LitCon – March 21 in Moose Jaw

I’m delighted to be one of the presenters at the upcoming LitCon in Moose Jaw, sponsored by the Saskatchewan Festival of Words, the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, and the City of Moose Jaw.
I’ll be giving a workshop on dialogue in children’s fiction: “Ways of saying it: Constructing active dialogue in children’s fiction.”

Children’s Writers’ Round Robin – 35th Anniversary Celebration September 22 at Moose Jaw Public Library, from 2-4 p.m.

The Saskatchewan Children’s Writers’ Round Robin –

35 years of writing and growing together

The blog below is a repeat of one I wrote last April – BUT our Children’s Writers’ Round Robin is now hosting a 35th anniversary celebration that’s coming up soon.

Sunday, September 22 – Moose Jaw Public Library, 2-4 p.m.

We’d like to invite others to join us – writers, readers, teachers, librarians. This open event takes place at Moose Jaw Public Library between 2-4 p.m. We’ll be serving cake, readings by current members, and door prizes (and if anyone happens to be interested in buying a book or two, there will be a book table as well).

Come help us celebrate our rich legacy of Saskatchewan-authored books for young people – 165 books altogether, published by our current membership! Many of these books have won awards and received other types of acclaim; some are available worldwide, and some have even been translated into other languages!

And a quick personal “happy note” before the blog itself:  My newest YA novel, Timefall   (Five Rivers Publishing, 2018) is a current finalist for the YA category of the 2019 Prix Aurora Awards! This award is given according to peer votes within the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association … and tomorrow, September 14, is the final day to vote. Winners will be announced in October at Can-Con in Ottawa:


As a writer I’ve always been blessed with friendly peers who share this so-personal (and often lonely) journey of working toward publication, and finding ways to flesh out our dreams of establishing careers in this challenging, ever-changing literary world.

As long ago as the late 1960s and ‘70s, I was fortunate in my connection with kindred spirit Kathy Kennedy Tapp during our college days in southern California. Although we both soon married and moved thousands of miles in opposite directions, the strong link remained through active correspondence and frequent exchange of our children’s and young adult novels, and other works for critiquing. This process of learning to provide honest and constructive feedback was daunting at first. But our shared passion of wanting to publish for young people, coupled with a friendship too precious to put at risk, led us along the challenging path of learning to help one another grow toward our shared goal. As things turned out, books #1 and #2 for each of us came out during the same years – 1983, and 1986.

By the early 1980s I was comfortably settled in Regina for the long term, with our strong arts community that includes the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, and the Writer-in-Residence program at Regina Public Library. Naturally I took advantage of both opportunities, and brought my work to then-Writer-in-Residence, the late Janet Lunn who is and was extremely well-known for her award-winning works for young people. Thus far having all my writing connections take place courtesy of the postal service, it was a true godsend to have a real, live connection with another writer – in person, no less! During one of Janet Lunn’s public workshops, I met kindred spirit Gillian Richardson who had a work in progress, and who said she’d love to get together to “talk writing” once she had a completed draft. This marked a significant beginning.

Saskatchewan happens to have a lot of writers per capita. I had already joined the SWG and the national CANSCAIP (the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators & Performers) and soon afterwards joined The Writers’ Union of Canada. But there weren’t many local connections for children’s writers. Gillian and I got to talking about how great it would be to get to know others in the province. So in 1984 I submitted a blurb to FreeLance, wondering if there were other children’s writers out there interested in networking.

Letters began to arrive in the mail! Within weeks, we had a committed group of eight or nine writers scattered across the province. How we were going to function across the distance posed some interesting questions. For the first four years we circulated a package of letters “round robin” style, at the suggestion of the late Patricia Armstrong. Here we talked about our writing, our publishing experiences, and shared questions and answers. By 1989 we were ready to meet in person. For that first occasion we gathered in Davidson.

The in-person dimension opened up a world of difference for sharing this complex, challenging, and ever-changing creative journey. Firm, lasting friendships developed across the decades. Some of the original members diverged to go their own way; others died – and every now and then the spark of a new voice has joined our group. We continued with the round robin letter format for a few years after our first meeting in person, but this eventually became redundant when technology brought us e-mail and other speedy means of constant communication.

For thirty years now, the Saskatchewan Children’s Writers’ Round Robin has met in person twice yearly, in various parts of Saskatchewan. While some members have moved away, two of our women continue their active, vital participation, commuting from other provinces for our gatherings. Our outreach activities have ranged from initiating and running a biennial conference for those in the children’s book domain; advocacy for regional children’s writers; voicing our concerns about urgent issues in the publishing world; liaising with teachers and librarians; hosting events to raise awareness of local writers’ work; and setting up book sales tables. We’re presently planning our official 35th anniversary celebration, to be held this coming September in Moose Jaw. Within our group we regularly do critiquing and sometimes goal-setting. Some of us check in daily by email to report our progress, our musings, and significant concerns.

Some of us write and publish in other genres as well, including plays and TV documentaries. Some Robin members’ books have been published in places as distant as Australia and New Zealand. Over the decades many awards have come in for our books, as well as our short works in other genres such as poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. At this stage, two of us have also served as Writer-in-Residence at Regina Public Library! Many of us give writing workshops and conference presentations, teach, and provide editing services. Most of us still love visiting schools and libraries to talk about our work. Our books include picture books; early-reader chapter books; illustrated books for classroom use; middle grade fiction, and on up to “mature” YA novels –contemporary fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, and fantasy/science fiction. Our current membership of eleven writers has produced more than 150 books including translations to other languages.

Through all of this, our primary commitment ­is to aiding and supporting one another during this complicated business of creating books for young people. We all have many works in progress – and, as writers, we are also “works in progress”. We celebrate one another’s successes; we commiserate when things go wrong; and always we are committed to promoting growth in our craft through critiquing and open discussion of the often-puzzling dynamics of being a creator in this ever-changing publishing climate.

Of the original members’ list from 1984, Gillian Richardson and I are still avidly involved as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Saskatchewan Children’s Writers’ Round Robin. Our current members (listed alphabetically by first name) include: Alison Lohans; Anne Patton; Dianne Young; Gillian Richardson; Judith Silverthorne; Linda Aksomitis; Myrna Guymer; Pat Miller-Schroeder; Paula Jane Remlinger; Sandra Davis; and Sharon Plumb Hamilton. At the time of this writing, we were all gathered at Manitou Springs Hotel at Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan, on the shore of Little Manitou Lake.

Check us out at our website:


Another gratifying surprise!

A bit of good news showed up in today’s email inbox!

Because this concerns another much-loved piece that’s literally been bouncing around the marketplace for 12 years, I couldn’t resist saying something.

Saskatchewan’s Tisdale Writers’ Group sponsors an annual literary competition. Last year, I entered my (also “market-battered”) creative nonfiction piece, “This Place of My Father’s Heart” – which won Third Place in the 2018 prose competition.

This year I entered a young adult sci-fi story “Crystal Sister”, also very dear to my heart, and which has been making its way around the marketplace ever since 2007. Some of the rejections were near-misses with very favourable editorial comments, but never an acceptance.

So it was especially gratifying today to discover that “Crystal Sister” is also bringing home a Third Place. Another fun coincidence is that a woman in one of my Facebook writing groups, Loretta Polischuk, has just won Second for her short story.



Timefall shortlisted for 2019 Aurora Awards!


I’m deeply thrilled and honoured to report that Timefall has been selected as one of the finalists in the Young Adult category of the 2019 Aurora Awards, which are sponsored by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.

The Auroras essentially are Canadian “readers’ choice” awards, with numerous categories ranging from best novel, best YA,  best short fiction, best cover art, and more. After books are initially nominated and then selected by the committee, ballots go out to all CSFFA members, who then have a couple of months to read and become acquainted with the works, in e-format. Voting will open up on August 3, and will close in mid-September, with the winners being announced at Can-Con 2019 in October.

Once again my sincerest thanks to Lorina Stephens of Five Rivers Publishing, and to Dr. Robert Runte for his insightful comments during the editing slog, which stretched out over couple of years.

And, finally, deepest thanks to the individual who saw merit in Timefall, and nominated it for this year’s Auroras!


A long-awaited publication – “This place of my father’s heart”

Today’s mail brought a dream fulfilled!


About 15 years ago I wrote a creative nonfiction piece, “This Place of My Father’s Heart”, about my late dad’s connection with his family’s summer cottage during his boyhood – and adding in my own three visits to the Dorset, ON cottage, which was a real privilege to visit twice with my elderly father there as well. The third visit was tough: my role this time was to bury a portion of his ashes on the family property on the shore of Lake of Bays. It was just my (now late) Aunt Hildie Tuthill and me, putting together a home-made funeral and needing to get everything just right to honour my father, Walt Lohans.

This story poured out of my heart and then bounced around the marketplace for a very long time. Kind of tough with those rare pieces that come from deep within. We know at the deepest level that there’s “really something there” – and yet odds are, that the vagaries of the market will toss it off as just one more submission that never quite catches an editor’s fancy. We have to be vulnerable to write things like this, but at the same time need to develop “calluses” to protect those same soft places.


And then last year it won 3rd place in a writing competition sponsored here in Saskatchewan by the Tisdale Writers’ Group. It was a wonderful validation of everything that had gone into the writing of “This Place of My Father’s Heart”.

Today the published piece arrived in the mail!!! (The cheque was nice to receive as well.) Thank you SO MUCH, Ted Dyck, editor of Transition Magazine! …. I’ll post some “proud mama” photos – after so many years of trying!!



Some thoughts on rejection…

Rejection is our constant travelling companion during this journey as writers. Sometimes it can provide useful learning opportunities rather than being a mere dismissal of our work and who we are.

In this business we have to put our work (and thus ourselves) out there. As many writers are somewhat quiet by nature, this can seem to go against the grain – millions of us introverts with something to say, having to step forward to put our work under the scrutiny of rushed, overworked editors who must deal with mountains of submissions. It’s not easy to get in the door.

We’ve all heard of the many rejections J.K. Rowling received before her first Harry Potter novel was accepted; we’ve also heard that Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) received something like 26 rejections before his breakthrough book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street came out in 1937. We hear jokes of writers papering their office walls with rejection slips. Once in a while during a school visit, a child will ask me how many rejections I’ve received over the decades – and frankly, I have no idea.

My first acquaintance with rejection came as a 10-year-old aspiring writer. My mother took me to the library one day to check out Writer’s Market and, with her encouragement, I began sending my stories to children’s magazines (with self-addressed stamped return envelopes) – because that’s what writers do. And so I submitted, putting “Alison Lohans, Age 10” in the upper left corner of the first page, where we place our contact information. Before long I was receiving more mail than I’d ever received before! This was my gentle introduction to the revolving door of submissions. Quite a few editors noticed the “Age 10” part and took the time to write an encouraging note on their standard form rejections, which made me feel good. Once in a while an editor even made a suggestion or two…which admittedly made me feel a little odd – (What? Isn’t my story fine already?!) Because this is what writers do, and because I was determined to be one, I kept “doing”. One day when I was 12, I opened a thin envelope and found…a letter! Not my story with a rejection slip! My first publication was in the August 1962 issue of Wee Wisdom magazine.

My first acquaintance with book markets came in the 1970s, when I began submitting what eventually became Don’t Think Twice to publishers in New York. Perhaps there was less competition back then; perhaps editors may have been less rushed? Or perhaps there really was that special “something” in the manuscript I was submitting titled “Sunflower in My Trumpet.” The rejections came, of course, but often with a letter detailing the strengths and weaknesses of my novel, sometimes including the first readers’ comments. In a few instances, there were offers to look at my book a second time after I’d done some revisions. Thrilled, I promptly did the revisions – and each time managed to make the book worse! (This, borne up by the anonymous first readers.) So I decided to work on other books for a while. When I sent my first-to-be-published book, Who Cares About Karen? to those same publishers, the quick response was always a form rejection. So I moved the setting of that YA novel from northern Idaho to British Columbia’s West Kootenay country, where I’d lived for a year, and sent it off to Scholastic Canada. After a very long wait, the familiar bulky padded envelope arrived in the mail – but this time with a highly detailed 5-page letter of suggested changes, and an invitation to resubmit. “And the rest is history,” as they say…

The submission process has changed drastically over the decades. Publishers began shredding paper submissions but would reply – with a form rejection most often but occasionally a letter – as long as writers provided the standard SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). I once received a friendly “rejection phone call” from an editor with whom I’d worked previously – and counted myself fortunate. And then the process became even less personalized as many publishers adopted the stance of not replying at all, unless they were interested in a submission. Murky waters, indeed!

Technology has been a good friend for the most part. It saves huge amounts of paper as well as postage costs, not to mention time. It’s great to have that built-in filing system, as opposed to charting everything on paper. Submission management software (such as Submittable) provides an easy-to-follow format for getting our work where it needs to be, with an immediate email confirming receipt, a means of tracking where any given manuscript might be (more or less) in the submissions process, and also allows ways writers can further communicate regarding a submission – or even withdraw it.

One way or other, rejections will inevitably occur with so-called “traditional” publishing. Whether it’s a non-response; a form email response; an email with feedback; or an invitation to revise and resubmit, a rejection can be indicative of (a) a manuscript not fitting a publisher’s needs; or (b) timing that’s off … or (c) serious flaws in a submission, which we may not have noticed. One of my online writing groups has been comparing and discussing rejections – definitely an enlightening process!

Sometimes we wait indefinitely. But not always. My fastest-ever rejection came last year, a mere three hours after I’d emailed an editor with whom I’d worked in the past. Kindly, she took my submission right off the top of her slush pile and replied in a chatty email reminiscing over the book we’d done together, and regretting that my present submission lacked the “literary” tone they were seeking just then (but saying she loved its humour).

Now I’ve had two rejections within the past couple of weeks: one on a picture book manuscript that’s been making the rounds for a while; and the second on a first-chapter-and-synopsis package for one of the Harlequin lines. Both of these rejections included some positive feedback, and one provided several tangible suggestions, so I count myself fortunate – inspired, in fact – in this ongoing learning curve of “being a writer”.

A learning curve that changes with every new piece we write.