Cabin Tales Episodes 5 and 5.5: Tension

Squirm (Episode 5)

Featuring an original story, “Sisters;” excerpts from Lost Boy, Deltora Quest, and The Cat in the Hat; advice from guest authors Lena CoakleySarah Raughley, and Don Cummer; exercises and prompts. 45 minutes.

(It’s actually Episode 5 — typo on SoundCloud. Hassle to fix. Imagine a “5.”)

Read or download the full episode transcript here:

Episode 5 Shownotes:

[0:00] Introduction:

[1:15] Story Intro: Today you’ll hear a story where a pair of sisters are alone on a swimming platform with their old blind dog and a container of worms. And everything starts to squirm. 

[2:40] Story: “Sisters”

[13:40] Commentary: Books worth rereading

[14:55] Excerpt from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

[15:45] Copy the technique: write well.

[17:05] Commentary on Anticipation

[20:15] Excerpt from Deltora Quest by Emily Rodda

[19:45] Copy the technique: Build dread with foreshadowing and dramatic irony. 

[22:40] Commentary on Stakes

[24:15] Excerpt from Lost Boy by Christina Henry

[25:05] Copy the technique: Add more obstacles on your character’s path, and more need inside your character to overcome those obstacles. 

[26:05] Interviews with guest authors

[27:05] Lena Coakley on planting questions

[28:15] Sarah Raughley on raising stakes

[30:00] Don Cummer on looking for trouble

[31:30] Drafting and revising for tension.

[31:45] Lena Coakley revises at every stage

[32:45] Don Cummer revises to find the best pacing

[34:00] Sarah Raughley adds tension to her outlines

[35:15] Anecdotes 

[35:15] Don Cummer on vulnerable characters 

[37:55] Lena Coakley on her agent’s advice 

[37:15] Sarah Raughly on stakes in a series

[39:00] Story Prompt: “Simon and Woolly”

[41:35] Thanks

Author Interviews about Tension (Episode 5.5)

Guest authors Kate InglisLisa DalrympleDavid McArthurJeff Szpirglas, and Marty Chan on the subject of tension and how to make a reader turn the page.

Read the full transcript:

Episode 5.5 Show Notes

[0:00] Introduction

[1:15] Interviews on adding tension to fiction

[2:10] Kate Inglis on showing characters

[4:30] Jeff Szpirglas on creating a tense atmosphere

[6:50] Lisa Dalrymple on asking your character questions

[8:50] David McArthur on planting clues

[10:55] Marty Chan on leaving answers hanging

[13:10] Commentary on tension as a balancing act

[16:20] Interviews on drafting and revising for tension

[16:45] Marty Chan on revising multiple times

[19:10] Jeff Szpirglas on drafting quickly

[20:50] David McArthur on editing as he drafts

[22:30] Kate Inglis on irresistible revision

[25:15] Lisa Dalrymple on over-editing

[27:30] Interviews on plot twist dos and don’ts

[28:20] David McArthur doesn’t twist fully

[29:45] Lisa Dalrymple sticks to the rules of a story

[30:40] Jeff Szpirglas builds up the danger

[32:35] Kate Inglis’s favourite plot twists from television

[34:25] Marty Chan’s favourite plot twist from film

[36:15] Write your own tale

[37:30] 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 fish image is a B&W version of a wood engraving by J.J. Grandville from Un autre monde, 1841. 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:

Marty Chan

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, on Twitter @Marty_Chan; on YouTube MartyChanAuthor; on Instagram @MartyChanWriter; and on Facebook @MartyChanAuthor.

Lena Coakley

Lena Coakley was born in Milford, Connecticut and grew up on Long Island. In high school, creative writing was the only class she ever failed—nothing was ever good enough to hand in!—but undeterred, she went on to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She has published two YA novels, Worlds of Ink and Shadow and WitchlandersWicked Nix, her first book for middle-grade readers, was nominated for the Silver Birch Express Award, the MYRCA Sundogs Award, and the Rocky Mountain Book Award. She now lives in Toronto with her two cats, Bonbon and Pirate Jenny. Find her online at; @lenacoakley

Don Cummer

Don Cummer is the author of the “Jake and Eli” stories published by Scholastic – a series about two best friends growing up 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 was born in Calgary and grew up on a ranch. He moved to Ottawa, where he wrote speeches for a living, and now spends his time between Canada and Ireland – where he’s finding many more stories to tell. Find him online at or on YouTube at

Lisa Dalrymple

Lisa Dalrymple is a wandering, wondering, dabbling, babbling, addle-brained author and mind-muddled mum. She has written 11 books for young readers, including Fierce: Women who Shaped CanadaA Moose Goes A-Mummering and Skink on the Brink. Lisa has taught kindergarten in South Korea and Thailand, caught and eaten piranha in the Amazon jungle and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. She now lives in Fergus, Ontario with her husband and their 3 highly-energetic children. Find her online at; on Facebook: @LisaDalrympleBooks; on Twitter: @DalrympleWrites; and on Instagram: @lisa_dalrymple.

Kate Inglis

Kate Inglis is an award-winning author for adults and children. She writes about pirates and giants and mermaids and all the ways we love each other. Kate’s 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; on Instagram @kate_inglis, on Twitter @kate_inglis; and on Facebook @kateinglisbooks.

David McArthur

David McArthur is a graphic designer and creative writer based in Victoria, BC. He struggled with reading and writing as a child, and those struggles are part of the reason he created a series of books which give children confidence to read. The “What Does…” series started as a simple game that David played with his son as they were driving to daycare. Seeing the way his son joyfully reacted to the story was so wonderful that David turned the story into a book. The rest, as they say, is history! Find him online at

Sarah Raughley

Dr. Sarah Raughley grew up in Southern Ontario. She 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. Her academic research concerns representations of race and gender in popular media culture, youth culture and post-colonialism. Sarah is a fangirl of manga and sci-fi TV.

Find her online at and on Twitter at ‎@s_raughley

Jeff Szpirglas

Jeff Szpirglas is the author of over 20 books for young readers, both fiction and nonfiction, including entries for Scholastic’s “Countdown To Danger” series and Orca’s “Tales From Beyond the Brain.” He has co-authored two books about film soundtracks, and is a regular contributor to the award-winning horror magazine Rue Morgue. Jeff has worked at CTV and he was an editor at Chirp, chickaDEE, and Owl Magazines. These days, he spends his non-writing time as a full-time parent and full-time classroom teacher (and part-time werewolf).

Visit him online at and find him on Twitter @jeffszpirglas or on Facebook

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