||I loved stories but I especially loved to look at the illustrations...
I grew up in Rosemere, Quebec, a small town north of Montreal. We were a family of five, I was the youngest of three girls. I’m told I came home from the hospital red and wailing. Let’s say I shook things up in a very quiet family. By the time I got to school, I had learned to be shy and much too polite. I’m over that!
We did not have computers or much TV when I was small. My sisters would head off to school and I would entertain myself. I was a master at playing pretend. “Hospital” was my favourite. It was easy for me to imagine my stuffed animals, Monkey and Pinky, were alive. Every time Monkey had an accident I would rush him to the hospital to be patched up. I think that is where the first Elliot Moose story, Elliot’s Emergency, came from. Also, I had a terrible accident when I was little, and needed patching up too.
Our school did not have Kindergarten and when I landed in grade one, I was so shy that I used to hope my teacher, Miss Ryan, would not notice me. One day she called me up to the front of the class with some other kids to read out loud. That was the day I figured out that I was supposed to be learning something at school! I loved stories, but I especially loved to look at the illustrations and I wondered how people could possibly draw them.
Sometimes the snow on each side of the road was taller than my dad...
Winter in Rosemere was very cold and sometimes the snow on each side of the driveway was taller than my dad – and he was 6 foot 2. We would make tunnels and forts, and go tobogganing on the hill across the street. Once, when I was about 9, my sister Debbie and I forgot our keys. It was bitterly cold and we sat on the back steps, our fingers and toes freezing. We’d probably forgotten our hats too! We knew it would be hours before anyone came home and Debbie began to cry, not little whimpers but great big sobs, so I broke the back door in with a shovel. I knew our parents wouldn’t mind, and they didn’t. It was THAT cold!
In the summer, I would ride my bike along the dirt roads or visit Dog River where I would watch the beavers work. I used to love tromping the fields and was not happy when we moved into Montreal. I was eleven by then and my dad had moved to Winnipeg. We were now a split family, and life was very different. We didn’t have much money, but my mother always managed to feed us. I started babysitting at fourteen, by fifteen I had my first job, and at sixteen, I went to Dawson College – that is where I learned to draw and paint. Then I moved to Toronto, and studied at Ontario College of Art. Afterward, I started a toy company and it grew and grew until we were selling toy moose, beavers and other toys right across Canada and into the United States. After five years, I got sick of running a company and sold it. I was an artist at heart.
Somehow I don’t think I ever completely grew up, I’ve kept the kid part of me – it’s much more fun.
I loved the days at the toy company when we had large shipments of moose going out. They looked so funny lined up, row upon row, waiting to be inspected and ribboned and put in their boxes. Sometimes as I walked by one of those big tables, it seemed like maybe the moose were moving, or talking amongst themselves. I loved to imagine that they might alive in some way – even though I was a grown up by then.
Somehow I don’t think I ever completely grew up, I’ve kept the kid part of me – it’s much more fun. That’s where Elliot Moose came from – from playing pretend (which all authors do), memories of my days as a toymaker, and from a childhood where Monkey and Pinky were alive.
Elliot was alive in my head, banging on the door of my brain, saying “LET ME OUT!”
When my children were growing, we would read stories every day. I enjoyed that so much that in my odd moments I began to write stories. I had been dabbling with stories about Elliot Moose for a long time when I sent my first submission off to a publisher. I was very tired from working (I ran an art club for children), studying (I was getting another degree), and raising my boys (the most important part) – but Elliot made me send the story out. He was alive in my head, banging on the door of my brain, saying “LET ME OUT!” I heard from two publishers immediately and all of a sudden I was an author. In the middle of doing the art for Elliot’s Emergency, I was asked what I thought of a TV show too. I learned on the run, tried not to repeat any mistakes and had help from many people.
In 2003 I had two minor accidents, but they hurt my neck so badly I couldn’t draw or paint for a long time. I was supposed to have an operation, but choose to rest instead. Four years later, after illustrating Buttercup Lovely Day, I knew my neck was healed, well mostly, and so it was Pierre le Poof’s turn to come out and play. I had written Pierre’s first stories before my injury, when I saw a ridiculously pompomed poodle at a dog show. I wondered what that boy dog would think about having such a hairdo. I loved the idea of a poodle named Pierre, it was such a silly cliché and I thought kids might enjoy that too. And it seems that they do!
...it can be the simplest memories like digging on a beach or baking cakes as a kid can become stories
So, I write stories, illustrate them and I’ve spent a lot of time in schools across Canada. I have also traveled from the deserts and rainforests of Australia and New Zealand, to temples in Asia, castles in the UK and Europe, palaces of the Czars in Russia, even a tiny cottage on the Baltic Sea. In Canada I’ve been from sea to sea to sea, up to the midnight sun and back down to Dog River in Rosemere. I love our country. Despite all that travel it can be the simplest memories like digging on a beach or baking cakes as a kid that become stories -- like Elliot Digs for Treasure, and Elliot Bakes a Cake.
I live in Unionville, Ontario, now and I spend a bit of time with my friends on the west coast too. My sons, David and Ian are film makers and so our family moves around. We share our dog, Tillie, a beagle who was born at the pound. Our Tillie is a whole other story, and just like our first beagle, Toby, she is a master thief. Tillie knows how to tiptoe. She has stolen everything -- loaves of bread, pounds of butter, roasted chickens, and bags of chocolate chips, which are very bad for dogs! Tillie has stolen our hearts and inspired many stories, maybe one day I’ll let them out too.