get a taste of what it’s like to sit in on a CANSCAIP lecture, here’s an example below.
CANSCAIP’s Toronto conference is held every November, so if you are interested in attending it or joining their organization, click here.
Shoe’s Sunday Stories
@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler