Cabin Tales Episodes 4 and 4.5: Plotting

Bad Things Happen (Episode 4)

With an original spooky story, “The Critter Cam;” excerpts from Harold and the Purple Crayon, “The Band-aid”, and Holes; advice from guest authors Robin StevensonWendy McLeod MacKnight; and Amelinda Bérubé; and a plotting exercise and prompts. 45 minutes.

Read or download the full episode transcript here:

Episode 4 Shownotes:

[0:00] Intro 

[2:55]  Story: “The Critter Cam” 

[19:15] Commentary on Classic Plot Structure

[14:30] Excerpt from Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

[15:15] Copy the technique

[17:45] Commentary on Simple Plots

[15:50] Excerpt from “The Band-Aid” by Andy Griffiths

[19:45] Copy the technique

[21:40] Commentary on Complicated Plots

[23:50] Excerpt from Holes by Louis Sacher

[24:30] Copy the technique

[26:45] Interviews on planning out plots

[27:15] Robin Stevenson on finding character before plotting 

[28:50] Wendy McLeod MacKnight on messy middles

[30:35] Amelinda Bérubé on crawling to the finish

[32:15] Interviews about tormenting characters

[33:15] Amelinda Bérubé loves tormenting characters

[35:40] Wendy McLeod MacKnight finds torment cathartic

[35:15] Robin Stevenson has reservations about tormenting

[36:25] Advice for young writers on plotting

[36:40] Wendy McLeod MacKnight on caring about characters

[37:55] Amelinda Berube on the worst that could happen 

[39:00] Robin Stevenson on holding back 

Download a simple Plot Structure diagram and exercise : “Plotting in pairs” exercise Download

[39:50] Story Prompt: “Crossing the Field”

[43:15] Thanks

Author Interviews about Plotting (Episode 4.5)

Guest authors Cary FaganPhilippa DowdingKari-Lynn Winters;  Raquel Rivera, and Ishta Mercurio talk about how they plot their stories, and offer advice to young writers who want to create more inviting plots. 40 minutes. 

Read the full transcript:

Episode 4.5 Show Notes

[0:00] Introduction

[1:15] Commentary on when to plot your story

[4:30] Author Interviews about Plotting

[5:10] Cary Fagan on plotting before and while drafting

[7:20] Philippa Dowding knows her ending

[8:25] Raquel Rivera does not know the ending

[10:35] Ishta Mercurio does not know the ending

[12:55] Kari-Lynn Winters knows the end but not the path

[14:20] Commentary on plotting as character challenged.

[16:05] Interviews about tormenting characters

[16:15] Philippa Dowding is a tormentor

[18:05] Raquel Rivera says torment is a sad necessity 

[19:00] Kari-Lynn Winters wants some kind of hope

[20:20] Ishta Mercurio is an enthusiastic tormentor 

[22:40] Cary Fagan mitigates the torments with humour

[25:10] Commentary on classic and experimental plots

[28:15] Interviews about plotting advice

[28:25] Philippa Dowding recommends keeping the end in sight

[29:25] Cary Fagan makes the unlikely believable

[31:30] Raquel Rivera talks it over with herself 

[32:25] Ishta Mercurio puts a story away 

[34:00] Kari-Lynn Winters layers her stories

[35:40] The best plots are inside you

[38:15] 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 B&W image of the creepy face is by Gustave Doré, from Les contes drolatique by Honoré de Balzac, 1881. The conversation image is a cropped version of a wood engraving by Paul Gavarni from Oeuvres choisies de Gavarni, volume 4, 1848.

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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