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 Backwardwas published by Orca in 2009, to critical acclaim. My first picture book, unfortunately titled My Cat Isisillustrated 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 its follow-up companion novel, 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6 (Lorimer), was nominated for a Diamond Willow. (See my Books page for more details.)

My second picture book, When the Squirrels Stole my Sister, illustrated by Sean Cassidy, was published by  Fitzhenry & Whiteside in November 2021.

Fiddlehead Winter 2019
My stories for adults are sad and funny, like my kids’ stories. 

I am currently working on a new teen novel, thanks to the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts.

My recent(ish) stories for adults have appeared in The Fiddlehead, The New Quarterly, and Release Any Words Stuck Inside You, and other magazines and anthologies.

I’ve sat on literary 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.

For several years, I’ve been a judge of the Ottawa Public Library’s annual youth writing contest, Awesome Authors, and I’m a past editor of the resulting youth writing anthology, Pot-pourri. During Covid, to stay sane and to replace school visits in the 2020-21 school year, I made a creative writing podcast, Cabin Tales, which was a blast.

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 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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