Cabin Tales Episodes 6 and 6.5: Beginnings

Begin in the Darkness (Episode 6)

Featuring an original story, “The Barking Dog,” great first lines from classic fiction; advice from guest authors Karen BassKate Inglis, and Chris Jones, and suggested writing exercises. 40 minutes.

Read or download the full episode transcript here:

Episode 6 Shownotes:

[0:00] Introduction

[1:15] Story Intro : If a Labrador Retriever showed up on your porch barking, you’d think, “This dog is trying to tell me something.” You would never think, “This dog is trying to lure me to my death.” 

[2:35] Spooky Story “The Barking Dog”

[12:20] Commentary on openings

[13:25] Excerpt from Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White 

[14:05] Excerpt from Feed by M.T. Anderson 

[14:40] Excerpt from The Ritual by Adam Nevill

[15:20] Excerpt from The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier 

[16:10] Copy the technique: Opening Lines

[17:35] Commentary on openings that introduce a narrator

Excerpt from Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield

Excerpt from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Excerpt from Mosquitoland by David Arnold.

[18:30] Copy the technique: Introduce yourself

[19:15] Excerpt from Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis.

[20:05] Copy the technique: Engage the reader

[20:35] Interviews with Authors for kids and teens

[20:55] Karen Bass on beginning with action

[22:45] Kate Inglis on beginning with disorientation

[24:50] Chris Jones on beginning with problems

[26:50] Authors’ Advice for young writers on how to begin

[27:05] Chris Jones on beginning with emotion

[28:20] Kate Inglis on hopping around a book

[30:35] Karen Bass on setting a tone

[31:55] How my guests began to write and illustrate

[32:10] Kate Inglis on getting her 10,000 hours early

[33:50] Karen Bass on making a great late entrance

[35:05] Chris Jones on starting young and returning later

[43:20] Story Prompt: “Flowers in the Graveyard”

[39:50] Thanks

Author Interviews about Beginnings (Episode 6.5)

Guest authors Frieda WishinskySarah RaughleyDon CummerDavid McArthur; and Wendy McLeod MacKnight speak about their favourite first lines, their advice to young writers on how to begin, and how they began to write professionally.

Read the full transcript:

Episode 6.5 Show Notes

[0:00] Introduction

[1:15] Commentary on Finding the Beginning of your story

[3:45] Interviews on what makes a good beginning

[4:30] Frieda Wishinsky on letting the reader know what they’re getting into

[6:40] Sarah Raughley on the delicate balance between too early and too late

[8:35] Don Cummer on the revising a beginning

[10:45] David McArthur on setting a scene

[13:20] Wendy McLeod MacKnight’s favourite first line

[15:20] Commentary on first lines

[18:35] Guest author recommendations to young writers

[18:55] Sarah Raughley knows how hard it is to begin

[20:30] David McArthur knows that beginnings can change

[22:00] Frieda Wishinsky likes to stick to the point

[23:20] Wendy McLeod MacKnight wants to be hooked

[24:45] Don Cummer suggests you just dig in

[26:30] Commentary on motivation

[28:05] Guest Authors’ beginnings as writers

[28:15] Wendy McLeod MacKnight was a Deputy Minister

[29:40] Don Cummer was a speechwriter

[31:30] David McArthur read and wrote through dyslexia

[34:25] Frieda Wishinsky loves being part of the human story

[36:15] Sarah Raughley learned to believe in herself

[39:35] 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 doorway image is from a wood engraving by Amédée Forestier from Wilkie Collin’s Blind Love, 1890. The conversation image is a cropped version of a wood engraving by Paul Gavarni from Oeuvres choisies de Gavarni, volume 4, 1848.

Guest Authors:

Karen Bass

Karen Bass has twice won the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction and has received numerous other nominations and accolades for her stories, including one being named as a USBBY Outstanding International Book. 

Aside from writing, Karen works occasionally in a library, and so has a constantly growing pile of books waiting to be read. She loves having a whole new part of Canada to explore and use as inspiration for new stories. Find her online at; on Facebook @karenbassYA on Twitter @karenbassYA and on Instagram @karenbassYA.

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

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.

Chris Jones

Chris Jones is an illustrator with a passion for visual storytelling. He illustrates for picture books, graphic novels, magazines and educational materials. Chris has illustrated over 20 books for young readers, including Scholastic’s Take Me Out to The Ice Rink, and This is The Rink Where Jack Plays. When not illustrating for clients, Chris spends his time writing and illustrating his own comic and picture book projects. Find Chris online at:; Instagram @mrjonesey; Twitter @mrJonesey

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

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.

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

Frieda Wishinsky

Frieda Wishinsky has written over 70 picture books, chapter books, novels and non-fiction books. Picture book biographies are one of her favourite genres. She’s written biographies about Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Frederick Law Olmsted and most recently, Emily Roebling (How Emily Saved the Bridge). Frieda loves sharing the writing process.

Find her online at

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