Beverly Cleary – now 103!

As a kid, I loved reading Beverly Cleary’s books. They stood out from others on the library shelves with their quirky characters who behaved like real people, their humour, and their vivid Oregon settings with unusual place names.

For a certain 9-year-old girl who wanted to become a writer, Beverly Cleary was a terrific inspiration. For a certain 20-some, then 30-some, woman who was learning to be a writer, Beverly Cleary was someone I hoped I could emulate someday.

Obviously, nobody else can be Beverly Cleary, or write with her unique voice and verve.

Happy birthday to an amazing role model!



The Saskatchewan Children’s Writers’ Round Robin – 35 years of writing and growing together

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 through the 1970s, I had the good fortune of my connection with kindred spirit Kathy Kennedy Tapp during our college days in southern California. Although we both soon married and literally moved several thousand miles in opposite directions, the strong link remained through our active correspondence and frequent exchange of our children’s and young adult novels, and short stories, for critiquing. This process of learning to provide honest and constructive feedback was daunting at first. But our shared passion of wanting to publish books 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 work and 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 Canada for the long term, in the prairie city of Regina, Saskatchewan. Regina has a very strong arts community that includes the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, and the Writer-in-Residence program at Regina Public Library. Naturally I took advantage of the opportunity to bring 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 had 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 (WIP), and who said she’d love to get together to “talk writing” once she had a completed draft. This marked a very significant beginning.

The province of Saskatchewan, with its total population of about 1 million, consists primarily of wide-open prairies and, to the north, the Canadian Shield and boreal forest. It’s one of those sparsely-populated places about the size of all of Britain and most of Ireland combined. Saskatchewan happens to have rather a lot of writers per capita. I had already joined the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, and the national organization of CANSCAIP (the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators & Performers) but there weren’t many connections locally. Gillian and I got to talking about how great it would be to get to know more children’s writers in the province. So in 1984, I submitted a blurb to FreeLance, the publication of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, 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. Here we talked about our writing, our publishing experiences, and shared (and answered) questions, and may have done some critiquing. By 1989 we were ready to meet in person. For that first occasion, we gathered at a more-or-less equidistant point that involved a drive of an hour or longer for each of us.

The in-person dimension opened up a world of difference for sharing this very complex, challenging, and ever-changing creative journey. Firm, lasting friendships have 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 speedier means of communication.

For thirty years now, the Saskatchewan Children’s Writers’ Round Robin has met in person twice yearly, in various parts of Saskatchewan. Some members have moved away – but two of these women have continued their active, vital participation, commuting from other provinces for our gatherings. Our activities have ranged from initiating and running a biennial conference for those working 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; and hosting events to raise awareness of local writers’ work; to setting up book sales tables.

Some of us are now writing and publishing in other genres as well – and some Round 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 pieces in other areas such as poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. Two of us have now also served as Writer-in-Residence at Regina Public Library! Many of us give writing workshops, teach and provide editing services, and most of us still love visiting schools and libraries to talk about our work. Our books range from picture books; early-reader chapter books; illustrated books for classroom use; and middle grade novels on up to “mature” young adult novels – including contemporary fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, and fantasy/science fiction. All told, our present membership of eleven writers has produced something like 150 books including translations to other languages.

Through all of this, our primary commitment ­is to aiding and supporting one another during this very complicated business of creating books for young people. We all have many works in progress – and, as writers, we are also eternally “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 one another’s work, and open discussion of the often-puzzling dynamics of being a creator of children’s books in the 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 this very moment, we’re all gathered at Manitou Springs Hotel at Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan, on the shore of Little Manitou Lake.

Check us out at our website:



…is a necessary part of this writing business. At times we feel jumpy, and need to burn off steam. Somehow. Seems like I’ve been doing more than the usual of this, lately.

At the moment I’m waiting for:

– the Spring 2019 issue of Transition Magazine, which will include a much-loved creative nonfiction piece that took over 10 years to find its home. “This Place of My Father’s Heart” addresses my late dad’s love of the family cottage in Dorset, Ontario, where he spent all of his childhood summers – intersecting with my own visits to Dorset, the last of which was to bury a portion of my dad’s ashes near the shore of Lake of Bays.  It’s  one of those pieces I’ve fervently believed in, from the start. After bouncing around the marketplace for so long, in fall 2018 it was named one of the prose winners in a  Saskatchewan-based literary competition. Validation! But still not published… So I continued sending it out. Just a couple of months ago, I heard from an editor I’d sent it to well over a year ago, with no response. Was my piece still available? Technically, it wasn’t – because I’d recently submitted it to one of the high-profile Canadian literary magazines. But…the wait time there would be at least 8 months! I quickly pulled the piece from the literary magazine, to hand over to this editor with whom I’ve already worked several times. (No revisions! And the cheque will be nice, too.)

– Also in the publications department: I know it’s still a couple of months too early, but I’m very eager to receive my copies of Caught in the Crossfire, due out from Pearson Education Australia in June of this year. I’ve looked to see if the cover might already be posted on their website – but no such luck. In June of 2018 I was ecstatic at a completely unexpected invitation from Pearson Australia to write a very short historical fiction book for classroom use on how pacifism affected kids during World War II. This wasn’t a totally random thing.  Before Pearson Education New Zealand sold out to Pearson Australia, Pearson NZ published 7 of my books including This Land We Call Home, which addresses the forced relocation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast to primitive desert camps. (It so happens that my mother’s first teaching job was at Poston Camp III in Arizona – and in school where I grew up in Central California, about 20% of my classmates’ parents had been in those camps.) One member of the New Zealand team apparently thought so highly of This Land We Call Home (which coincidentally won the 2008 Saskatchewan Book Award for YA literature) that she passed my information on to the Pearson Australia team. Actually, it was a perfect fit for me, as I was raised pacifist and all of my uncles were Conscientious Objectors during World War II. Deadlines were extremely tight, and I guess there were no major changes because they never sent me any revisions to work on(!) In this case, I was paid nicely, pre-publication (in New Zealand dollars). Caught in the Crossfire will be one of 40 titles in Pearson Australia’s newest Mainsails Literacy package for classroom use with middle years students.

In the “will they possibly say yes???” department, I’m waiting on a whole bunch of things:

– a much-loved YA science fiction short story, “Crystal Sister”, which has been bouncing around the marketplace about as long as “This Place of My Father’s Heart”.

– a new picture book manuscript, “The 1-Dogpower Garden Team” which is on its first visit “out” with a U.S. publisher I’ve never tried before.

– and Harlequin! In November I sent 3 sample chapters plus synopsis of a completed novel, “Strong As a Pharaoh”, to their Special Edition line. (If this happens to be accepted, I’ll be using a pseudonym!)

– and the real nail-biter, also with Harlequin. Last month I submitted chapter 1 plus synopsis to their search for new authors for their Love Inspired line (in which a friend of mine, Donna Gartshore, has already published two books). At this stage we are all guaranteed feedback  (how I hate writing synopses!! – particularly for a book that hasn’t been written!) This, as of April 30 at the latest, and some people have already received a “yea” or “nay”. If “Lost & Found Dog” (working title) happens to be approved for Round 2, I’m going to be extremely busy writing another 50,000 words to make the August 1 deadline…

….and I’m also waiting to hear back on several other things in the children’s book realm – an early chapter book “Tyler Evans the Great”, and at least two other picture book submissions.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of unfinished manuscripts in my files, ranging from my adult time-slip novel, “Murder at Glencoe”; to YA historical “Free to Come Home” (sequel to This Land We Call Home); a young middle-grade novel “The Hole in the Ice” …. and a whole bunch of others.

So there’s plenty to do – supposedly the perfect remedy for waiting…

A couple of reviews of Timefall, including 5 stars on Amazon!

Got well stuck into a beautiful new Saskatchewan-based speculative fiction YA novel by Alison Lohans …  Timefall faces climate apocalypse, teen parenting, and issues of consent with an innocence that can’t help but be engaging.

Jayne Barnard

author of Maddie Hatter Adventures

*  *  *  *  *  * 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 reviews
Cathy Durham
5.0 out of 5 stars
Not only for YA
October 1, 2018 – Published on
Verified Purchase
This is a YA book only because the main characters are young adults; I also highly recommend it for adult readers. I found the story to be both fascinating and disturbing as the characters grapple with multiple challenges to their relationships and their world. The characters, both main and peripheral, are multifaceted and complex, the conflicts are realistic, and solutions don’t necessarily result in happily-ever-after endings.
Katie, a single 15-year-old mother, and Lorne, a classmate, fall into a world a thousand years in the future only to discover that their “ancient” world is on the verge of imminent ecological collapse and the future world is dying because there are no children.
As a former teacher, I see many topics for discussion:
• The issue of teen pregnancy/parenthood
• Parent/child relationships
• Bullying
• Ecological issues
• Survival strategies (I loved the fact that they brought a book on midwifery—genius!)
• Blessing/curse of being able to see the future.
As a reader, I wish the author had included a pronunciation guide for some of the names of the people in the future civilization. I was never quite satisfied with my decisions on those, but that didn’t detract from the story, and my discomfort in this matter may have added to the whole atmosphere and uncertainty of that setting.

A great review of Timefall!

A review of Timefall, just in from Cathy, a retired teacher in California – thanks so much, Cathy!!

"I just finished reading Timefall. Wow! Five stars.

Loved the characters, very complex personalities. The plot had lots of significant issues to think about. Reminded me of pioneers, and made me wonder what I would think to take along in a similar circumstance.

The ebook did not include a guide on name pronunciation, and I never was satisfied with my decisions on that.

I think this is one of those books that will stay with me for a long while as I think about the implications of the various issues.

Anyway, well done. You have a very scary imagination."

Trade paper (402 pages): $33.99, ISBN  9781988274461

e-pub: $4.99, ISBN  9781988274478

Timefall is now officially released!

Released this month by Five Rivers Publishing – Timefall!

This omnibus novel (a combination of Collapse of the Veil  and Crossings, both out of print for the past 6 years) was more than 30 years in the making, from the flash of the initial image that spurred the huge “What if….??!!” question in 1984, through countless drafts and edits. My sincere thanks to Five Rivers Publishing for their commitment to bringing this back into work, and to Dr. Robert Runte for his on-target, illuminative editing that brought this work into its new form!

IMG_6650 with Timefall

One of my poems “Immigrant, Landed” in 150+ Canada’s History in Poetry


Every now and then a poem of mine will get published. About ten years ago I was thrilled to be invited to write, and submit, a poem for inclusion in Crossing Lines – Poets Who Came to Canada in the Vietnam War Era (Seraphim Editions, 2008, ed. Allan Briesmaster and Steven Michael Berzensky).

I submitted a poem “Immigrant, Landed” about the very intense feeling of homecoming I experienced upon immigrating to Canada in 1971. It was really great to have that poem included in the collection – particularly since poetry has never been my main genre.

It was an amazing surprise, last year, to receive a request for my poem to be used again in a “Canada 150” project by Acorn Press of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. I very happily agreed. My author copies arrived yesterday – a few months earlier than I’d expected. 150+ Canada’s History in Poetry (edited by Judy Gaudet) is a huge collection of poems documenting Canada’s history from the pre-colonial days when First Nations Peoples were the only residents of this land we now know as Canada, up to and including the 2018 Olympics.

It’s an incredible honour to have “Immigrant, Landed” included in this collection, which contains work by so many of Canada’s Very Famous Poets, as well as other literary “greats”.