SCBWI Canada East Blog

April 3, 2019
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We had quite a response from the Listserv thread about SCBWI Conference success stories.  It’s encouraging to know that fellow SCBWIers are achieving goals as well as getting support that only other writers can give. I cannot speak enough to the benefits of attending a conference, be it one of the local chapter events or the large Annual Winter and Summer Conferences in New York City and Los Angeles. I have not had the chance to attend at New York or Los Angeles, but I have never been disappointed at the SCBWI Canada East Art of Story events. There are opportunities for critiques by professionals in the field, such as agents, editors and other published writers. It is a time for networking and learning what the market trends are. 
I remember my first conference. At first I felt out of place, like I hadn’t earned the right to attend. I had only realized that I was a writer a few years before that. And aside from a correspondence course, I had no formal training in creative writing. I knew there would be published writers there. In fact, I assumed that everyone there was some sort of professional. I thought that my goal of being a published writer was a pipe dream. 
I arrived at a large conference and was instantly intimidated. It may not have been packed, but it felt like it. I was sure that everyone knew I was a Newbie, judging me as a “Wannabe” and a “Poser.”  I timidly walked to the registration table. To my shock, no one questioned my motive or my status. I had never felt so welcomed or accepted as a writer. I was given my registration with a smile and everyhing was explained. 
I took a seat at the very back and waited to be amazed. I was not disappointed. I learned from every speaker. I found out I was not alone. Many had not yet been published. But more importantly, they were there to learn and to improve their craft. I had paid for a professional critique and was told that my idea was sound and given suggestions as to how to improve the story. I suddenly knew that I was not a poser but I am a writer. I have not looked back. 
I am still not published. but every time I speak to a fellow SCBWIer, I am encouraged and renewed. I am a writer. I write because I have something to say.
If you haven’t been to a conference, I strongly encourage you to go.  It is an investment in your dreams, which can never be a bad thing. 
The next SCBWI Canada East Conference is being held in Montreal May 24 to 26. I hope to see you there.  

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December 4, 2018
NaNoWriMo Take-Away

NaNoWriMo Take-Away
A Guest Post by Sarah Sambles

For NaNoWriMo this year, I set myself the ridiculously small challenge of spending 15 minutes per day on my work-in-progress. 

Why? Partly because I was editing rather than drafting a manuscript. But mostly because the goal wasn’t word count but to rediscover confidence, renew a connection with my story, and find some creative solutions for my ms. 

So, how did it go? 

Well, I worked on my story nearly every day. On average I spent about 30 minutes per day on my WIP, double my original goal. That feels good! 

But more than that, working on my story daily made me more confident, creative and excited about it. By the middle of the month, I’d worked through the tasks I’d set myself and I had more clarity about the revisions I’ll make. (I spent the second half of the month brainstorming a new story idea. Naughty, I know!) 

Fifteen minutes per day won’t get me to a completed middle grade ms very quickly, but for this season, it was what I needed to dig me out of a hole. 

My take-away is to set my goals based on where I’m at in the writing process. 1,666 words per day is a great challenge, but don’t get pressured into thinking word count is the only thing that matters. There are other elements to the story-writing process, so set your goals based on what you need right now. The important thing is to keep going. 

Cheering you on, wherever you’re at!

Sarah Sambles is a writer of middle-grade fiction, a blogger, and a communications coach. Read more about her at or say 'hi' on Twitter: @Sarah Sambles
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November 26, 2018
The NaNoWriMo Finish Line is in Sight

The Little Engine that Could (as retold by Watty Piper),
illustrated by George & Doris Hauman 
So your train was puffing along merrily that first week of November, and you were hitting the keyboard every day to meet your month's goal -- but at some point your wheels stopped turning.

You need to find another engine to carry all those wonderful words to the good little boys and girls on the other side of the month. Your original engine was powered by idealism and the freshness of beginnings. It has conked out. You've seen the abyss between the awesome novel in your head and the awful draft on the page. Great expectations won't move you another inch. You need a motivational engine to collect your story from the side of the track and carry it onward.

The Shiny New Engine of a six-figure advance is a ride that will not stop for you. Don't bother asking.

The Big Strong Engine of confidence, discipline, and experience is not on the NaNoWriMo track, let's face it. (It's meeting its word count every day of every month and it's eager to get through the first draft because it knows the big hills are yet to come.)

The Rusty Old Engine of self-derision is a ride you should pass by. It can not, it can not, it can not.

It's the Little Blue Engine you need. She's small and humble and she's never been anywhere before, but she's willing to give it a go for the sake of the good little boys and girls on the other side of the month. She goes slowly, turn by turn, puff puff, chug chug, because she knows your story will be sad if it stays on the side of the track forever. So she shrugs off depression and judgment and vanity and she just does her best to pull and tug the story-train up, up, up, over the hill of that tiresome first draft.

And she offers you today's motivational quote:

"I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can -- I think I can."
(Seriously, she says it nine times.)

Take a page from the Little Blue Engine's story. Don't be mean to yourself if you stopped midway through NaNoWriMo. Don't be blue if your ms isn't as good as you'd hoped. Writing a book is hard, but you can do hard things. Just get back on track.

I think you can.

- Catherine Austen
SCBWI Canada East

Catherine Austen is an award-winning writer for all ages. Her first children's novel, Walking Backward, began as a NaNoWriMo effort, but it stalled on the side of the track on Day 2, after just 1660 words. It took a year for that Little Blue Engine to pass by.
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November 12, 2018
NaNoWriMo Motivation

A guest post
By Sarah Sambles

These words, pasted on the yoga room door, inspired me:

"Success is not final, 
failure is not fatal: 
it is the courage to continue that counts."
- Winston Churchill

This comment sums up my approach to NaNoWriMo this year. 

Truthfully, I've only ever participated in NaNoWriMo once before. That month, two years ago, I didn't finish a novel and I certainly didn't write 50,000 words! However, I did get thousands of words scribbled in a journal that hadn't been there before (and now a ms exists that didn't before!). 

This year, I'm not in a place to write thousands of words a day. I'm editing my current ms - it's my nth attempt this year - and I've been struggling with self-doubt. So, I decided to set myself the lofty challenge of spending a minimum of 15 minutes on my ms every day. 

Yup, you read that right: 15 minutes! Doesn't sound very impressive, I know, but I needed something manageable to get me over this roadblock of foundering confidence. My goal isn't to meet a word count, but to foster creativity and connection with my characters. 

I know I can force myself to spend 15 minutes on my ms, even on a tired or busy day. So, whether my schedule permits it at 9 am or not until 11 pm, I'm going to set a timer for 15 minutes and scrawl ideas, thoughts, dialogue - anything - until that timer pings. No stopping, no checking Twitter, no judging. 

The writing doesn't have to be any good. It's just about getting back into the story. I can do that for 15 minutes, even if I'm uninspired. And I know that, just like going to the gym or putting on my running shoes, once I start I'll probably want to hit reset on the timer when it pings and do another 15 minutes. At least, that's what I'm hoping! 

So, if you're like me and the thought of writing 1,666 words a day is daunting, try the timer and see what happens. I'm going to find the courage to continue.

- Sarah Sambles
SCBWI Canada East

Sarah Sambles is a writer of middle-grade fiction, a blogger, and a communications coach who escapes to a yoga class when writer self-doubt creeps in. Say hi and share with her your strategies against self-doubt at, Twitter: @Sarah Sambles, or her Facebook page:
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November 9, 2018
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Like many writers, I procrastinate. I have often tried to self analyze why I do this. I love writing; I really love writing.  I feel like I am painting with words and I have always been in awe of language and strive to communicate with style and eloquence.  I have been somewhat successful at taming my dragon and truly believing I am a writer and can be published.  And though my time creating has increased, as always, there is a large room for improvement. Like the size of a warehouse.  So why procrastinate?

I know that what I write always has great meaning to me, as I am sure it does for most. There is so much of myself in what I write that it is hard for me to detach.  This makes even editing difficult.  It is almost like cutting my child.  But I have learnt that if a child is misbehaving, his or her behaviour must be corrected, just as a text must be corrected if it is not accomplishing what I wish.  Thus editing is not cutting or destroying, but rather creating in a better way.  

So I ask again, why do I procrastinate?
I understand now that is the judgement of others that holds me back. It is hard for me to disassociate the critique of my writing with a critique of myself.  Of course, anyone who is associated with SCBWI and has read my work has been constructive, gentle and encouraging.  But we have all encountered friends and family that have said we are crazy and could not do it.  But we know better.  

I am a writer.  I am a good writer.  And though it is something that I am, it is not all of me. And most of all, its quality is not a reflection of me.  When someone judges my writing, they are not judging me as a person.  And if they are, it says more about their person than it does about mine.  
So, if you are putting off writing or submitting to agents or publishers, as I am, remember it is your fictional character they are judging, not your personal one.
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November 7, 2018
Tackling NaNoWriMo?

Tackling NaNoWriMo?
Guest Post by Marla Lesage

Don't hesitate. Sink your teeth in.
(Sketch by Marla Lesage)
I’m using NaNoWriMo as motivation to reconnect with my graphic novel manuscript. (I’m several drafts in and need to smooth out that mucky middle.) Here’s some advice for those of you tackling a first draft.

Do you have a word count target? 

Word count targets are a great tangible way to keep an eye on your progress. There are online trackers and apps available or you can keep track the good old-fashioned way. But remember: some of us write light and then expand when we start revising. Others write a lot and have to cut cut cut when we start revising. It’s okay to adjust your target as you go.

Are you a pantster or a plotter? 

Or a combination of both? Even if you are a pantster it’s good to have an end goal in sight for your story. Instead of writing a plot outline, consider writing your logline first. (What’s a logline? A summary of the heart/plot of your story. A quick internet search and you’ll find lots of resources for writing one!) A logline will give you a clear path as you set out to write. 

I’m definitely an in-betweener. I wrote a logline and then pants’d my way through several scenes. Most of these scenes were cut in the first round of revisions but they got the momentum rolling. If you’re a plotter, give yourself the freedom to write out of order and to drift from the outline when you have ideas you want to explore.

Sitting in front of a blank screen and feeling stuck? 

Take a long walk, do the dishes, pull out a notepad or scratchpad. I like to go back and forth between writing/typing/thinking with no set routine. It seems to help me bypass those moments of writer's block. And not all writing takes place on the page. A great deal of my writing takes place in my head - so those days spent just thinking about the story count just as much as the days with a large word count logged.

First time writing a novel? 

Invest in a text book! I used Cheryl Klein’s The Magic Words to guide me. Her approach and advice work well whether you are a plotter or a pantster. 

And last but not least: Find a critique/support partner. If you’re a first-timer, getting some encouragement and feedback after the first few chapters can help keep the momentum going. 

Happy Writing,
Marla Lesage 
SCBWI Canada East

Marla Lesage writes and illustrates stories for children. She is determined to finish her graphic novel sometime in the not-so-distant future. You can find her on Instagram & Twitter: @MarlaLesage.

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November 5, 2018
NaNoWriMo Inspirational Quote of the Week

From the 1865 illos by John Tenniel
of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland
The Red King's wise words to the White Rabbit might seem like the obvious Alice quote for writers:

Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.
But if you're trying to draft a book in one month, and you still need to come up with 1,000 words today and you're worried they won't be any good so you're thinking of giving up on the whole idea, it's clearly the Red Queen's shout to the courtroom that you must heed:

Sentence first -- verdict afterwards.
Good luck! Keep writing. And feel free to pass on an inspirational quote of your own to encourage your fellow SCBWI members this month.
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November 1, 2018
November Theme: Novels-in-one-month

It being November, some SCBWI Canada East members might be drafting a children’s or teen novel this month. We hope to do a Round-Up of member experiences on this topic in the weeks to come, and perhaps a guest post or a series of inspirational quotes—it all depends on member participation in the blog. So…

If you are an SCBWI member who's participating in NaNoWriMo this year, if you've participated in the past, or if you just have something to say about writing challenges of any sort, consider one of the following ways to contribute to this blog:

  • Write a guest post about your writing-challenge experience or your thoughts about daily word counts, writers’ block, procrastination, writing with or without a plan, or another topic of relevance to the fast-draft craze. (Up to 800 words, welcome anytime in November.)
  • Write a briefer blurb on your experience or thoughts, or the goal you’ve set yourself this month and how it’s going. We’ll compile these into a round-up or two. (Up to 200 words. Submit early in November if it’s announcing your goal; submit later in November if it’s about this year’s experience; submit anytime for general thoughts.)
  • Send us your favourite inspirational quote(s) or inspiring line(s) from a children’s book to encourage your fellow creators with their daily struggle this month. Submit anytime in November, the sooner the better. Please identify the source of the quote (who said it and ideally when/where). Feel free to write an inspirational line yourself or share a practice that keeps you motivated.
  • Send us an illustration about discipline, meeting goals, facing challenges, persevering, or something that dramatizes your suggested inspirational quote. Submit anytime in November, the sooner the better. Please suggest a caption/credit.

Feel free to write your piece in any format: a poem, a graphic narrative, a top-ten list, an essay, an interview, a fictionalized scene, a humourous anecdote, or an honest opinion are all welcome—so long as what you have to say is relevant to writers and illustrators of children’s and young adult literature.

In all cases, provide a one-line bio with one link to your online presence. Accompanying images (of the subject, not of you) with caption/credit are welcome, so long as they don’t infringe copyright.

Send your piece to The Blog Team at:  (It's not as attractive as Inktober, we know, but November can be a fun month, too.)
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October 27, 2018
October 19, 2018
Inktober Round-up: Week 3

Here are some more fantastic pieces from the third week of Inktober:

Post for “Chicken, Spell, Drool”

Post for “Roasted”

Julie Prescesky - Intagram @julieprescesky

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October 12, 2018
Inktober Round-up: Week 2

Here are some more fantastic pieces from the second week of Inktober:

Peggy Fussell - Instagram @peggyfussell 

Here's my response to the prompt: spell
Alice Carter
- Instagram @alicecarterillustration 

Based on the prompt word "spell".
Laani Heinar
  - Instagram @laani_

Posts for the Inktober prompts of poisonous, roasted, chicken and spell.
Susan Todd
- Instgram @suetoddillustration

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October 5, 2018
Inktober Round-up: Week 1

Inktober is off to a great start! Check out some of the wonderful pieces from our members from the first week:

Following the Procreate Inktober prompts, Danette is featuring her dog Mumford all month. Day 1 was 'House plant'.
Danette Byatt - Instagram: @anikaandthewolf

Inktober post for the first day’s prompt “poisonous”.
June Steube - Instagram: @junesteubeart

 Ink painting done with Inktense blocks and ink pen.
Heidi Larkman

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