Cabin Tales Episodes 3 and 3.5: Ideas

Spooky Stories are all Around Us (Episode 3)

A 50-minute episode answering the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” With an original spooky story about an insatiable animal; excerpts from All Quiet on the Western Front, The One and Only Ivan, and The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom; advice from guest authors Philippa DowdingAmelinda Berube, and Kari-Lynn Winters; and creative writing exercises and prompts.

Read or download the full episode transcript here:

Episode 3 Shownotes:

[0:00] Intro 

[1:15] Story Introduction

[2:50] Spooky Story: “Don’t Feed the Wildlife”

[15:15] Commentary on where ideas come from

[17:10] Excerpt from All Quiet on the Western Front

[18:30] Copy the Technique

[20:00] Commentary on finding ideas in the news

[21:00] Excerpt from The One and Only Ivan

[22:05] Copy the technique

[23:10] Commentary on finding ideas in other stories

[23:55] Excerpt from The Hero’s Guide to Saving your Kingdom

[25:15] Copy the technique

[26:20] Author Interviews about getting ideas

[26:45] Philippa Dowding on finding stories in dreams

[28:00] Amelinda Berube on finding ideas in “true” ghost stories

[30:40] Kari-Lynn Winters on finding ideas all around her

[32:55] Finding Ideas in your fears

[33:10] Amelinda Berube on conquering fears through fiction

[35:50] Kari-Lynn Winters on finding a story in a real spooky prank

[36:55] Philippa Dowding on writing about anxiety

[37:45] What to do with all your ideas

[37:55] Kari-Lynn Winter’s Thousand Journals

[38:40] Philippa Dowding on her several journals

[40:00] Amelinda Berube on no longer journaling

[41:00] Amelinda Berube on finding ideas in prompts

[42:40] Try an object prompt

[43:15] Story prompt

[48:30] Thanks

Author Interviews about Ideas (Episode 3.5)

Guest authors Cary FaganWendy McLeod MacKnightRaquel RiveraIshta Mercurio, and Robin Stevenson answer the question, “Where do you get your ideas?” 40 minutes. 

Read the full transcript:

Episode 3.5 Show Notes

[0:00] Introduction

[1:15] Interviews about finding inspiration for stories

[2:10] Cary Fagan on finding inspiration from his own childhood

[5:30] Robin Stevenson on finding inspiration in life and news

[7:50]: Raquel Rivera on finding inspiration inside and out

[10:10] Ishta Mercurio on walking into inspiration

[13:25] Wendy McLeod MacKnight about being nosy

[16:15] Quote from Jack Gantos on eavesdropping

[17:00] Interviews about finding inspiration in real-life fears

[17:10] Robin Stevenson on her apocalyptic fears

[18:05] Raquel Rivera on writing from fear

[19:45] Wendy McLeod MacKnight on giving characters her phobias

[20:35] Cary Fagan on using fear directly and indirectly

[22:05] Ishta Mercurio on needing distance from fear

[23:20] Tapping into fear and other emotions to inspire stories

[24:20] Quotes from S.E. Hinton and from Peter Sears’ student handbook

[25:40] Interviews about journals

[25:55] Wendy McLeod MacKnight’s embarrassing journals

[27:35] Robin Stevenson on the need to write ideas down

[28:55] Raquel Rivera on writing, drawing, and designing ideas

[30:25] Ishta Mercurio’s many kinds of journal

[32:55] Cary Fagan’s journal is called a notebook.

[35:45] Things to do in journals

[36:30] Find inspiration by reading

[39:05] Start with a prompt

Download an Object Study exercise template: Start with an ObjectDownload

[40:10] Thanks


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

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

Art: The conversation image is a cropped version of a wood engraving by John Leech from Pictures of Life and Character Vol 1, 1866.

Guest Authors:

Amelinda Berube

Amelinda Bérubé is a freelance writer and the author of YA novels The Dark Beneath the Ice (Sourcebooks Fire, 2018) and Here There Are Monsters (Sourcebooks Fire, 2019). A mother of two and a passionate gardener, she lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in a perpetual whirlwind of unfinished projects and cat hair. Find her on her website at or on Twitter: @metuiteme.

Philippa Dowding

Philippa Dowding is an award-winning children’s author, a poet, musician and marketing copywriter. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in many literary journals. Her children’s books have been nominated for awards in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, and her 2017 novel, Myles and the Monster Outside, won the OLA Silver Birch Express Honour Book award. Philippa lives in Toronto with her family, where she reads, writes, plays guitar, and walks her dog every day. You can find her at or on her blog at

Cary Fagan

Cary Fagan has written many books for children, including The Hollow Under the Tree, Mort Ziff is Not Dead, and Wolfie and Fly. 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

Photo by Mark Reynes Roberts

Wendy McLeod MacKnight

Wendy McLeod MacKnight grew up in a small town with a library card as her most prized possession. She worked for the Government of New Brunswick for twenty-five years until the siren call of writing became impossible to ignore. She is the author of three middle grade novels: It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! (Sky Pony Press), The Frame-Up and The Copycat (both from Greenwillow Books). In her spare time, she gardens, hangs with her family and friends, and feeds raccoons. Visit Wendy online at or on Twitter @wendymacknight or Instagram @wendymcleodmacknight.

Ishta Mercurio

Ishta Mercurio was born and raised in an interracial family in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she developed a love of reading and books and big ideas. She now lives and writes in Brampton, Ontario, where she serves as the Chairman of the Board for The FOLD Foundation, a non-profit whose mandate is to lift underrepresented and marginalized voices in Canadian literature. Her picture book debut, Small World, illustrated by Jen Corace (ABRAMS Books for Young Readers), was selected as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2019 and won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the Canadian region. Find Ishta online at

Raquel Rivera

Raquel Rivera is a writer, artist and performerbased in Montreal since 1999, where she has published five books for young readers. Prior to this, she lived and worked as a copywriter in Washington DC, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, and she taught ESL in Barcelona. Raquel also writes about books for Constellations, a library and online database of quality children’s literature, for use by teachers, librarians, and the public. When she’s not reading, writing, practising acrobatics, or drumming, Raquel leads creative workshops for children, youth, and adults around Quebec and across Canada. Visit her online at Photo by Katya Konioukhova

Robin Stevenson

Robin Stevenson is the award winning author of 29 books, including board books, picture books, early chapter books, middle grade fiction and non-fiction, and young adult fiction and non-fiction. She lives on the west coast of Canada with her family: her partner, teenage son, a cat, and a very loving and slightly needy spaniel who is usually lying on her feet. Robin is launching three new books in 2021: a picture book, PRIDE PUPPY (Orca), a middle-grade non-fiction book, KID INNOVATORS (Quirk), and a young adult novel, WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE (Running Press Kids). Find Robin online at or on Twitter @robin_stevenson, on Facebook at @RobinStevensonAuthor/, or on Instagram: @robinstevensonwrites.

Kari-Lynn Winters

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 more than a dozen other imaginative picture books for children.

Find her online at

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