In 1984, Alison Lohans and Gillian Richardson had already begun meeting in Regina to discuss writing and their children’s stories. They realized there must be other children’s writers scattered across the province, and thought it would be great to get to know one another. Alison put a notice in The Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild‘s magazine Freelance seeking other Saskatchewan children’s writers who might like to network. Seven people responded (Mary Love, Mary C. Wood, Theresa Heuchert, Linda Brooks, Sigfus Bergmann, Pat Armstrong and Gillian Richardson). Shirley Byers Lalonde joined a year or so later.
Pat suggested the “round robin” format of a package of letters that would circulate among the members. When the package arrived, the person receiving it would read all the letters and replace her previous letter with a new one, then send the package on to the next person in the circuit.
This is how things went for five years. In 1989, thanks to a grant from the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, the Children’s Writers’ Round Robin was able to meet in person for the first time at the Davidson Senior Citizens’ Centre on February 18, 1989. By then the group had grown to nine members, many of whom already had published a few books:
- Patricia Armstrong
Shirley Byers Lalonde
From that point on, the group has met twice a year, spring and fall, in various parts of Saskatchewan, avoiding the urban areas of Regina and Saskatoon, and rotating venues to simplify travel for members coming from all regions of the province – ranging from Denare Beach in the northeast to Shaunavon in the southwest, as well as two members who eventually moved to BC but still attend regularly.
In the course of our regular meetings, “Robin” members realized the great value of these connections and decided it would be exciting to meet up with our neighbours in all three Prairie provinces. With the Children’s Writers’ Round Robin spearheading the effort under the auspices of CANSCAIP, the “Robins” founded the biannual CANSCAIP Prairie Horizons conferences, now under the leadership of the Saskatchewan chapter of CANSCAIP.
Members came and went over the decades. We continued to write the “Robin letters” for another twenty years or so, until email became our preferred communication method. The group has nurtured children’s writing in all genres and for all ages through critiquing, goal-setting, sharing information as well as supporting one another, and initiating events that highlight Saskatchewan-authored books for young people. Of the original founding members, Gillian and Alison are still with the group from the beginnings 35 years ago. Our current membership of eleven writers has published a total of 165 books, many of which have won awards and other types of acclaim.
Want to know more?
See our Gatherings Page to see where we’ve been.