I was born under the sign of Aquarius but close enough to the cusp that my personality swims between both the fish and the water-bearer: In other words, I’m either a methodical, tenacious seeker of material security or an independent hot-head who values ambition over relationships. Hmm. Maybe we’ll just move on.
The environment in which I was raised was strict and unyielding. Out of necessity I became a dreamer. Oh my, what great dreams I had; rich, colourful, soaring epics that allowed me to privately exercise a bold vein of my personality that my real-world self was too timid to display.
On the other hand, I was fortunate to be raised in a household of writers and readers. There were no restrictions on what I read, and I easily became a voracious reader.
When I finished school, I gravitated toward jobs where words were the main event and toward workplaces where individual freedom and creativity ruled. The choices were not always wise, but they were what formed me.
I loved writing, but due to a distinct lack of confidence, I never told anyone that I wanted to be a writer. It sounded arrogant, and a bit too vague. Also, I had no idea how I’d support myself. So I went into journalism and got slotted into editing jobs. It was not a bad gig: you learn a lot from editing the work of others.
It was not until my mid 40s that things changed. A near fatal car accident tipped things in terms of my writing life. I took a leave of absence from my job at a national newspaper, and spent a winter on tiny Pelee Island, the most southerly point in Canada, and wrote a series of columns about the experience of escaping the urban rat race and chilling out on a near-empty island. Those columns led to my first book deal. Finally, I was a bona fide author.
For years, I juggled writing books with a full-time job. My side-hustle saw me up very early each morning—usually 4 or 5 a.m.—when I would write until 7. Then it was time to get the kids ready for school, and me ready for my corporate job. It probably sounds like a grind, but it wasn’t. Nothing you love doing is ever a chore. My first three books were written under those conditions.
In 2010, I left the 9-5, to explore religious life in Canada and England. I loved living and learning with the nuns. It really opened my eyes to not only a radical way of living, but to a better understanding of myself. I had felt so certain that monastic life was for me, but as it turned out, it was not. It still remains one of the most profound experiences of my life. Though I never became a nun, I remain close to the sisters of St. John the Divine in Toronto. Each time I return to their convent it feels like a homecoming.
Life is full of twists and turns, isn’t it? Just when you think you know what your future will look like along comes something completely different. I now live in England with my husband and our adopted Yorkshire terrorist, Pluto. (No, ‘terrorist’ is not a typo.) Moving abroad, especially in your later years, can be an adjustment. I desperately miss my children and my friends (thank goodness for video calling), and I miss driving a car (I’m not quite brave enough for the narrow, corkscrew roads of England). Nonetheless, being an ex-pat has given me the space to be inspired and creative I might not have found had I stayed in one place. That’s the thing about embracing a creative life: it sometimes forces you to up-sticks and move far from the familiar and the comfortable, and check out that road less travelled.