“I began this life in a northern wilderness, with no electricity or phone or television for my first twelve years, and although I’ve certainly enjoyed many busy, sociable careers, I am very happy at this stage of my life to be writing nearly full-time, on the wild West Coast.
I am surrounded by books and wild ocean beauty and I have excellent company.
I count my blessings daily.”
I am a writer, of fiction, poetry and children's books, living on the Lennard Island Lightstation at the entrance to Clayoquot Sound, near Tofino, BC. I am qualified as an Assistant Lightkeeper and often work relief at this and other lighthouses. The time I have to myself when I am not working has allowed me to complete my novel, Penny Loves Wade, Wade Loves Penny (Oolichan Books), and my children's book, Singing Away the Dark (Simply Read Books; illustrated by Julie Morstad), so that both were published in the fall of 2010.
Singing Away the Dark was inspired by my first years of going to school, walking the mile from our homestead to where the bus would pick me up. I attended a two-room school in Cecil Lake until I was required to move into a dormitory in Fort St. John to complete high school. That's where my writing career began, writing a weekly column for the Alaska Highway News.
After earning a BA and Teacher's Certificate at UBC, I worked at a number of jobs, including teaching, social work, and as a volunteer with Canadian Crossroads in Sri Lanka and a youth worker with Canada World Youth in Sri Lanka and India. In 1981, while hiking in Nepal, I saw rice paper being made by hand and wrote A Blue Fable, a 12 page rice paper chapbook, which has sold over 1,000 copies over the years. More travels in Britain and Europe ensued, with a solo bicycle ride across Greece resulting in the publication of my first national magazine article. I worked as the publicist and booking agent for the Caravan Stage Company on their road tour of 1982 with ‘The Law of the Land’ and ended up singing and working sound effects for the tour as well. I would later work with Theatre Energy in Nelson for five years and write ‘Runs Good, Some Rust’ with the collective and produce theatre with students and professionals at the Silverton Gallery for ‘The Lost Tourists’, among other adventures in theatre.
I continued to write and publish but decided to return to full-time studies in 1983, earning a Creative Writing Diploma at David Thompson University Centre in Nelson, BC in what turned out to be the last year of its existence. It was a crucial year in my development as a writer. Studying with senior writers in many genres and collaborating on multi-disciplinary projects with other students of theatre, music and visual arts accelerated my learning curve in a way that would not have been possible had I kept writing in virtual isolation.
My short stories began to be published in literary magazines and my first book, Disturbing the Peace (Polestar: 1990), a collection of short stories, was nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and went into a second printing. Stories from this collection are used in high school and university level literature courses. My mystery novel, Alaska Highway Two-Step (Polestar: 1993) followed and was nominated by the Crime Writers of Canada for the Arthur Ellis Best First Mystery Novel in 1994. Throughout this era, based in Nelson, I was very busy giving readings and/or teaching workshops at three BC Festivals of the Arts, two National Book Week Festivals, Elder Hostel, Selkirk College, the Kootenay School of the Arts, the Sechelt Writing Program, the Kamloops Young Authors Festival and many more. I have given over 300 readings from Whitehorse to Montreal, Seattle to Pouce Coupe, Dease Lake to Ottawa.
I wrote and illustrated a collection of short stories for adult literacy students, Work is a 4-Letter Word, in 1999 on contract with the National Literacy Secretariat and its provincial counterpart. During this time, I also served on the boards of Selkirk College, the Slocan Lake Gallery Society, the Vancouver Foundation and as the inaugural Vice-Chair of the B.C. Arts Council.
Motherhood and opening The Motherlode Bookstore in the village of New Denver signalled the next chapter, one that would continue for 8 years, before I moved with my family to Vancouver Island, where I began another book-related career, this time as a publishers’ sales representative for Kate Walker & Company on the north Island and northwest coast of BC.
Seven years later, I decided to re-focus on my own writing and I joined my husband on the lights in August, 2008. I am now busy writing fiction for adults and children, poetry, essays and a long term project, a memoir about living and working on the lighthouses of the BC coast.
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