The final fall episode of Cabin Tales is about the final stage of creative writing: revision. You’ll hear 26 Canadian authors talk about their revision process, and their recommendations to young writers who want to improve their first draft. 45 minutes all ages.

A transcript of this episode is available at

Show Notes

[0:00] Intro

[1:30] Commentary on Revision

If you don’t want other people to read your work, you don’t have to revise it. But if you do want others to read it and enjoy it, and if you want someone to publish it, then you must revise.


[3:55] Author Interviews

I asked my guest authors about their revision process, how much time they spend revising vs drafting and which process they prefer.

[4:00] Monique Polak envies writers who love revising

[5:07] Lori Weber separates drafting from revising

[6:15] Karen Krossing uses her intuition

[7:35] Caroline Pignat separates creation and evaluation

[9:00] Kari-Lynn Winters tries to resist editing while drafting

[10:20] Philippa Dowding does not edit while she drafts

[11:20] Tim Wynne-Jones usually revises along the way

[12:50] Amanda West Lewis discovers more with each revision


[14:40] Commentary on revising for young writers

For kids,  it would be crazy and boring to revise 20 times. Focus on the joy of creating, the passion of storytelling, the fun of it. But do try to revise at least once.


[16:00] Interviews on revising while young

[16:00] Cary Fagan on the chore of revising while young

[17:15] Sarah Raughley on taking your time while young


[18:45] Commentary on how to revise

One of the first steps in revision is evaluating your work.


[19:15] Revision Recommendations

One good practice in revision is to simply cut the word count by 10%. 

[19:45] Jan Coates reads aloud and uses a thesaurus

[20:45] Jeff Szpirglas saves his drafts to combine and revise

[21:45] Rachel Eugster is looking for ways to lessen revision

[22:25] Robin Stevenson has learned to revise wisely

[24:00] Ishta Mercurio starts revisions with a blank page

[24:50] Wendy McLeod MacKnight drafts very quickly

[26:05] Amelinda Bérubé finds the drafting a slog


[28:15] Commentary on getting help with revision

If you’re ready, get feedback from a reader – your friend, other writers, your parents, your English teacher. All of the above. But don’t let critiquing crush your creativity.


[29:55] Interviews about critiques

[30:00] David McArthur encourages critiques

[30:55] Lena Coakley spent 10 years on her first great book

[31:45] Raquel Rivera revises with help from friends and editors

[32:55] Marty Chan advises critique group

[35:00] Lisa Dalrymple offers critiquing advice

[36:10] Don Cummer is grateful for critique groups

[37:20] Frieda Wishinsky says critiquing is a life skill

[38:50] Kate Inglis likes the support of other writers

[40:05] Karen Bass has learned to put story over ego


[42:05] Caveats 

Creativity is always a good thing, even if your latest creation is not awesome. Maybe you can make it awesome with one more revision.


[43:40] Thanks and coming up on the podcast

I’ll be sharing my full interviews with all the Cabin Tales guest authors this winter, beginning on January 8th and continuing every Friday through the 2021 school year. 

If you were hoping for a final story, I will be doing a national public reading  in January featuring an original Cabin Tale with multiple endings. More info in January.

If you are a youth in Ottawa, the Ottawa Public Library’s Awesome Authors Youth Writing Contest is on. I am a judge of fiction in the 9-12 age category and I want to read your story. But please don’t make me read your first draft. 

Have a creative December and a wonderful holiday break. Thanks for listening.


Music on the podcast is from “Stories of the Old Mansion” by Akashic Records, provided by Jamendo (Standard license for online use).

Art: The B&W image for this episode is from a wood engraving by Frederick Sandys from Reproductions of Woodcuts by F. Sandys, 1860-1866.

Host: Catherine Austen writes books for children, short stories for adults, and reports for corporate clients. Visit her at

Guest Authors


Karen Bass loves writing action and adventure, and she likes to slide in some history when she can. She has twice won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction. Karen lived most of her life in rural Alberta but now lives in southern Ontario. Karen loves having a whole new part of Canada to explore and use as inspiration for new stories. Find her online at



Amelinda Bérubé is a freelance writer and the author of the YA novels The Dark Beneath the Ice and Here There Are Monsters. A mother of two and a passionate gardener, she lives in Ottawa, Ontario, in a perpetual whirlwind of unfinished projects and cat hair. Find her online at



Marty Chan writes books for kids, plays for adults, and tweets for fun. He’s best known for Mystery of the Graffiti Ghoul, which won the 2007 Diamond Willow Award. His newest book, Haunted Hospital, launched October 29th. He works and lives in Edmonton with his wife Michelle and their cat Buddy. Find him online at



Lena Coakley was born in Milford, Connecticut. In high school, creative writing was the only class she ever failed—nothing was ever good enough to hand in! She has since published two YA novels, Worlds of Ink and Shadow and WitchlandersWicked Nix, her first book for middle-grade readers, was nominated for numerous awards. Find her online at



Jan Coates grew up in Truro, Nova Scotia, and has lived in Wolfville for most of her adult life. She has published six picture books, six middle grade novels, and 18 levelled chapter books for emergent readers. Her first novel, A Hare in the Elephant's Trunk, was a finalist for the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Awards. Find her online at



Don Cummer is the author of the “Jake and Eli” stories published by Scholastic, set during the War of 1812. The first book, Brothers at War, was short-listed for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young Readers. Don spends his time between Canada and Ireland – where he’s finding many more stories to tell. Find him online at .



Lisa Dalrymple has written 11 books for young readers, including Fierce: Women who Shaped Canada, and Skink on the Brink. She now lives in Fergus, Ontario with her husband and their 3 highly-energetic children. Find her online at



Philippa Dowding is an award-winning children's author, poet, musician, and marketing copywriter.  Her 2017 middle-grade novel, Myles and the Monster Outside, won the OLA Silver Birch Express Honour Book award. Philippa lives in Toronto with her family. Find her on her website at


Rachel Eugster

Rachel Eugster is the author of the picture book The Pocket Mommy and the "Ingredients of a Balanced Diet" series. A theatre artist, singer, and choral conductor, Rachel premiered in her original play Whose Æmilia? at the Ottawa Fringe Festival in 2015. Find her online at


cary-fagan-small.jpg Photo by Mark Reynes Roberts

Cary Fagan writes picture books and novels for children and adults. His many awards include the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, the IODE Jean Throop Award, the Betty Stuchner--Oy Vey!--Funniest Children's Book Award, and the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for his body of work. Cary lives in Toronto. Find him online at



Kate Inglis is an award-winning author for adults and children. Her novels, non-fiction, and poetic picture books are infused with the salt, woodsmoke, and fresh air of the North Atlantic coast. Kate is also a photographer and a corporate writer. Find her online at



Karen Krossing is the author of seven award-winning novels for kids and teens, including Punch Like a GirlBog, and Cut the Lights, plus two picture books on the way. Karen encourages new writers through workshops for kids, teens, and adults. She lives in Toronto. Find her online at



David McArthur is a graphic designer and creative writer based in Victoria, BC. His “What Does…” picture book series started as a game that David played with his son as they were driving to daycare. Find him online at



Wendy McLeod MacKnight is the author of three middle grade novels: It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! , The Frame-Up and The Copycat. In her spare time, she gardens, hangs with her family and friends, and feeds raccoons. Visit Wendy online at .



Ishta Mercurio lives and writes in Brampton, Ontario, where she serves as the Chairman of the Board for The FOLD Foundation, a non-profit that promotes underrepresented voices in Canadian literature. Her picture book debut, Small World, illustrated by Jen Corace, won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the Canadian region. Find Ishta online at



Caroline Pignat is a two-time Governor Generalʼs Literary Award-winning author of novels, non-fiction, and poetry. With over 20 years’ experience teaching in schools, workshops, and at conferences, Caroline loves helping young writers find and share their unique voices. Find her online at



Monique Polak is the Montreal-based author of 29 books for young people and a two-time winner of the Quebec Writers’ Federation Prize for Children’s and YA Literature. She has been teaching English and Humanities at Marianopolis College in Montreal for over 30 years. Find her online at



Dr. Sarah Raughley is the author of five YA fantasy novels, including the bestselling Effigies series and the forthcoming Bones of Ruin series. Her books have been nominated for the Aurora Award for Best Young Adult novel. Find her online at .


raquel-small.jpg Photo by Katya Konioukhova

Raquel Rivera is a writer, artist and performer based in Montreal. She has published five books for young readers. She also writes about books for Constellations, a library and online database of quality children's literature, for use by teachers, librarians, and the public. Visit her online at



Robin Stevenson is the award-winning author of 29 books for all ages. She lives on the west coast of Canada. Robin is launching three new books in 2021: a picture book, PRIDE PUPPY, a middle-grade non-fiction book, KID INNOVATORS, and a young adult novel, WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE. Find her online at .



Jeff Szpirglas is the author of over 20 books for young readers, including entries for Scholastic’s “Countdown To Danger” series and Orca’s “Tales From Beyond the Brain.” Jeff has worked at CTV and he was an editor at Chirp, chickaDEE, and Owl Magazines. He is a full-time parent and full-time teacher. Visit him online at .



Lori Weber is the author of ten books for young adults and middle-grade readers, including Yellow Mini, a novel in verse, and Deep Girls, a short-story collection. A native Montrealer, she taught at John Abbott College for decades before her recent retirement. Find her online at


Amanda West Lewis

Amanda West Lewis is a writer, theatre director and calligrapher. Her writing for children and youth ranges from historical YA fiction to craft books on the art of writing. She is the Artistic Director and Founder of The Ottawa Children’s Theatre. Find her online at



Dr. Kari-Lynn Winters is an award-winning children’s author, playwright, performer, and academic scholar. She is an Associate Professor at Brock University and the author of French Toast, Jeffrey and Sloth, On My Walk, Gift Days, and many other imaginative picture books. Find her online at



Frieda Wishinsky has written over 70 picture books, chapter books, novels and non-fiction books. Her books have won or been nominated for many prestigious awards, including the Governor General’s Award, the Print Braille Book of the Year Award, the TD Literature Award and the Marilyn Baillie Picture book award.  Find her online at



Tim Wynne-Jones has written 35 books for adults and children of all ages. His books have been translated into a dozen languages and won multiple awards, including the Governor General’s Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Arthur Ellis Award, and the Edgar Award. Tim was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012. Find him online at


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