My (Writing) Life Story

Me as a teenager

I grew up in Kingston, Ontario, the youngest of five children. My earliest memories are those I carved out alone with nature: catching snakes, taming squirrels, sketching ducks.

I studied political science at Queen’s University and environmental studies at York University before moving to the Ottawa area to work in the conservation movement. As a student, I practiced “productive procrastination” and wrote short stories whenever major papers were due. A dozen of my stories were published in small literary journals (Quarry, Writ, The New Quarterly) in the 1990s.

Me as Mary Poppins

I didn’t write much fiction for several years, while working full-time and starting a family.

I wrote my first story for children in 2003, and I was rejected for several years before I got the hang of it. My first children’s novel, Walking Backward, was published by Orca in 2009, to critical acclaim. My first picture book, unfortunately titled My Cat Isis, illustrated by Virginie Egger, was published by Kids Can Press in 2011, and is now out of print. My teen novel, All Good Children (Orca), and my middle-grade comedy, 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6 (Lorimer), both won multiple awards, and my most recent novel, 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6 (Lorimer) was nominated for a Diamond Willow. (See my Books page for more details.)

I have a second picture book, When the Squirrels Stole my Sister, in development with Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

Fiddlehead Winter 2019
My latest story, “The Squabbit,” is in The Fiddlehead (Winter 2019)

I recently finished my first animal adventure novel for middle-grade readers, The Mischief, and I’m revising my first supernatural comedy for teens, Unhallowed.

I am slowly working toward my first short story collection for adults. My most recent stories have appeared in The Fiddlehead, Write, and The New Quarterly.

I’m active in Canada’s children’s literature community — I’ve sat on juries, participated in book festivals, and given workshops and presentations at schools, libraries, and literary events from coast to coast. I’m a member of the Writers Union of Canada, the Quebec Writers’ Federation, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. I’m also a literacy tutor for Sage Youth and an editor of the annual Ottawa youth writing anthology, Pot-pourri.

At my best, I feel like this fox in my logo, designed by Julie Prescesky.

I live in Gatineau, Quebec, in a little house with a big yard full of rodents, rabbits, and the occasional fox and falcon. It is inspiring. I have a cabin in the Pontiac on a lake visited by black bears and bald eagles. It is even more inspiring. I write on the dock in longhand; I write at home on a computer.

I am grateful for the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.

Read more about My Interests and Addictions.

 

 

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