I’ve always loved reading and I love books.
I was lucky to grow up in a home where my parents read to me a lot.
I could read already when I was in kindergarten. I devoured books. I read whole series like The Bobbsey Twins, The Box Car Children, Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Little House on the Prairie and Elsie Dinsmore.
I still have my original copy of Anne of Green Gables, a gift from my Aunt Viola.
I was always reading. My Mom took me to the Good Will store in Winnipeg to buy used books and my Dad ordered books from Readers Digest that came every month- they were condensed versions of novels, usually, four in a book and I read them all. I think my love of reading is what led to my love of writing.
My writing was nourished by teachers who celebrated my writing talents.
In grade five my teacher Mr. Helmut Klassen submitted a story I had written about a big snowstorm to the local paper The Carillon News and they printed it. I was thrilled. My mother cut out the article and framed it. I still have it.
In 1966 when I was in grade seven my teacher Mr. Melvin Toews published a magazine about Canada’s upcoming centennial and each student had a story or a poem in it. My contribution was on the first page in the magazine and it was a short essay about Canada. I was really proud of that and I still have a copy of the magazine.
In high school, my English teacher Miss Gunn was brand new to the profession and she assigned so many writing assignments. Although some of my classmates weren’t very happy about having to do all that writing I was in my glory and Miss Gunn was very affirming about my writing. Her encouragement led to me becoming the editor of the school newspaper at my high school.
I became a teacher and enjoyed writing song lyrics and poems and stories for my students.
I helped to set up a kind of publishing house in my school so my students could publish stories they had written.
Then in 1985, just after my second son was born, someone wrote an article in our local paper The Carillon News that said parents, particularly mothers, who enrolled their children in daycare didn’t really love their kids. I was UPSET! I knew daycare was an important service to communities and families and so I wrote a letter to the editor Mr Peter Dyck explaining that. He not only printed my letter he asked if I’d like to become a weekly columnist for the newspaper. That was thirty-six years ago and I am still writing a regular column called Viewpoint for that newspaper. For three years I also worked as a newspaper columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Being a newspaper columnist led to lots of other writing jobs and since then I have had hundreds of articles published in magazines, newspapers, anthologies, journals and on blogs and travel websites. I have written many curriculums, some institutional histories and even the script and lyrics for a musical.
I moved to Hong Kong for six years to be a teacher there and joined an organization called Hong Kong Women in Publishing. Their regular workshops and discussions and a chance to be published in their annual anthology was a big boost to my confidence as a writer.
I also wrote about our travels on travel websites and for newspapers and magazines. I began a blog to let people know about our life in Hong Kong and when I got back to Canada I changed the name of the blog but kept it going. I still write something on my blog What Next? everyday.
When I came back to Canada from Hong Kong I decided it was time to try a different kind of writing so I started taking courses, and going to workshops and joining professional groups that could help me learn to be a children’s writer. I discovered that many people believe getting a book published as a children’s writer is harder than getting a book of any other kind of writing published. I wrote all kinds of stories for children’s magazines, wrote several picture books, started a couple of novels and finally finished Lost on the Prairie but none of those things got published.
I worked on the novel for several years changing it, adding to it, doing more research, and getting lots of advice. I submitted it to publishers who rejected it and then I tried Heritage House and they loved it and sent me a contract to have it published.
I am currently finishing the first draft of another novel and am trying to find a publisher for a picture book I have completed.
Writing is something I like to do, but over my lifetime it has become something I need to do. Writing helps me learn about the past, make sense of the present and dream about the future.
Writing For Children Not As Easy As I Thought
4 responses to “How Did You Become A Writer?”
I read your email blog every single day and enjoy it so much. Thank you! I honestly have no idea how I ended up on your list, but am very grateful for that fate. Your writing enriches my life.
Thank you so much for getting in touch. Some 500 people follow my blog and although I know many of them I don’t know you. It means so much to me that you let me know my writing makes a connection with you. I appreciate you reading my blog and affirming my writing. All the best to you and your family.
Quite the legacy, MaryLou, and you are far from finished. You have a long list of topics yet to explore, the conviction to write about them, and the determination and persistence to see that they get published. Congratulations!
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Thanks, Larry. I can’t thank you enough for all the support and help you and the other members of our writing group have given me.