I was born and raised on farms in southern Alberta, Canada. My family was kind and loving but, as the youngest by several years, I spent quite a bit of time on my own. For those times I invented two imaginary friends, Juty and Barrett. And I remember how excited I was to be a flower girl at my aunt’s wedding!
I loved the many animals on the farm – cows, chickens, baby crows, rabbits, wild ducks (including one who took a swim in our bathtub!) and the burrowing owls we watched while lying in the prickly prairie grass. I also loved my pony.
And I loved books. My mom read to us every night. My dad recited dramatic poetry. When I began to read on my own, some of my favourites were Just Mary Stories, Little House on the Prairies and The Dana Sisters Mysteries. Already I knew I wanted to be a writer.
That feeling took a huge leap forward in grade seven when I began to read all kinds of amazing literature written for adults. The words of those authors formed my sense of how truly wonderful the written word can be; how powerfully it can convey ideas, enlarge one’s world and touch one’s heart.
Ever since that time, I have always written stories of one kind or another. I’ve been interested in many other things too–science, history, psychology, drama. After a few years at University of Calgary, I moved to live with a wonderful husband in the mountains. We hiked, biked, skied, canoed and enjoyed the outdoors in all kinds of ways. We also raised three great kids, now all adults with lives of their own.
More than a few years have passed. I still spend part of every day strolling along one trail or another, just because I enjoy being outside. I still find all kinds of amazing books to read, all kinds of subjects to research.
And I still love to write.
Hazel Hutchins is another author I met because I was her sales rep for the novel After when it was published in 2008. And since she was living close to Calgary, in Canmore, I often had reason to visit her there when passing through on sales trips, or later when I set up Alberta Books Canada and was attending library conferences being held in the area. I could always count on Hazel to offer me a place to stay, a delicious dinner, a walk along the side of the Bow River, and a rousing game of Scrabble … although she never actually let me win! I still consider Hazel to be a good friend; she’s been very encouraging about my books (even attended an event in Canmore in which I was taking part as an author!), and we always have lots to talk about whenever we do manage to get together. When Hazel published Anna at the Art Museum in 2018, I requested a signed copy and that was delivered to me in Bequia. My little New York Friend, Nzarah Trimmingham, was visiting at the time with her grandmother, author Felicity Harley, and she just loved the book, especially as she lives in the same city as the main character, Anna! (Nzarah was also my first guest on the blog, What Are You Reading?)
Here’s Nzarah, swinging in our hammock, enjoying Hazel’s book …
Going to the Art Museum with her mom is no fun at all for Anna. Everything is old and boring and there are so many rules: Don’t Touch! Do Not Enter! Quiet! A vigilant guard keeps a close eye on the energetic little girl, but even so, Anna manages to set off an alarm and almost tip over a vase.
A half-open door draws Anna’s attention, but the No Entry sign means yet again that it’s off-limits. This time, however, the guard surprises her by inviting her to go in. Here she finds a “secret workshop” where paintings are being cleaned and repaired. Staring out from one of the canvases is a girl who looks grumpy and bored—just like Anna herself. With the realization that art often imitates life, Anna discovers the sheer joy to be had from the paintings on the wall, especially those that reflect what is happening all around her.
Filled with representations of paintings from many world-class galleries, this charming book is the perfect prelude to a child’s first visit to an art museum.
For more information about Hazel Hutchins, her books and writings, her presentations and school visits, and for an explanation of how she writes, please see her website.
Hazel Hutchins was also a guest on my blog Reading Recommendations on April 25, 2015.