Author Joyce Grant, a graduate of our Creative Writing by Correspondence program, writes about becoming - and being - a writer.
After journalism school, I worked at a number of small daily newspapers. But then came that one interview. I was talking to the CEO of a major bank, and I realized that I was reporting on things that I had never experienced. I needed some life experience.
I went into marketing for about six years. It was fine, but ultimately not what I wanted. I later moved to village near Peterborough, about a block from Margaret Laurence’s old house. I spent six years working on my first creative writing project—a novel about a cellist in a small-town orchestra.
I’ve workshopped that book twice with the Humber School for Writers and had two incredible mentors: Antanas Sileika and Elisabeth Harvor. The novel is still a work-in-progress, but it’s one that I hope will be published some day; I still live with its characters.
In the meantime, I began doing work in literacy and I wrote a picture book, Gabby, about a girl with a magic book. Whatever she spells with its letters comes to life. Gabby was published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside in early 2013 and it was followed by Gabby: Drama Queen later that year; there is a third book in the works. Gabby was an OLA Top 10 Best Bet picture book for 2013 and also a “Best Books for Kids and Teens” by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. It was also nominated for a Rainforest of Reading Award and last November I visited Grenada and St. Lucia with some of the other nominees for an incredible literacy festival. We gave presentations to more than 6,000 children and their teachers.
I have another ongoing writing project: making the news accessible to elementary schoolchildren. In 2010, I co-founded TeachingKidsNews.com, publishing kid-friendly news articles for students, teachers and parents. Each article—we have more than 900 of them now—is paired to the curriculum so it can be used as a lesson. The website is free and more than 4,000 teachers use the site every day.
My overriding goal is to publish my novel about the cellist, but for now I’m really enjoying writing for kids. I have two other picture book manuscripts that I think would make really nice books. And I recently signed with Lorimer to write a middle-grade novel about an inner-city peewee baseball team. I’m excited about that because it will be my first published novel, and it’s about a subject near and dear to my heart, since my 13-year-old son is a baseball pitcher.
I don’t know what I would have done without Humber. It helped to hone my creative writing, and it taught me that I can do this—I am a writer. In other professions, someone “appoints” you to the job. But for writing, we have to just do it; we become writers. We learn on the job and if we’re lucky, we find people to help us on the way. For me, that was the Humber School for Writers.
Read more about Joyce on her website joycegrantauthor.com.
Joyce Grant, photo credit Robert Gagnon Photography
Students in St. Lucia dressed at Gabby.