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: https://can-con.org/aurora-awards/
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: https://books4kids.ca/