My mother was Italian, from the island of Lussino, now a part of Croatia. She met my father, who was a Captain in the Royal Engineers, in Venice at the end of World War II. I was born in Earls Barton, an English village famous for its Saxon tower and shoe factories. I’m told that as soon as I could talk, I became my mother’s translator. I suspect that learning both languages simultaneously encouraged my later distrust of a singular approach or point of view. We immigrated to Alberta just before my eighth birthday. I grew up in Calgary, but many summers I visited my mother’s family in Venice. The contrast in cultures led me to understand at a young age that identity is not singular but multiple.
I moved to Edmonton to study English literature at the University of Alberta. I was privileged to take multiple courses from two iconic Canadian writers: Sheila Watson and Rudy Wiebe. They inspired and challenged me. I earned a B.A. Honours and a Master of Arts with a creative thesis, a collection of short stories. After graduation, I began to publish stories in literary magazines and, now and then, an anthology.
Those years, I taught full time at Grant MacEwan College and was busy at home with my two daughters. Soon after the birth of the second, I published my first novel, The Lion’s Mouth, first with NeWest Press and later with Guernica Editions. Next came a play, Homeground, which was professionally produced, a collection of short stories, Island of the Nightingales, two novellas, Whiter Shade of Pale/Becoming Emma and more stories and essays. I also wrote a docudrama, The Great Antonio, for CBC Radio’s Sunday Showcase. Despite a taste for nonfiction, I used to define myself as a fiction writer until I co-edited with Kay Stewart two collections of life writing by women. I became fascinated with how to express the complexity of lived experience, the jumble of the individual and the universal, and the private and the public. I explored these themes in a work of creative non-fiction, Finding Rosa. Still, my last book was a literary noir, The Sicilian Wife.
I have taught literature and writing at almost every post-secondary institution in Edmonton. I have also worked as a freelance editor and as a grants officer for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. I was a writer-in-residence at both the University of Alberta and MacEwan University. Since 2011, I have co-taught the Finding The Unique Workshops with Jean Crozier.
I live in two realities, one on the periphery, a boom-and-bust town, where what is man or woman made is slipshod, temporary, meant to be bulldozed in a decade or two. The other is at the centre, a magnet for travellers, a time travel machine: beautiful, eternal, yet doomed. I write in the white space in between. I write from and about the borderlands: those crossroads where multiple selves and cultures meet or collide. And I write of the loss of memory, the silencing of personal testimony, and the denial and falsification of history.