Category Archives: Writing

A Love Letter to My Writing Critique Group

My dear, dear writing critique group,

How long have we been meeting like this? Twenty years? More? It’s time to reflect on our relationship.

It wasn’t love at first sight for us. Oh no.  We were wary of each other and had to build a certain level of trust. Sharing writing is like baring your soul, and you can’t do that when you don’t t know whether the other might reach in and rip out your heart. Your guts. Or worse! Your oh-so-perfectly crafted story.

But slowly the trust developed, we were gentle with each other, yet honest. We became each other’s sounding boards, first readers, and finally – (drum roll here) – the great aunties of each other’s new books. We’ve become dependent on the fresh perspective a second and third set of eyes can reveal.

We’ve helped each other fine-tune our stories by asking the questions that have shed light on plot holes and missing character motivation. We’ve spotted cliches and repeated words. I would never show my work to a publisher before first hearing back from you.

My dear writing critique group, you have been there for me when I needed propping up, when I needed a push to keep going and, most importantly, when I needed constructive feedback. You were there to celebrate book contracts and new releases. You understand this longing to write, to create fiction that we hope has meaning and will find an audience.

Our critique group has grown from being one of merely professional relationships to one of  close friendships. We share the highs and lows of our lives with each other, and watch how personal growth influences our work. We understand that our books are not memoirs but are shaped by the challenges and joys in our lives.

Thank you, my beloved critique group, for being there with me through the twenty years of my writing career. I know I would never have been offered publishing contracts without you helping me mold my stories into something readable. Baring my soul, and my writing, has become so much easier.

With gratitude and love,





Sneak Preview

This is the front cover of our soon-to-be published book. (Heritage House, Spring 2019) It’s the story of grizzly bears Coola and Grinder who live at the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife on Grouse Mountain. It explains how they came to be there and what we have learned from studying their behaviour. Linda Sharp’s illustrations, including this one, are breathtaking! I can’t wait to share this with all those locals and tourists who love these bears.


Lost Boy Metaphors

My very dear friend Sue Gordon always gives me a symbolic gift to celebrate the launch of each of my books. Here is the one she made for Lost Boy. It is metaphorical on 3 levels.

  1. The boy has no ‘face’ as he is lost.
  2. He hits ‘rock bottom’ in the story. (He is made of rocks)
  3. He’s in the shape of an inuksuk, which are featured in the story.

Isn’t she clever?

Here is the shelf in my office with many of the other ‘new book gifts’ she’s given to me.

She is the creative one! And I am blessed with her friendship.


It may have been a soggy Vancouver afternoon, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of my friends and family who turned out to help me launch Lost Boy.

Thank you to those who could make it and to Word Vancouver for inviting me to speak at this wonderful festival that celebrates reading and writing.

What the??? Is that man with the hat in the front row SLEEPING during my reading?? 🙂




Coming soon…

New book!  New genre!


Young Grinder

Young Coola

It’s always so exciting to sign a book contract. This one is something entirely different for me –  a non-fiction, illustated children’s book celebrating the lives of the two bears, Coola and Grinder,  who live at the Wildlife Refuge on Grouse Mountain. It describes how they came to live on the mountain as small cubs, why they can never be released and what we have learned about grizzly bears from studying their behaviour. I wrote it with Rae Schidlo and it will be illustrated by Linda Sharp.  It is coming out in the spring of 2019, right about the time the two bears come out of hibernation. How is that for good timing?

Coola and Grinder coming out of hibernation together.


Rae and I wrote this book because we both volunteered at the Wildlife Refuge and developed a passion for these bears. They are magnificent creatures, their story is fascinating, and we felt it should be shared. Proceeds from book sales will be turned over to the Grouse Mountain Wildlife Refuge.

I can’t wait to see the finished book!

Thank you Heritage House for agreeing to publish this story.













Photo credit of adult bears: Devin Manky

Judging a Book By Its Cover

Isn’t this book cover stunning?  I like to think that I’m not one to ‘choose a book by its cover’, but  that’s exactly why I chose this one, that and the fact that it’s Y/A and written by a Canadian author.

I also think the title is wonderfully enticing.

A lot of readers believe that the author has some say in the cover art. In my experience, it’s the publisher who makes all those decisions. An author gives their story a title, but again, the publisher may choose a different one. The author’s job is to write the story, but marketing it may not be their strength. It takes a different set of skills to design a book cover that has visual appeal.

For me, bookstores and libraries are like art galleries. So much thought has been put into the cover art and design of  each book. The art needs to hint at the flavour of the story as well as be eye-catching. I could spend hours browsing the shelves, admiring the covers and guessing at the inside stories. In the end, I usually choose a book that has been recommended to me or is by an author I’ve enjoyed in the past, but it doesn’t keep me from savouring all the other covers.

Styles of cover art go in and out of vogue. Publishers have to keep current fashion trends in mind when designing a cover. Many books use photo-art, as in Exit, Pursued By A Bear, (Dutton Books, 2016) but others have been created by graphic artists or illustrators, like my soon-to-be published book, Lost Boy.  (Marie Bergeron, artist) (Orca, Fall, 2018)Lost Boy

Does cover art influence your reading choices?


Fan Mail

Sometimes a book comes along and you simply need to reach out to the author and tell them what their story meant to you. I did that today.Gracefully Grayson

I’ve been doing a lot of research on transgender issues for a writing project I’m working on. I’ve read dozens of books – memoirs, novels, picture books, non-fiction. All of them have helped me better understand the transgender experience.

And then I read a review of Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky. I was surprised to find a novel for young people on this subject that I hadn’t yet stumbled across. It wasn’t in my library (they need to get a copy!) so I had to request an interlink loan. (The book was shipped to my library from another city.)

I gobbled up the story in one sitting. As I told the author in an email, the best word to describe this story is ‘tender’. And brave, just like the protagonist, who, baby step after baby step blossoms into the person she was meant to be.

In a way, this is the book I was hoping to write, but I couldn’t find my way, so I changed directions. I’m so glad Polonsky pulled it off, and so beautifully.

A Writerly Crisis of Faith

Apathy_Bear_by_MrsGeeI’m writing a new novel. This one is for an adult audience, not my usual genre which is young adult. This is new territory for me. I spent months doing the research, and now I’m well into the story.  I’ll probably spend another year completing it before I’ll shop it around to publishers. If it’s any good and with a little luck it will get published and then I’ll start another one. Such is the life of a novelist.

But there’s always that chance that I won’t find a publisher for this one. It’s an extremely competitive field. I might have missed the boat with the topic which may be passé by the time the story is complete. Am I wasting a couple years of my life working on something that will simply grow mouldy in a file cabinet drawer in my basement? Every day I wonder if my time would be better spent working in a soup kitchen, bringing meals to the elderly, volunteering in a hospital – all things that would help make my community a better place.

This is the dilemma faced by most writers. Hugely successful ones sign contracts before a project is written, but for most of us, writing is an act of faith. We enjoy the process, but we also hope that our words  will  find an audience to entertain, inform, or simply be thought-provoking. But there are days, like this one, when the words aren’t flowing and the passage of time stares me in the face and I wonder … is this the best use of the time?