My Story So Far...

Kit in the snow, age 2Like many writers, the themes of my life have been stories, reading, and books. I was born in Edmonton, Alberta on April 30, 1947 and lived there for the first eight years of my life with my parents, Kay and Sandy, and my two younger brothers, Ron and Ian.Kit on the beach, age 2 During those years I revelled in the snowy winters, blissful summers spent on a lake outside of Edmonton, peaceful Sunday afternoons at my beloved grandparents' house, many family dogs, and my imagination. I was lucky to be read to often and at age six I became an avid reader myself, which greatly enriched the pretending games I was always playing. However, I was a timid child, shy at school and birthday parties, and afraid of things under the bed; reading became my greatest comfort.

Kit,  age 9, with PeggyWhen I was eight my family moved to Vancouver. We lived there for four happy years. I loved the lushness and the sea and the mountains and, for the first time in my life, I made two good friends. Now my imagination was even more stimulated, for we spent all our after school time playing knights or gods and goddesses or Robin Hood.

My chewed copy of Emily of New MoonWhen I was thirteen my family moved back to Edmonton. I was devastated. Once again, books saved me: I devoured them, literally! I was so involved in the story that I didn't notice that I was nibbling at the corners of the pages. One book I consumed was L.M. Montgomery's EMILY OF NEW MOON. When I finished reading it I decided that, like Emily, I would also become a writer. I began to keep a journal but, although I still imagined stories all the time, I never wrote them down. Perhaps one reason I didn't is that, in those days, we did scarcely any creative writing in school. And I had never met or heard a real writer; it seemed an odd thing to want to do and I kept my ambition a secret.

Kit in high schoolFor high school I was sent back to Vancouver to a boarding school for girls called Crofton House School. It was a welcome escape from the lonely adolescence I had experienced in Edmonton. I made many friends and discovered the deep pleasures of English literature. I decided to major in English when I was accepted at the University of British Columbia.

My parents persuaded me to leave UBC after one year and continue at the University of Alberta. I found being back in Edmonton difficult, the only bright spot being my English classes. I still wasn't writing anything of my own, except my journal; sometimes I would try to begin a novel but I had no idea how to continue.

university yearsIn third year university I joyfully joined the alternative culture that was sweeping the campus: I wore a headband and a bell, grew my hair long, became intensely interested in rock music, gestalt therapy and Buddhism, and discovered a whole new group of friends who shared the same interests. I had vague ideas about becoming a librarian, not yet being brave enough to try writing. When I graduated I spent several years working at menial jobs in between travelling in Europe. Finally, in 1975, I went back to UBC to take my library degree.

There I discovered that the hundreds of books I had loved as child were considered the cream of children's literature. Becoming a children's librarian seemed a natural choice, especially because I was lucky enough to take courses from the late Sheila Egoff, a respected expert on the subject.

My first library job was in St Catharines, Ontario, where I discovered my Loyalist ancestors had lived! Then I worked for four busy years as a children's librarian for the North York Public Library, living in Toronto. The deeper I became involved in children's books, the more I yearned to write one, but my career was so demanding I didn't have time. Then I took a year off to get an M.A. at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children's Literature in Boston. The year and a half I spent there was inspiring and exhilarating. I took many courses in literature but also two courses in writing. My teachers, Nancy Bond and Jane Langton, both encouraged me to continue. I left Simmons determined to start a book and, because of a small inheritance from my grandmother, I was able to do so. I moved back to Vancouver, found a part-time library job, and began my first children's novel, THE DARING GAME.

There is nothing as thrilling as finishing one's first book! Then the honeymoon was over, for I had to find a publisher. The first two I sent it to turned it down but the third, Penguin Books Canada, accepted it. I was given a wonderful, perceptive editor, David Kilgour, who has been my editor for most of my books ever since.

Receiving my  first literary award

My books soon became popular enough that I could afford to write full time. I continued to live in Vancouver for the next twenty years, writing novels and being a writer: giving talks at schools and libraries, teaching writing and children's literature, book reviewing, attending writers' conferences and answering fan mail. I won many awards, which was very gratifying, and met and heard from many kids who loved my books, which was even more rewarding.

at a young writers' workshop

Kit and Katherine with Piper and PoppyIn 2005 I moved to Victoria to live with my partner, Katherine Farris. In 2010 we built a house in Oak Bay. It was both challenging and exhilarating to design exactly what we wanted! Katherine, who is an artist (check out her web site), has a sunny studio on the main floor. I write in a high office that looks out onto the many garry oaks in our garden. Katherine often asks me for suggestions about her current painting, and she is always the first reader for my newest novel. We get great pleasure out of Piper, our standard red poodle. Sadly Poppy, our old border terrier, died in 2012. In 2017 we acquired Brio, a small, mischievous Australian Labradoodle. Victoria is a beautiful and interesting small city, and we have many friends, both here and in Vancouver and Toronto. In fact, sometimes I feel so lucky that I think I must be in a story myself!

For more information about me, look for these articles in a large library:

BEHIND THE STORY, Canscaip, 1995