Saturday, October 24, 2009

Prairie Horizons Conference

I've been meaning to write about this conference ever since I returned home from Saskatchewan in September, but life and writing seems to have gotten in the way.

CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers) has a prairie gathering every two years, and this year was my first time to attend. I was a little nervous, attending on my own, but as I have always heard, prairie people are amazingly friendly, and I had a wonderful time!

The conference was held over a weekend at a conference retreat centre (St. Michael's) in Lumsden, in the beautiful Qu'Appelle Valley. It was summer weather (31˚C) and lovely. There were probably 50 attendees in total, and many (but not all) were published. The best part of the weekend for me was listening to the Open Mic night, where anyone could take 5 minutes to read or perform their work. I loved hearing the variety of writing, including fantasy, picture books, song lyrics and poetry. (I think I may have been one of the few nonfiction writers in the crowd.) What a talented group they were!

My favourite performance of the night was hearing a song, composed and sung, by Saskatchewan high school teacher, Sheena Koops. She had a beautiful voice, a delicate guitar strumming style, and a polished performance. What impressed me most was her ability to put all of those qualities together with her writing talent, into a song that made a big impact on everyone. It was called, "I Remember You, Grandpa" and it was the story of Sheena's two grandfathers during the time of the Second World War. One grandfather was a pacifist and the other was a soldier. Sheena's song is the story of how she loved them both, and how she came to terms with her own feelings about war, in light of a complicated family history. In the end, she celebrated both her grandfathers, and was able to make sense of a tricky issue. I was impressed! It's a song that should be heard at every Remembrance Day ceremony.

I'm hoping Sheena will record her song. For now, she has been performing it for folks like us, and at her local farmer's market. I wish her great success, with both her writing and musical ventures.

For your viewing pleasure, I'm posting a photo of Sheena and I at the conference. :-)

I encourage every children's writer and illustrator to get on a plane to Regina in September 2011 for the next Canscaip Prairie Conference. It was a memorable weekend for me, and one I hope to repeat again and again.


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