Letters, words, stories, and learning more about them, have always fascinated me. I learned to read when I was 4 by underlining every “p-i-g” in my favourite book, The Three Little Pigs. I wrote my first novel, Leader of the Pack, in grade 7, and poems and short stories all through high school.
I took a break from writing stories to do a degree in Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan and then a Master’s at Simon Fraser University. My thesis was called Using Modal Structures to Represent Extensions to Epistemic Logics, and I think it had more mathematical symbols in it than letters. But I later discovered that writing a thesis has a lot in common with writing a novel: both need an enticing beginning, step-by-step development of ideas, a logical division into parts, and a satisfying ending. And of course, both require the writer to revise and polish way past the time she thinks she should be done!
When my three sons arrived, I re-entered the entrancing world of children’s books. Sitting on the couch, the floor, tiny chairs at the library or in the car, we read and re-read the boys’ favourites, Katie and the Big Snow, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, and every dinosaur book in print. We laughed at clever rhymes and learned amazing things, and I decided I would like to try to write like that.
So I took a course in writing for children, and began to write. But I didn’t know how to take the next step, to make my writing good enough to be published, or how to find a publisher. So I went to see the writer-in-residence at the Regina Public Library, Alison Lohans. She read my draft novel and gave me useful advice, and she also told me about the bi-annual CANSCAIP Prairie Horizons conference for children’s writers. (CANSCAIP is the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers.) In the fall of 2003 I tiptoed in.
Wow! I discovered that Saskatchewan is bursting with wonderful writers for children. I learned that they are regular people, that they are very nice, and that they like to get together to work on their stories. So three of us (me, Sandra Davis and Sheena Koops) started a writing group. We met twice a year in person and more often by email, and added one more person (Anne Patton). We joined the committee to plan CANSCAIP Prairie Horizons 2005. The next thing I knew, my picture book Bill Bruin Shovels his Roof was being published by Scholastic Canada, and in 2006 our small group was invited to join the Saskatchewan Children’s Writers Round Robin.
The most important thing I have learned about writing is how much better it is when you are part of a community. When I bring what I think is a polished story to my group, they always find ways to make it better. When I’m discouraged about a rejection letter, they understand. When my story characters won’t do what I tell them and and I can’t figure out where the story is going, they help me get back on track.
The Saskatchewan chapter of CANSCAIP also continues to be hugely helpful with conferences every two years and presentations on aspects of writing for children every spring. I was the president of the chapter for 8 years and got to meet many wonderful authors from all over Canada.
For over ten years I have written a musical Christmas play for the children in our church to perform. The first one (2006), The Other Wise Man, was adapted from the 1896 story by Henry van Dyke. The second one, What Child is This? (2007) was inspired by a French short story by Jerome and Jean Theraud, found in Contes de Noel. The fourth (2010) contains a lot of playful sheep and barn animals and was built around the song “The Friendly Beasts”. It is called Where’s the Ba-a-aby? The fifth focuses on Mary and Joseph, and features some very cool dancing angels. It is called Gloria! and was published in a Christmas anthology called Christmas Stories and More. You can see these and more on my website.
In May of 2010, my adult Easter play Waiting by the Door was produced at my church in Regina. It is a two-act musical based on the story of the prodigal son. My youngest son and I worked together to arrange the piano music for the eight songs I wrote for it. It was a lot of fun (and work!). I also wrote another Easter play, but its production was interrupted by COVID.
In 2021 we did a Christmas video instead of a play so that kids who weren’t coming to church in person could still participate by filming their segments at home. Who knows what we’ll be doing next year?
I have four books published so far, and am working on more, and I can’t think of a better place to write them than right here in Saskatchewan with the Robins.
I have been a Robin since 2006.