WHERE I LIVED
I grew up in Victoria BC in a house across the street from the sea. My back yard was a 64 acre garry oak meadow. I could play in the woods all day or walk along the water and not see another human soul. I wrote about that place in Wild Girl and Gran.
WHAT I WAS LIKE
My early family life wasn’t always happy. I spent a lot of time alone reading and pretending. I had two best friends who liked pretending, too. Our favourite game was riding imaginary horses through the woods hunting bad guys. My horse was a black stallion. His saddle and bridle were black, too, and decorated with silver studs. He came when I whistled. Neat, eh? When my family drove places I’d lean my head on the window and pretend I was on my horse, galloping along the edge of the road outside the car.
At other times I liked to perform for an audience, mostly telling jokes and singing funny songs. Playing my tennis racquet like a guitar and entertaining my grade four class was a good way to avoid gym. More pretending!
For a long time I planned to be a cowboy. Fatal drawback: I wasn’t going to grow up to be a boy. (Being a cowgirl was not the same thing.) Then I assumed I’d be a lawyer like my dad.
Life had other plans for me. I ended up with a degree in theatre. After I graduated, auditioning came as a shock. I was much too thin-skinned for the rough competitive world of theatre where you’re always hunting for work and being judged on how you look.
Then a dear friend asked me to tell stories with her and I found the perfect job—storytelling! I could choose whatever stories I wanted to tell. I didn’t have to tell lies, like “buy this toothpaste, it will make you popular and rich.” I could play all the parts—even a cowboy! And how I looked didn’t limit me, because my listeners were seeing the story in their imaginations.
Also, I could look at my audience while I was telling—something I always wanted to do when I was in a play.
Writing stories came naturally out of telling them. One day a boy asked me to tell him a story about a woman who gets a dog from the SPCA, and the story I made up for him became my first book, How Smudge Came.
I live in Vancouver with my beloved husband, Don, and our dog, Lady. We have a son, a daughter-in-law and four grandkids who are the dearest of our dears.
Don and I have kayaked the BC coast from Alaska to Washington State over 25 years of paddling. We are going to Belize next to kayak in warm water. We sing in a very hip choir together.
I also work as a Lay Chaplain with the Unitarian Church of Vancouver. I help people mark and celebrate times of change in their lives—happy ones like getting married or having children; sad ones, too, like grieving the death of someone they love. This is wonderful work.
I’m also learning now how to make clothing patterns. I made my own twirly skirt! Here’s where:
My family life is happy now. But just as when I was a kid, I still like to read and be alone, pretending—which now that I’m a writer I get to call “using my imagination.” I also still love performing. Lucky I’m a storyteller.