My Story So Far...
many writers, the themes of my life have been stories, reading, and
books. I was born in Edmonton, Alberta on April 30, 1947 and lived there
for the first eight years of my life with my parents, Kay and Sandy,
and my two younger brothers, Ron and Ian.
During those years I revelled in the snowy winters, blissful summers
spent on a lake outside of Edmonton, peaceful Sunday afternoons at my
beloved grandparents' house, many family dogs, and my imagination. I
was lucky to be read to often and at age six I became an avid reader
myself, which greatly enriched the pretending games I was always playing.
However, I was a timid child, shy at school and birthday parties, and
afraid of things under the bed; reading became my greatest comfort.
I was eight my family moved to Vancouver. We lived there for four happy
years. I loved the lushness and the sea and the mountains and, for the
first time in my life, I made two good friends. Now my imagination was
even more stimulated, for we spent all our after school time playing
knights or gods and goddesses or Robin Hood.
I was thirteen my family moved back to Edmonton. I was devastated. Once
again, books saved me: I devoured them, literally! I was so involved
in the story that I didn't notice that I was nibbling at the corners
of the pages. One book I consumed was L.M. Montgomery's EMILY OF NEW
MOON. When I finished reading it I decided that, like Emily, I would
also become a writer. I began to keep a journal but, although I still
imagined stories all the time, I never wrote them down. Perhaps one
reason I didn't is that, in those days, we did scarcely any creative
writing in school. And I had never met or heard a real writer; it seemed
an odd thing to want to do and I kept my ambition a secret.
high school I was sent back to Vancouver to a boarding school for girls
called Crofton House School. It was a welcome escape from the lonely
adolescence I had experienced in Edmonton. I made many friends and discovered
the deep pleasures of English literature. I decided to major in English
when I was accepted at the University of British Columbia.
My parents persuaded
me to leave UBC after one year and continue at the University of Alberta.
I found being back in Edmonton difficult, the only bright spot being
my English classes. I still wasn't writing anything of my own, except
my journal; sometimes I would try to begin a novel but I had no idea
how to continue.
third year university I joyfully joined the alternative culture that
was sweeping the campus: I wore a headband and a bell, grew my hair
long, became intensely interested in rock music, gestalt therapy and
Buddhism, and discovered a whole new group of friends who shared the
same interests. I had vague ideas about becoming a librarian, not yet
being brave enough to try writing. When I graduated I spent several
years working at menial jobs in between travelling in Europe. Finally,
in 1975, I went back to UBC to take my library degree.
There I discovered
that the hundreds of books I had loved as child were considered the
cream of children's literature. Becoming a children's librarian seemed
a natural choice, especially because I was lucky enough to take courses
from the late Sheila Egoff, a respected expert on the subject.
My first library
job was in St Catharines, Ontario, where I discovered my Loyalist ancestors
had lived! Then I worked for four busy years as a children's librarian
for the North York Public Library, living in Toronto. The deeper I became
involved in children's books, the more I yearned to write one, but my
career was so demanding I didn't have time. Then I took a year off to
get an M.A. at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's
Literature in Boston. The year and a half I spent there was inspiring
and exhilarating. I took many courses in literature but also two courses
in writing. My teachers, Nancy Bond and Jane Langton, both encouraged
me to continue. I left Simmons determined to start a book and, because
of a small inheritance from my grandmother, I was able to do so. I moved
back to Vancouver, found a part-time library job, and began my first
children's novel, THE DARING GAME.
There is nothing
as thrilling as finishing one's first book! Then the honeymoon was over,
for I had to find a publisher. The first two I sent it to turned it
down but the third, Penguin Books Canada, accepted it. I was given a
wonderful, perceptive editor, David Kilgour, who has been my editor
for most of my books ever since.
My books soon became
popular enough that I could afford to write full time. I continued to
live in Vancouver for the next twenty years, writing novels and being
a writer: giving talks at schools and libraries, teaching writing and
children's literature, book reviewing, attending writers' conferences
and answering fan mail. I won many awards, which was very gratifying,
and met and heard from many kids who loved my books, which was even
2005 I moved to Victoria to live with my partner, Katherine Farris.
In 2010 we built a house in Oak Bay. It was both challenging and exhilarating
to design exactly what we wanted! Katherine, who is an artist (check
out her web site), has a sunny studio on the main floor. I write
in a high office that looks out onto the many garry oaks in our garden.
Katherine often asks me for suggestions about her current painting,
and she is always the first reader for my newest novel. We get great
pleasure out of Piper, our standard red poodle. Sadly Poppy, our old
border terrier, died in 2012. We all miss her terribly. Victoria is
a beautiful and interesting small city, and we have many friends, both
here and in Vancouver and Toronto. In fact, sometimes I feel so lucky
that I think I must be in a story myself!
For more information about me, look for these articles in a large
YOUNG ADULT WRITERS, 1994
CANADIAN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, #74
SOMETHING ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Vol. 77
MEET CANADIAN AUTHORS AND ILLUSTRATORS, Scholastic, 1994
BEHIND THE STORY, Canscaip, 1995
SOMETHING ABOUT THE AUTHOR, AUTOBIOGRAPHY SERIES, vol. 25