I was born in St. Catharines, Ontario and grew up with four sisters and one brother, playing among the grapes and orchards of the Niagara Peninsula. My father often travelled to Winnipeg on business and came home saying, "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." We moved there when I was ten.
Winnipeg was home for the next 14 years. I went to Springfield Collegiate in Oakbank and did an English degree at University of Winnipeg. The sudden summer thunderstorms, the frozen Assiniboine River in winter and the leafy neighbourhoods of St. Boniface and Fort Rouge became what I missed when I moved to Vancouver.
There I worked for TV Guide and finally admitted that I wanted to take what seemed like an impractical step towards becoming a writer. I graduated with my MFA in Creative Writing from UBC in 1992. I met my husband shortly after and we moved to Regina, Saskatchewan so that he could attend what is now the First Nations University of Canada.
Having lived in four provinces, and having made each my home, I began to wonder about what home meant anymore to migrant Canadians like me. My first book, A Pilgrim in Ireland: A Quest for Home, looked at that question.
I had my son in 1996 at a mature 34 years old. I was shocked to find that the experience was nothing like what I had imagined. About three weeks after his birth, I began hemorrhaging, an event that sent my idyllic days of new motherhood into a tailspin. I wrote about those dark nights of the soul and the ultimate transformation in By the Secret Ladder: A Mother's Initiation.
We moved to the Okanagan in 2005 where my love of the BC landscape flourishes. Penticton feels like home and turned my imagination again to an idea I had begun work on years earlier, a novel about a woman who disappears into the mysterious BC landscape and leaves her two daughters to wonder and worry. My first love as a writer has always been fiction. As I began work on my novel, Shelter, I remember telling my editor, "This is way easier. I can make things up." Shelter is fiction, but it draws on many of my own worst fears.
I'm the small one in the corner.
Photo credit: Stuart Bish