Talking Tales: Setting (Episode 1.5)

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Interviews with 5 Canadian authors for children and teens about their favourite fictional settings, feared real-life settings, and exercises they recommend to young writers who want to develop effective fictional settings. With guests Karen Krossing, Jan Coates, Rachel Eugster, Amanda West Lewis, and Monique Polak. Hosted by Catherine Austen, with a story prompt at the end. 40 minutes. All ages.

Listen right here. Or through your favourite streaming platform.

Cabin Tales Episode 1.5: Author Interviews about Fictional Settings

Read the full episode transcript here:

Show Notes

[1:10] Welcome to Cabin Tales: Spooky Stories for Young Writers. This is Episode One Point Five: “Author Interviews about Fictional Settings.” Today’s episode is a “talking tales” format, which mean it’s all interviews, extending last week’s episode, “Things Hide in the Darkness,” and keeping the focus on the subject of fictional settings. I’m Catherine Austen. And my guests today are Karen KrossingJan CoatesRachel EugsterAmanda West Lewis; and Monique Polak.

[1:15] Interviews

[2:00] Introduction to Karen Krossing. Karen talks about her favourite fictional setting and exercises she does when building a setting.

[4:10] Introduction to Jan Coates. Jan talks about researching the real settings in her own books.

[6:10] Introduction to Rachel Eugster. Rachel talks about her favourite fictional setting and researching the historical setting of her play.

[9:20] Introduction to Amanda West Lewis. Amanda talks about her favourite setting and researching the settings of historical fiction.

[13:25] Introduction to Monique Polak. Monique talks about her favourite settings and real places and how little setting planning she does before drafting.

[16:35] Catherine’s approach to setting

[18:20] Scary settings:

[18:55] Karen Krossing’s fear of closets.

[19:50] Jan Coates’ fear of water.

[21:30] Rachel Eugster’s fear of heights.

[23:10] Amanda West Lewis’s fear of elevators.

[24:20] Monique Polak’s claustrophobia.

[26:00] Setting exercises for young writers

[26:45] Monique Polak’s setting advice

[28:05] Amanda West Lewis’s setting collages

[30:35] Rachel Eugster’s setting immersion

[31:05] Karen Krossing’s sensory details

[31:55] Basement prompt (All guests from episode 1 and 1.5 respond to the prompt word: Basement)

Story prompt: Take a setting that most people think of as scary, and make it the most wonderful place.

[36:30] Coming up on the podcast:

Next week we’ll have original stories, excerpts, prompts and interviews about fictional characters in Episode 2: “Nasty People meet Nasty Ends.”

Thanks to today’s guests. Thanks for listening.


Music: 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 illustration on this page is a cropped version of a wood engraving by Paul Gavarni from Oeuvres choisies de Gavarni, volume 4, 1848.

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

Guest Authors:

Jan Coates

Jan Coates grew up in Truro, Nova Scotia where her parents owned a bookshop and a music store. She has lived in Wolfville for most of her adult life. A teacher by trade, she’s been writing for young readers for close to 20 years, and 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. She has two adult kids, both married and, sadly, both living in Ontario. One of Jan’s goals in life is to life within an hour’s drive of her kids. For now, she lives with her husband Don, and her Golden Irish, Charlie, in Wolfville. Other than reading and writing, she loves riding her bike, learning to illustrate, second-hand shopping, being outside and travelling. She does not like housework, cold weather and people who are dishonest. Blog: www.jancoates.ca; Twitter:  @JanCoates13; Email: janlcoates60@gmail.com


Rachel Eugster

Rachel Eugster keeps her fingers in a whole rack of pies. She is the author of the picture book The Pocket Mommy (Tunda/Penguin Random House)*, and the Ingredients of a Balanced Diet series (Franklin Watts). She has written magazine articles for adults and children, and was formerly an editor at Walkingmagazine (published out of Boston), where she was a one-woman copyediting department. In a parallel orbit of her professional life, Rachel is a theatre artist, singer, and choral conductor. She is a co-founder and core artist of Bear & Co., a tiny indie theatre company that has produced 23 shows since its founding in 2012, and she conducts the SJCC Adult Choir and the Tamir Neshama choir for developmentally delayed adults. In 2015, Rachel premiered in her original play Whose Æmilia? at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Rachel is also an active member of Democrats Abroad, for whom she co-hosts The Blue Vote Café podcast with David Schellenberg. Website:  https://racheleugster.com/; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thepocketmommy/; Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachelEugster; Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/racheleugster/


Karen Krossing

Karen Krossing wrote poetry and rants as a teen and dreamed of becoming a published writer. Now, she’s the author of seven award-winning novels for kids and teens, including Punch Like a GirlBog, and Cut the Lights, with two picture books on the way. Karen encourages new writers through workshops for kids, teens, and adults. She lives in Toronto, and you can find her on Instagram and Twitter or at www.karenkrossing.com.


Monique Polak is the Montreal-based author of 29 books for young people. She is 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. She is also a columnist for ICI-Radio Canada’s Plus on est de fous, plus on lit! As you can imagine, Monique operates at high speed to get all these things done. But she brakes whenever she hears (or smells) a good story. To learn more about Monique, visit her website at www.moniquepolak.com.


Amanda Lewis

Amanda West Lewis has built a life filled with words on the page and on the stage, combining careers as 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. Amanda holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, with a specialist certificate in writing picture books. She is also the Artistic Director and Founder of The Ottawa Children’s Theatre. She has dedicated her career to arts education for all ages. Website: www.amandawestlewis.com;   Twitter: @AmandaWestLewis; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amandawest.lewis


Published by Catherine Austen

I am an award-winning Canadian author of books for all ages, including Walking Backward (Orca), My Cat Isis (Kids Can Press), 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6 and 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6 (Lorimer) and All Good Children (Orca). I live with my family in Gatineau, Quebec.

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