Meet Our (National) Members: Patricia Storms

Patricia Storms is an author/illustrator of 30 children’s books and humour books. She has also worked as a Graphic Designer, Library Technician, and book binder. Her most recent titles are Moon Wishes, If You’re Thankful and You Know It and By The Time You Read This. Patricia’s next book will come out Spring 2021 with Groundwood, entitled The Dog’s Gardener, and illustrated by Nathalie Dion.

Describe your workspace.

I have too many work spaces right now.

Lately I have ended up working in my living room — writing and drawing. I have a computer room upstairs where I have done my colouring work in the past (Photoshop) and my drawing room is also upstairs. For some reason I feel less lonely working in my living room — plus the light is pretty good. Not great, but ok. I’m not sure why, but I suddenly got hit with a big case of loneliness about two years ago and the end result is this pile of stuff in our living room. It’s not great for my back either, sitting on my soft couch leaning over my laptop, but that is the way things are at the moment. I am in part working away from my computer when it comes to the drawing because I’ve been experimenting with traditional illustration, mainly pencil work and pencil crayon. I’m having a lot of fun, and hopefully am improving. 

Describe a typical workday.

None of my days are typical, heh. I wish I could say I have a routine, but my brain has never really worked that way. Either I’m busy doing a book project, or I am drawing to improve my skill, or writing, writing, writing. Or I’m wasting too much time on Facebook. I’ve been doing a lot more writing lately, which I truly enjoy. If memory serves me correctly (and these days, it’s a crap shoot) I did a lot more writing than drawing when I was young. If not writing or drawing or napping (heh) I might be swimming or reading or going for a walk, or attending a launch or presenting to a school or library. I also love music, so I try to fit in ukulele practice in there, as well as singing. I was in a women’s choir for a couple years, and am interested in another choir closer to home. The singing really helps me to feel like a human being on this odd planet. I’d love to do a book about music from a layperson’s perspective one day…

List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

This is difficult to answer because as I have gotten older I have become less and less attached to things. It’s good for one’s sanity. But having said that….I love working in the living room because it gives me a perfect view of some of my favourite photos of my husband Guy, and all the beautiful cats we have had in our marriage (25 yrs!). Other than that, I have a big Starbucks mug which is brown with pink heats on it and that is my favourite coffee mug to get me going in the morning.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

Other than panicking from time to time and eating too much from the fridge, I don’t think so.

What do you listen to while you work?

In the past when I have had big colouring projects I enjoyed listening to music to zone out. I love pretty much all music except for really negative stuff, so it can be ABBA or Queen or The Beatles or Beethoven or Arlo Guthrie. But these days drawing or writing, I love complete silence.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Coffee, coffee, coffee. I really need to stay away from the fridge.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

A bit of the muse leading me — being relaxed really helps. If my brain is tight, things don’t work as well. Walking or being in a dream state is helpful. Also conversations with writers or sometimes even strangers. I’ve got a few good  book ideas from talking to strangers on my travels. I guess I have good taste in strangers.


If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

I’d really rather not share, thank you. 😉  But if I HAD to, I would say my husband, because we have managed to share work environments in the past without killing each other.


What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

I’m paraphrasing here, but it would have to be that ultimately you have to be confident and secure in your own voice & writing, because no one else is going to do the work for you. Well I guess someone could, but then what would be the point?


What media do you use and which is your favourite?

In the past I have hand drawn with a brush & india ink and then coloured in Photoshop. I am now playing with pencil crayons. I’d also really like to experiment with Procreate in the future, if possible. Hard to pick a favourite, but I am loving the traditional methods of illustration, and getting my hands dirty again! Eraser bits and ink stains galore.

Thanks to Jennifer Chambliss Bertman for the use of her Creative Spaces interview questions.

Meet Our (National) Members: Bev Katz Rosenbaum

Bev Katz Rosenbaum has worked as an editor for publishers and magazines and taught writing at the college level. Currently, she toils as a freelance fiction editor for publishers and individuals, and writes children’s books. Her most recent release is the Orca Currents novel, Who is Tanksy? 

Describe your workspace.

Is it a ‘workspace’ if it’s your dining room, LOL? I tried making a dedicated office space in a corner of my bedroom, but the light is so much nicer in the living room…  (Canadian winters, man…)

Describe a typical workday.

In the past, I’ve only worked on my own stuff when I had a gap in editing work, but I’m trying to change that and work on my own stuff a little every day. I’m figuring out how to write effectively in short spurts. So I wake up, have breakfast, write for an hour or two, then switch to my editing work for the rest of the day. If it’s a teaching night (I run private writing workshops), I might squeeze some prep work in there too.

List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

I’m a minimalist, but I have a pile of novels on the floor that are the books that influenced and inspired me the most. I’m counting the pile as one thing, LOL. I’ve also brought to the dining room office a copy of Modern Morsels, a McGraw-Hill Ryerson high school fiction and poetry anthology I edited. I’m as proud of this book as all the books I’ve written. My mandate was to make sure the contributors and pieces represented Canada in all its diversity. Last but not least, I always have a great pic of my kids nearby.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

Coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.

What do you listen to while you work?

I need total silence. I don’t get how people can write or edit with music on!

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

See above. Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. (And a couple Lindt chocolate squares after lunch.)

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I would be a total hypocrite if I let the muse lead me–I am forever trying to impress upon my students and clients the importance of outlining!

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

Any of my kid lit writer friends!

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

Get used to rejection. It never stops.

Thanks to Jennifer Chambliss Bertman for the use of her Creative Spaces interview questions.

Meet Our (National) Members: Jean Mills

Jean Mills is the author of six novels, aimed at middle grade and young adult readers. She spent 15 years as a professor of Communications and was a writer/editor for Curling Canada before leaving to concentrate on her own writing. You can learn more about Jean on her website. (Photo credit: Trina Koster)

Describe your workspace.

My workspace is a moveable feast. I do have a desk in my (now-grown-up) daughter’s old room, where I can work in peace with the door closed. But I also do a lot of writing at our dining room table, looking out the front windows at our garden and the street. When I’m in Nova Scotia for the summer, I have an alcove off my bedroom that looks out across a field to the Northumberland Strait, but more often, I take computer and chair and set up outside on the point of land overlooking the sandbars. One workspace I don’t often use: cafés. There’s just something about all that noise and someone else’s playlist…

Describe a typical workday.

My typical work day starts with breakfast, The Globe (sudoku and cryptic crossword at least attempted), followed by a workout (usually a hard, hilly walk, or a bike ride, or yoga). Then the kettle goes on and I take a cup of tea to my desk, wherever that may be, and it’s all about work – until I run out of steam. After that, another walk to get some fresh air and let my thoughts percolate and settle a little. Sometimes there’s more writing in the late afternoon and sometimes there’s not. I never beat myself up if words don’t get written.

For the last ten years I’ve been on the media bench for Curling Canada, (Deadlines! Interviews! Travelling! Reporting on championship events in bizarre time zones!) so I had to carve out creative writing time wherever I could find it. But as of this season, I decided to step away from sports media and focus on my own writing. It’s only been a few months, but so far it’s working out and a new work-in-progress is taking shape.

Photo credit: Andrew Klaver/Curling Canada

List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

1. In my daughter’s bedroom office: my stuffed owl, Hedwig, given to me by my daughter as an “adoption” from the World Wildlife Fund. Hedwig watches over me and has all the answers to my questions and complaints which, I admit, are sometime vocalized.

2. In the dining room office: an old vase of my mother’s, with slightly tinted glass and painted flowers on the side. It’s originally from my great-grandmother’s collection from the family farm. It sits on an ancient doily and looks beautiful, whether it has flowers in it or not. I look at it and feel everything slow down in the best way.

3. In my Nova Scotia office: a small liqueur glass full of sea glass collected from our shore. This collection always reminds me that small bits and pieces can work together to create beauty. Just like one word after another after another…

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

There must be tea. I have a red thermal mug my husband got on one of his trips to the Arctic and, when I’m working, I always use that instead of a “real” mug. Other than that, my only ritual is going for a walk when I need to clarify thoughts and work through problems in plot or character.

What do you listen to while you work?

CBC Music playlist, Classical Serenity or Classical Essentials. It’s gotta be classical, and nothing with vocals/words.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Tea, tea, and tea. With cream and sugar. Usually loose black tea – Organic Breakfast Blend (David’s) or hard-core Irish Breakfast or Bukhail PF. Or Queen Mary, another fave. Sometimes I go with teabags, usually Yorkshire.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I create three documents when I’m writing. One is the manuscript called “Current” where I carve out the story. One is called “Outtakes”, which is where I cut and paste anything I remove from the work in progress (so it’s not lost, just stored off-site, so to speak). But the most important tool I have is a document I call “Scenes” and it’s where I dash out small snippets of action, description or dialogue as they occur to me, in any order. For instance, the scene of of Imogen and Nathan skating on the pond in Skating Over Thin Ice was one of the first scenes I recorded there, with the scene during the photo shoot, and the scene at the film festival following. The scenes are all out of order, because that’s the way they come to me (often when I’m walking), but they’re there for me to dip into when I need them to shape the story.

I sometimes use a timeline, a changeable calendar, where I keep track of the sequence of events. It was very helpful in writing Larkin on the Shore because I had to match the action to a tide chart, which was tricky! Having a timeline for each chapter helped keep track of when it was high tide after supper for the kayak ride, or low tide in the afternoon for walking on the sandbars.

I also end each writing session by making a note of what comes next, so I can launch myself into the next “chapter” or scene as smoothly as possible.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

EEEEEK! No one!!!

Okay, okay, I think I could share my workspace with my son, Tristan, who’s always been a writer, too. He’s now a grad student in Physics and Astronomy at Western University, but when he was in middle school – and times since then – we would take our laptops or notebooks to the café in The Bookshelf, here in Guelph, and we would work on our own stories. Tristan called it “joywriting” and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. So yes, I think I could share a workspace with Tristan.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair” – Mary Heaton Vorse

Thanks to Jennifer Chambliss Bertman for the use of her Creative Spaces interview questions.

Meet Our (National) Members: Paul Coccia

Paul Coccia has an English Specialist BA from U of T and an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. He is a great cook, although he prefers to bake. His favourite thing to make is holiday cookies, cakes and cupcakes. Paul lives in Toronto, Ontario, and can most times be found in the kitchen with his family, three dogs and a little grey parrot.

Describe your workspace.

I don’t have a set writing space currently; I’ve been shifted around the house so much. I do miss my old desk and desktop but I keep telling myself that the plus side is now I’m adaptable and can work anywhere. I try to work at the kitchen table when I can because I like the windows and light but sometimes end up on the couch, in a bedroom, or working at my brother’s or cousins’ places.

Describe a typical workday.

I’m a late night person. When everyone goes to bed at night and after I’ve got things done like making dinner or doing groceries, I usually have several hours to work and go until past midnight into the wee hours. I do find even if I’m not sitting and writing, I do think about my characters and stories a lot so I can get things done and settled in my mind before I sit down. I think daydreaming and thinking are underrated parts of the creative process.

List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

I usually try to keep only functional items around me when I work. Part of why I shift around the house are our three dogs, Holly, Lacie and Ivy. The smallest, Ivy, tends to get agitated when I work at the kitchen table especially at night. She’ll come to find me wherever I am and whine in an attempt to get me to go where she wants me to be. The other two girls come and go as they please but will settle down wherever I am if they want to be near. While not things, there’s three of them.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

I don’t know if I have any rituals. I don’t really like clutter around where I write, so I’m likely to tidy a space to work in and put things like a pen, paper, notes, pencil and sharpener nearby.

What do you listen to while you work?

I can’t turn on anything to listen to when I work usually. I find music distracting unless I can get to a place where I tune it out but up until that point, I’ll focus on the music and not the writing. I usually have a song that reminds me of each project I’m writing, so I guess I assign a theme song to my writing. Cub’s theme song is “I Can Cook Too” from the musical “On The Town.”

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

No snacks but I will drink either water or coffee (or forget to drink it depending on how good the work is going.) I’m usually pro snacks.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

Because I love a Cosmo-style quiz, I’ve taken online tests and every time the results are I am a “plantser.” I suppose I can go either way. I love getting to know a character and seeing where they take me with only a general direction. Outlining can make the writing go along like a breeze and all the stuff published or to be published was outlined first.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

I prefer not to share my workspace as I already do… a lot! If I absolutely had to share, I’d pick my younger brother because he is quiet when I work and plays on his phone and also seems to know intuitively when I need a break.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

In terms of the actually getting writing done, sit down and put words on the page is the best advice. Susan Juby also told me to learn to trust my instincts as a writer which is great advice because it assumes I have instincts! In terms of the business of publishing, Susan told me years ago to be friendly with everyone, because everyone knows everyone else. It’s so true! It’s also really easy to do and want to do with the Canadian KidLit community.

Thanks to Jennifer Chambliss Bertman for the use of her Creative Spaces interview questions.

Meet Our (National) Members: Sharon Jennings

Sharon Jennings is the current President of CANSCAIP and the author of over 70 books for young people. She teaches writing, does some editing and manuscript evaluation. Her proudest accomplishment (not counting her children and marriage) is the novel Home Free, which was nominated for a Governor General’s award and is about a young girl who wanted to be a writer when she grew up.

Describe your workspace.

My workplace is an untidy corner in my bedroom. (There will be no photos.) I never move from this spot, mostly because I forget that I can take my laptop off my desk and go elsewhere in my house. But I don’t want to. For some reason I believe that this is where the muse lurks and if I move she’ll show up when I’m at the kitchen table.

Describe a typical work day.

I’d like to say that I have a very structured approach to work, but I try not to lie – especially to my colleagues. If I’m working on a story then I write like a crazy person, morning to night, often forgetting to dress, wash, or eat. When I stop on a day like that, I feel like I’ve had an out-of-body experience. If I’m stuck, then I avoid work and watch far too much cable news. I can’t do the ‘write one thousand words a day’ thing; I either write nothing or I write until the scene is done. Usually I have more than one manuscript or assignment under development, and if I move back and forth between them, I might find inspiration for the one that I’m ignoring. Part of the day is walking the dog or dogs, and I always come back ready to sit at my desk again.

List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

There is a bookshelf (messy) with all the books that I’ve loved over the years, including – or most importantly – books from my childhood. I like to re-read them occasionally to remember what I loved way back then. Photos of my children, little and big, are there to remind me and inspire me about writing for young people. I also have a few souvenirs and funny cards and a picture drawn by Heather Collins for a book (A Pioneer Story) she did with Barbara Greenwood. It’s a young girl with paper and a quill pen.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

I always re-read the last couple of completed chapters before I start writing. I not only see the problems and fix them, but by the time I’ve done that, I’m back in the mood of the story and inside my characters’ personalities. If I’m really lucky, the next scene will show up as I get to the blank page. I have to visualize what happens next, and once that happens, I start writing as if I’m watching a movie and just taking notes.

What do you listen to while you work?

I can’t listen to anything when I’m working. I mean, I can’t even type if there is music playing or the tv on. Plus, I like to talk out loud as I’m thinking things through, so music is a distraction.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

My drink of choice is a large cup of tea which I constantly re-heat and then let get cold. At the end of the day, I think that I’ve had several mugs of tea, and wonder why I’m so thirsty.

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

Some picture books have been percolating for months, even years, and those ones get written very quickly. Some publishers want an outline, which I can’t seem to do. I’ve developed a way of cheating: I write the novel really fast so that I can submit an outline and pretend that I’ll start writing soon. Mostly, I get an idea, write the first chapter, and then ask myself what would happen next over and over until I’m done.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

The idea of sharing workspace is horrifying! How could I think out loud? How would that person react  when they see me with closed eyes and weird facial expressions? But if ‘forced’, it would be fun to write beside someone long dead and note their response to a laptop.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

I’ve heard and read so much excellent advice that it’s hard to pick one item. There’s practical advice – tips on dialogue or character development; and there’s philosophical advice. I’ll go with the latter: always keep in mind the child who is reading your story.

Thanks to Jennifer Chambliss Bertman for the use of her Creative Spaces interview questions.

“Meet Our (National) Members” Wants You!

For a few years now, we have run a semi-regular feature called Meet Our Members in which CANSCAIP Sask members have answered some questions about themselves and their writing workspace and process. It’s been so much fun we’ve decided to expand it to all CANSCAIP members!

If you would like to participate, simply answer the questions listed below in an email to canscaipsk@gmail.com

Please include a short introduction, a photo of yourself, and whatever photos you would like to include in your answers (the more the merrier!). Each Meet Our (National) Members post will be up for two weeks and then available as a link in our menu. (You can check out previous posts there, too.)

We hope to hear from you soon!

(CANSCAIP Sask members: If you have not yet done this but would like to – please do! Just make sure to mention that you are from Saskatchewan so that we archive it correctly.)

Describe your workspace.

Describe a typical workday.

List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

What do you listen to while you work?

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

If you are an illustrator, you might want to throw in this one as well:

What media do you use and which is your favourite?

FTW Fundraiser 2020

If you’ve written a Young Adult novel, a Middle Grade novel, a chapter book for early readers, or a picture book, the first thousand words are what will capture a potential publisher or agent. They have to be pitch perfect.

Or maybe you’ve started a new project and you’re not sure if the opening is working.

We are here to help. Submit the first thousand words of your manuscript and up to two questions and our team of experienced, published authors will give you editorial feedback so you can polish those pages or find out if you’re headed in the right direction.

The edits will be done anonymously as Tracked Changes in a Word Document, as professional publishers use. Your pages will be returned to you within six weeks, with comments alongside the text, and with edits done on lines that need them.

The cost for CANSCAIP Members or Friends is $35, and $50 for all others. Maximum of 2 edits per person. The funds raised will go towards the CANSCAIP Prairie Horizons Conference in 2021.

This offer will be open for the month of January only. (Registration will open at 12:01 am on January 1st and close at 11:59 pm on January 31st. ) Register through the CANSCAIP national page (if you are a member make sure you log in first, to get the member pricing). Register HERE.

Meet our Editors here.

Questions? Contact us at canscaipsk@gmail.com