Meet Our (National) Members: Kari-Lynn Winters

Dr. Kari-Lynn Winters is an award-winning children’s author, playwright, performer, and academic scholar. Sixteen of her picture or poetry books have been published or are in press. An experienced teacher of writing, she has worked with students across Canada and the United States. Kari-Lynn is an assistant professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. More information about Kari-Lynn can be found at www.kariwinters.com

Describe your workspace.

A Caribbean themed office. Not too big. Ocean blue walls.

Describe a typical workday.

5am-8am writing
9-5 workday at Brock
6-8 some sort of exercise (e.g., volleyball, walk) and/or socializing (e.g., with family or friends)
9-11 relax time

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

The painting of Grenada my boyfriend bought me, my vision board, and my display of books. These three things remind of the abundance of life and how lucky I am to be an author.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

Yes. Tea and chocolate help me focus. MMMM.

What do you listen to while you work?

Silence.

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

Mint tea…warm or cold. Dairy Milk chocolate.

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

I think for a long time. Then do research. Then write. I rewrite as my main muse. I rethink and rewrite and rewrite…etc.

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

Mo Willems (if I had to…lol)  I do love his work!

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

Get used to edits. They are sweet gifts.

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

Meet Our (National) Members: Ellen Jaffe

Ellen S. Jaffe grew up in New York City, studied in England, and moved to Canada in 1979; she recently moved to Toronto after many years in Hamilton. Her YA novel, Feast of Lights, won the Moonbeam award for multi-cultural fiction in 2007. She has also written nonfiction and poetry and has also adapted Margaret Laurence’s novel for children, Jason’s Quest, into a play. She is working on a new young-adult novel and poetry for children. You can read more about Ellen on her website www.ellen-s-jaffe.com

Describe your workspace.

I work in the back (extra) bedroom of the townhouse my partner and I share in the Oak Street Co-op in downtown Toronto. The townhouses are built around a courtyard, so I can look out the window and see trees (bare now, letting in light and sun; in the summer they will be leafy green and provide shade.) It is far enough away from the street that I don’t hear much traffic noise. There are many books, on shelves above my desk, and in a bookshelf. The wooden desk is cluttered with too much paper, and has a large open space at the bottom where I can store documents and supplies; my printer is next to the desk, on a built-in wire shelf. There are photographs and pictures on the wall, ones that are especially meaningful (3 of which I will describe below).  

Describe a typical workday.

As I have been going through treatment for cancer for the past year, my workday is different from what it was in the past. I do not feel ill, but my energy fluctuates according to where I am in the chemotherapy cycle, and also what appointments I might have. I am not working outside my home at the moment (up to a year ago, I was teaching writing in schools and community centres, and working part-time as a family therapist). This gives me more time for reading and writing; I try to write for a couple of hours every day, either working on something new or revising earlier drafts. I have always felt much better and more centered when I am writing. And the diagnosis has given me new material to write about.

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

A hand-typed five-line letter from Margaret Laurence, which she wrote me in 1984 (two years before her death) after I wrote her a “fan letter.” This is one of my special treasures. After she died, I discovered her novel for children, Jason’s Quest, and (with permission from her estate) developed it into a play for young people, which was first produced In 2001.

A painting of autumn trees and a lake by my friend Rita-Anne Piquet, who died (too young) in 2017. I love the peaceful scene, and the picture holds memories of my friend.

A photo of my mother, her sister, and their cousin at the Statue of Liberty in 1928, paired with a photo of my mother, my friend Linda, and me at the Statue of Liberty in 1953. This reminds me of my roots, and I write a lot about family, in fiction, poetry, and memoir..

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

Not really. For a while, working on a particular project, I wore a red flannel shirt with cows printed on it, which I bought at Valu-Village; I still have the shirt but don’t need to wear it for writing.

What do you listen to while you work?

Usually CBC radio, either the talk programs or “Shift” with Tom Allen (Monday to Friday afternoons), in which he plays a mix of classical and popular music, with interesting observations about music and life.

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

Hot tea, either regular with milk or herbal with honey. I don’t usually eat while working.

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

I write poetry for adults as well as children’s and young adult stories. The poetry usually starts with a line or image and then I write freely, “letting the muse lead me.” I let the draft sit a while, and then revise. For my novel Feast of Lights, I first got the idea (the protagonist goes back in time, through the light of the Hanukkah candles, to meet relatives from the past), then went through several versions of the story before I found the right narrative line, and made some outlines and notes about the characters and the various scenes to guide me — though I went to new places during the actual writing. I also did some writing exercises which didn’t get into the book itself but through which I learned more about the characters and their lives.

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

Yikes! It would be hard to share this workspace, as it is small and full of my things — both tangible and imaginary. When I had a cat, she was welcome to share the space when she felt like it. I have also written in cafés, trains, planes, and similar public places, where I share space with whoever was nearby — but do not have to interact with them. (This can be a pleasant change of pace). At home, if we needed to, I could share this space with my partner Roger — who, though not a writer himself, is an avid reader and gets engrossed in his books, so we can be in the same room but don’t need to talk. He supports my writing and often is the first reader.

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

“Cut your darlings.” From Don McKay, at Pipers Frith writing workshop in Newfoundland: i.e. that favourite image or scene may have been an inspiration but may not work in the finished piece. Also, “You don’t have to say, Dear Reader, I married him.” From Laurence Hill, when he was writer in residence at McMaster University in Hamilton, commenting on how you don’t need to wrap everything up neatly in a story; sometimes it is better to stay with the poignancy of the moment.

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

Meet Our (National) Members: Judy Ann Sadler

Judy Ann Sadler has written 25 books for children, and counting! All of her early books are craft books filled with creative ideas. She knows that by making original, beautiful, useful items you become creative, curious, enthusiastic, resourceful, patient, passionate and generous. Now Judy Ann is focused on writing picture books because everyone loves a good story! 

Describe your workspace.

I work in a studio space on our second floor with three windows, two window seats, a sewing machine and lots of shelves and bins filled with yarn, fabric and ideas!

Describe a typical workday.

I don’t really have a typical workday. I work part-time at two branches of London Public Library, so some days I work away from home. I’m also busy with family responsibilities (which I love!) so I try to carve out time as often as possible.

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

My desk is a cast-off from an artist friend so it is covered with paint splatters. I love that it had a former life and that I’m using it for more creative endeavours! The table in my studio came from my childhood home where ten of us gathered daily for meals, homework and games. I love it!

I’m also very lucky to have window seats in my workspace. I wish I could say that I sit on them daily and daydream, but most of the time they are cluttered with books and fabric! 

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

When I begin a new book, I start with a blank notebook and a sharp pencil. I love brainstorming ideas and quickly getting them down on paper. I’m afraid if I brainstorm on my laptop, I’ll delete ideas, good and bad. I often refer to my early scribblings and find them valuable.


What do you listen to while you work?

I’m a radio junkie so I have CBC Radio 1 on all the time. I tune in and out as I work.

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

I graze on crackers, nuts and chocolate!

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

Mostly I brainstorm. I like to gather resources that might be helpful and immerse myself in the world I’m writing about. Words and sentences pop into my head across a day or week or month and I add them to my notebook. When I’m ready, I try to come up with a first draft. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, I’m very happy!

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

One of my kids or grandkids would likely keep me inspired.

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

“Begin, Sir, begin.”

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

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.