Prairie Horizons 2015 Conference – Coming in September!

Prairie Horizons 2015 Conference logo

Prairie Horizons 2015 Conference logo

Coming soon: details about the 12th bi-annual CANSCAIP Prairie Horizons Conference.

Where:  St. Michael’s Retreat, Lumsden, SK

When:   September 18-20, 2015

Theme: Seeds of Inspiration: Growing Imagination!


More info to come!

Children’s Writers’ Retreat – DEADLINE IS THIS FRIDAY

Do you write for children? Would you like 5 days this summer to just write? No workshops – just time to write and time to socialize with other children’s writers. Join us at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Saskatchewan July 28th to August 1st. We arrive Monday July 28th after lunch and depart Friday, August 1st before lunch. Any adult writing for children is welcome. The cost is $312.25, which includes accommodation and meals. Deadline for registration is Friday, June 13th. If you’re interested, or if you have questions, contact Dianne Young (

Why Goodreads?

Goodreads logo

The place to build your audience…

What do you do when you want to read a good book? Ask a friend for a recommendation? Ask your book club? Check out the library? Browse the local bookstore? Google the book title to find a review? Check your list of books to read? If you want to do all of these in one place without leaving your computer, Goodreads is where you go.

For readers, Goodreads is like a Facebook devoted to books. You make friend and trade recommendations, everyone shares reviews, and the site itself recommends books based on books you say you’ve liked. You can rate books,  discuss them with other readers, join book clubs, set reading goals and track your progress, become fans or friends of authors, download free books, enter contests, set reading goals, find out about new books, and find out where to buy them. Buy some of them on the site. And no doubt more I haven’t discovered yet!

So what’s in it for authors? In a word, publicity. Goodreads claims to have 25 million readers, all of whom are interested in books. Through the author program you can find and interact with the ones that like the kind of books you write. You can do this in many ways:

  • set up an author profile
  • write a blog on Goodreads
  • publicize upcoming launches and other events
  • post excerpts of your books, or book trailers
  • start a discussion group about your book
  • create a poll or a quiz
  • add one of several ready-to-go widgets, highlighting you or your books, to your own blog or website
  • link your Goodreads activities to your other social media

You’re not on your own doing this either. Goodreads has a very slick author program with detailed instructions and slide shows to tell you things like how to set up your campaign and how to respond to negative comments readers might post about your book.

If you have money to invest, you can even set up an ad campaign on Goodreads and target it to those readers that like your kind of book. Or host a giveaway contest–on average, 825 readers enter to win. That’s pretty good publicity for the price of one book–and a fair chunk of your time to figure this all out and build those relationships with potential readers.

And there is the rub. Connecting with your readers, building an audience through social media–we’re told this is “wildly important”, even essential to selling books today. I recently heard from an agent that without an internet platform, authors can’t hope to get any attention from agents or publishers. But it all takes time. How do I decide which of Facebook, Twitter, blogging, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Goodreads and a host of other possibilities I should spend my time on–time that I would otherwise spend on writing my next book?

I’m very new to Goodreads–in fact, I just joined today. So I can’t tell you how it’s worked for me. But how about you? Do you use Goodreads either to find books to read or to promote your own books? Has it been beneficial? Have you found new readers, or made book-loving friends? Have you hosted a book giveaway or put out a targeted ad? How does it compare with other social media that you use? I’d love to hear, and learn from, your experience.


Sharon Plumb is the author of Draco’s Child. You can find her at and .

Library Connections

li·brary. Pronunciation: ˈlī-ˌbrer-ē, -ˌbre-rē; British usually & US sometimes -brər-ē; US sometimes -brē, ÷-ˌber-ē, -ˌbe-rē. Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French librarie, Medieval Latin librarium, from Latin, neuter of librarius of books, from libr-, liber inner bark, rind, book. Date: 14th century. a: a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale b: a collection of such materials.[1]

The popular understanding of the word library has evolved since this definition was published thirteen years ago. Today’s public and educational libraries offer a diversity of materials for a diversity of patrons. Highly trained staff work to expand their services both geographically and digitally. Among corporations and governments, however, the title “Library” has become nearly obsolete. It brings to mind dusty old tomes and card catalogues, an image that unfortunately enables cutbacks and downsizing. Within the space of two years, one small environmental research library I worked for was renamed the Resource Centre, Information Centre, Resource Information Centre, and finally Knowledge Centre. It was a desperate and ultimately futile attempt to escape the government axe.

As libraries have evolved, so has the relationship between writer and library. Throughout our lives, we writers develop a strong bond with these institutions. They have provided us with refuge, with research, and above all with inspiration for our own writing. We were loyal fans of our school, public, and post-secondary libraries. If you were lucky the company you worked for might have a libr–pardon me, an Information Resource Centre of Knowledge.

Libraries didn’t become a solid presence in my life until high school. The children’s section in our small town’s public library was practically nonexistent. Our elementary school’s collection was organized by grade, and we weren’t allowed to sign out books above our grade level. This was frustrating for a fourth grade student who had burned through the entire allotted selection within the first month of school and had to wait another year to access those grade five and six shelves. Perhaps it was this early deprivation that inspired me to switch careers in the late 1990’s. I was working in a techie position at CKTV in Regina. Among libraries it was an era of rapidly expanding collection development and online technology. I began spending so much time in the public library, patrons assumed I worked there and asked me for help. It occurred to me that I might as well get paid for my efforts, so I became a library technician.

People say reading is a disconnect from the every day world, but those of us who use the library on a regular basis know we’re attached to the world in a fundamental way. Beyond the physical act of meeting other people who love books, in the materials we gather there we connect on an emotional and intellectual level to other writers, to the subjects of their writing, and to the readers of their writing. Occasionally I’ll open a library book and a slip of paper will fall out. It’s the list of books signed out by the person who previously borrowed the book. I always examine it to see what else that person was reading, expecting to find we have similar tastes. I spin a little fantasy of discovering a kindred spirit, of bribing the library staff to track down their contact information so we can become BFFs and start our own book club. After a glance at the list I’m taken aback to discover this person is, well, a little strange. How many books does one person need on eating right for their blood type? What is this obsession with lemons?

I was going to compile a list of tips for searching an online library catalogue, but it would have taken up too much space. So I will direct you to the Frequently Asked Questions page of my website, which has the added benefit of shameless self promotion. The examples I show are from the provincial public library, but most online catalogues follow similar design.

OK commenters, it’s time to share your own library stories. What is your earliest or fondest library memory? Do you have any stories about a favourite librarian? How have your experiences with libraries influenced your career as a writer? What’s the silliest thing you’ve done in a library? My personal ongoing silliness during visits to the public library is to sneak my latest novel into any empty space on the display racks.[2] A few days later I’ll check the catalogue to see if it’s gone out on loan, boosting those circulation statistics and convincing the library to order an additional copy.


Glenda Goertzen lives in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. After a decade in a multimedia career, Glenda was overwhelmed by a desire to be surrounded by books rather than TV screens. While working on a homework assignment for her Library Technician course, she grabbed a piece of scrap paper and discovered it was a page from an old draft of The Prairie Dogs. She dug up the manuscript, read it, and decided to return to writing and illustrating. She now spends her days, at work and at home, surrounded by books. Those books include the award-nominated Prairie Dogs Adventures series.

[1] Meriam-Webster, Inc. Meriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (2001). (27 Aug. 2001)

[2] The library staff allow me to get away with this out of appreciation for my overdue fines revenue.

Are You Interested in an Online Course?

It’s nice to see that there’s so much discussion evolving out of our monthly topics. Maybe we can even utilize the blog to have ‘virtual meetings’ to discuss arising matters with our chapter. One question that has been raised during the meeting we had after the CANSCAIP Prairie Horizons conference is what we could do for another project in the next year when there is no conference? Since we are spread across four provinces, the suggestion of an online-writing class came up as a fair way to include all geographies of our membership. So here’s my question for the month:

Do you have any suggestions for possible online workshops and instructors? Any positive experience of participating in an online workshop? Or do you have another project idea to spend our money on?

As for myself: I have participated in an online workshop for picture books by Alice Kuipers. The workshop was spread over several weeks. It consisted of several hands-on lessons and participants critiqued each others’ work. It was very intense, lots of fun and very useful. I would most certainly participate in a similar workshop. We could charge participants a small fee to make our money go even further. CANSCAIP members would pay a lower fee.

Other ideas: We could use it for a mentorship program similar to what the national chapter offers for either writers or illustrators. That means creators can send in 10 pages of their manuscript/portfolio and if accepted by the program they would get their work critiqued by a professional writer/illustrator and could ask five questions in response to their critique. Which would also mean we would need a jury to decide who will be accepted. A bit more work involved here than just hiring an instructor.

But these were just a couple ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Looking forward to hearing everyone’s ideas.

~Miriam Koerner

Research: How much is enough?


Most writers have heard the old adage to “write what we know.” Research — in its many forms — can help us expand what we know in a way that improves the story and influences us as storytellers and as people.

For example, research that reveals the geography, history, and culture of a place can inspire characters, scenes, and situations in contemporary and historical fiction. Documents, databases, and even weather reports can be worth checking out. Two years ago at MagNet in Toronto, several speakers talked about articles beginning with a hunch or intuition, backed up with solid research. That same intuition works overtime in genres like science fiction, for example, where authors like Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, or H. G. Wells have been credited with inspiring our present.

At that MagNet conference, Glen McGregor of the Ottawa Citizen said data research can confirm the obvious, reveal the unexpected, and uncover stories even the subjects didn’t know were there. This certainly applies to nonfiction and creative nonfiction. For example, a series of letters  found in an attic led Merilyn Simonds to write The Convict Lover, finalist for the 1996 Governor General’s Award. Research can also inspire fiction, like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, a best-selling novel that opens by professing its accurate descriptions of art, architecture, documents, and secret rituals.

Criccieth (L L Melton)

Criccieth (L L Melton)

As a journalist as well as fiction and nonfiction writer, I’m naturally inspired by intuition and research. For the past five years, I’ve been working on a historical fantasy novel “Hawk” based in 1282 Wales. I’ve felt compelled to research the details of the time, as well as the culture, the geography, and the language. Through this research, I’ve been working on creating scenes with a sense of emotional as well as historical accuracy.

At a recent writers’ group meeting, our discussion turned to a question about research: how much is enough? How much research does the reader need, and when does the research become a clutter of detail?

I think the answer to this question is relative, based on the type of scene you’re writing, and possibly the learning styles and nature of the writer. Every detail has to serve the work, or it doesn’t belong there. In other words, even when I find a particular piece of information fascinating, I may only need one character instead of four, or a detail of the setting instead of a panoramic view.

The book Digging Deeper: A Canadian Reporter’s Research Guide suggests developing a research plan to outline such aspects as what kind of information I need and where it can be found. I’ve found that a research plan for fiction, like an outline, tends to expand and change over time, until it no longer fits its original parameters.


Castell-Y-Bere (L L Melton photo)

With “Hawk,” I’ve spent years combing through books and articles, requesting multiple interlibrary loans, consulting experts through interviews, searching Internet sites like Castles of Wales, and other Internet research. I also enjoy following up with primary research on-site. I’ve travelled to Wales and searched out several castles, including Harlech, Aberystwyth, Criccieth (see photo), Caernarfon, Conwy, Dolwyddelyn, Dinbych (Denbeigh), Beaumaris (twice), and Castell-y-Bere (see photo). As well, I’ve taken a Welsh language course with my daughter, and we’ve fallen in love with the towns and countryside of North and West Wales. Not to mention the sea.

I’m enjoying the opportunities to find out how much research is enough to fully realize my novel. The best of what I’ve discovered has led to many unexpected scenes, bits of action, and character detail. As well, I’ve been able to present my research in various ways, and I’m hoping to write more about my experiences in travel articles and possibly a nonfiction book.

What about you? Do you have a sense of when enough is enough in terms of your research?  Does the research sometimes lead to other types of books, articles, or activities? Please leave a comment and let’s discuss it.

Marie Powell (

Marie Powell is the author of 13 children’s books with Scholastic Canada and Amicus Publishing, as well as short stories and poems appearing in such literary magazines as subTerrain, Room, and Transition. As a freelance professional writer, her articles appear in some 70 trade and consumer magazines across the country. She is currently at work on a historical fantasy novel, as well as other works of fiction.

Children’s Writers’ Retreat

Do you write for children? Would you like 5 days this summer to just write? No workshops – just time to write and time to socialize with other children’s writers. Join us at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, Saskatchewan July 28th to August 1st. We arrive Monday July 28th after lunch and depart Friday, August 1st before lunch. Any adult writing for children is welcome. The cost is $312.25, which includes accommodation and meals. Deadline for registration is Friday, June 13th. If you’re interested, or if you have questions, contact Dianne Young (