With the theme of Seeds of Inspiration Flowering Imagination, it was hard not to have a delicious anticipation for the 11th Annual Prairie Horizons CANSCAIP (Canadian Society for Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers) Conference at St. Michael's Retreat in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, September 18-20, 2015. As a fairly new member of CANSCAIP, this was the first time I had attended this regional conference. And it certainly didn't disappoint. I felt warmly welcomed, and it was a lovely, peaceful atmosphere from the moment I walked through the doors.

St. Michael's Retreat, Lumsden, Saskatchewan

While I missed the opening evening, which included the opportunity for selected authors to pitch their completed manuscript to Senior Editor Anne Shone (Scholastic Canada) as well as a candlelight walk to the labyrinth a short walk away from the facility, Saturday morning kicked into high gear with a discussion between international award-winning and prolific children's book author Frieda Wishinsky and her editor, Anne Shone (Scholastic). It was fascinating to have an inside glimpse into the process from manuscript to finished book, and Anne and Frieda obviously had a great rapport and genuine affection for each other.

Anne Shone, Senior Editor, Scholastic Canada

Award-winning children's book author Frieda Wishinsky

The piece that stuck out most for me during this piece was Anne's answer to this question: "What draws an editor to a story"? Here is a list of Anne Shone's answers, great advice for aspiring children's book authors:

1) showing the ability to stand in a child's shoes
2) not sentimentalizing the feelings of the characters
3) showing that the child is at a different place at the end of the story because of something they solved themselves
4) making each word count
5) room for the art to show a different aspect to the story
6) prompts the reader to want to read the story over and over again.

Next up was Josh Rosen, a cartoonist/illustrator from Toronto, Ontario, who graciously stepped in last minute when the original speaker had another unexpected commitment with his publisher. Josh has been actively involved in the small-press comics community for a number of years and is regularly involved with Story Planet, a Toronto-based non-profit dedicated to promoting creativity and literacy among youths who otherwise have limited access to writing and creative arts programming (a man after my own heart). Josh was absolutely charming (and very tall!) and I enjoyed listening to his insight into the role and importance of pictures as a child learns to read. He had some great information about the process of creating graphic novels for aspiring author/artists. 


The (very tall) Josh Rosen!

Alison Lohans is a Saskatchewan author I had never met before, but who I knew by reputation. Alison is an award-winning, internationally published author who had some sage words on writing both realistic and fantasy young adult fiction. Her presentation was packed with great information and she provided an invaluable handout that included notes on speculative fiction, tips on writing novels that involve time travel, and the different genres of fantasy novels. This is not a genre I myself currently write in, but her information was fascinating and I will definitely keep the handouts and my notes from her presentation for possible future projects.

The afternoon was kicked off by prolific and multiple-award-winning children's book author Gillian Richardson from British Columbia. Gillian's presentation was one of my favourites at the conference, as she writes in a genre that I would like to do more of: science articles and books for children. I had read some of Gillian's books prior to attending the conference and one of her most successful books with Annick Press was Kaboom! Explosions of All Kinds, which, I, as somewhat of an expert on children's science books (having been a science educator for a long time) thought was excellent. I had the opportunity to sit with Gillian in her room as I browsed through a portfolio of her published nature articles. I was thoroughly impressed! She continues to write amazing books including 10 Plants that Shook the World and her newest with Annick Press 10 Ships that Rocked the World.

The most entertaining presentation hands-down for me was the one by long-time author Ted Staunton. I knew Ted by reputation because his first book Puddleman was one I read to my own kids. Ted is the recent recipient of the CCBC John Spray Mystery Award for his young adult novel Who I'm Not, which I will definitely pick up because of its intriguing story line. Ted spoke on humour writing, which is definitely a growth area for me, but one which is on my writing bucket list. Point of view is extremely important in this genre. Ted had the audience (us) eating out of his hand--you could hear a pin drop in the room (when we weren't laughing)--and I can easily see why he is a sought-after presenter at schools and conferences. Ted also is a musician, and it was great to see another author, like myself, who nurtures that side of his creativity.

The self-publishing panel session featured my own publisher (for The Two Trees), Heather Nickel with Your Nickel's Worth Publishing, Alison Lohans, and Josh Rosen. It was great to see my publisher in action and I learned a few excellent tidbits that will help me in my own self-publishing journey.


Heather Nickel of Your Nickel's Worth Publishing, and publisher of 'The Two Trees'

The day was capped by a lovely keynote by Frieda Wishinsky, who gave us a "tour" of her writing life through her most-loved books, including Oonga Boonga and Avis Dolphin. Frieda is such a warm, positive person and I wish I had been able to get a photo of her and I together. She is a true inspiration. Frieda's keynote was followed by a musical performance by Ted Staunton, who surprised me by his musical skills, unexpected for such a celebrated author.

I would be remiss if I didn't thank all the members of the organizing committee, president Sharon Plumb Hamilton, as well as the sponsors, who provided funding, items for the SWAG bags, and door prizes. And it was a pleasure to finally meet the multi-award-winning children's book author Judith Silverthorne, who is the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild, one of the sponsoring organizations.


With Judith Silverthorne, Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild

It was a wonderful, memorable weekend. I myself was very pleased with the sales of my books and CDs at the conference. My top sellers were my children's book The Two Trees and the recently released anthology 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers, to which I contributed. Here is my display. Both of these books, along with my CDs and other anthologies to which I contributed, are available to purchase on my website store.

My display at the Prairie Horizons CANSCAIP conference in Lumsden

I am SO looking forward to the next Prairie Horizons CANSCAIP conference in 2017!!!!!



  • Sharon Plumb Hamilton
    Sharon Plumb Hamilton Regina, Saskatchewan
    Thanks for this excellent write-up, Sally. It was a pleasure to get to know you better at the conference too.

    Thanks for this excellent write-up, Sally. It was a pleasure to get to know you better at the conference too.

  • Sally Meadows
    Sally Meadows
    Thanks so much, Sharon! It truly was a lovely conference.

    Thanks so much, Sharon! It truly was a lovely conference.

  • Brenda Johnson
    Brenda Johnson Calgary
    Hi Sally, it was great to have time for a chat with you and find out more about your music and your writing. I'm enjoying the 7 Habits book!

    Hi Sally, it was great to have time for a chat with you and find out more about your music and your writing. I'm enjoying the 7 Habits book!

  • Sally Meadows
    Sally Meadows
    Thanks so much, Brenda! God bless!

    Thanks so much, Brenda! God bless!

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