Ainslie Manson — a little bit about me
COAST TO COAST IN CANADA
I grew up in the province of Quebec. I guess that’s why I love the French language, bright red autumn leaves and cold winters. I know that’s why I’ve set some of my stories “Back East”.
I grew older in British Columbia. I guess that’s why I love the sea, spring flowers in February and riding on a Western saddle. I know that’s why I’ve set several of my stories “Out West”.
I’M A BIT OF A HISTORY BUFF !
Living half my life in the East, the other half in the West has definitely nurtured my strong interest in Canadian history. I love hiking and exploring Canada and I’m intrigued by tales of early explorers.
My nonfiction books come from this fascination. For example, “A Dog Came, Too”, and the two biographies I’ve written about Alexander Mackenzie.
But I also enjoy writing fiction and setting stories on either side of the country. For example, “Just Like New” is set in Quebec and “Leaving The Log House” is set in British Columbia.
MY SCHOOL DAYS
On one of my early report cards, the teacher wrote, “We know Ainslie could do better, if she spent less time dreaming.” She was right.
I was happiest outdoors. I rode my bike everywhere, I rode horses. I loved swimming, sailing and skiing.
I was a skinny little kid with long pigtails and big glasses (a little like Allison in my story “Ballerinas Don’t Wear Glasses”).
I loved books, but because I grew up just after World War II, books were scarce and so I didn’t have many. (A little like Sally in my story, “Just Like New”.)
My university education was somewhat spasmodic. I definitely have no Masters degree or PHD. But I do have a kind, supportive husband who encouraged me to carry on with my writing. Through the years and between jobs and before I found my true genre, I indulged myself in English and Creative Writing courses at McGill, The University of Connecticut, Simon Fraser University and U.B.C. I even worked my way through a three-year creative writing diploma by correspondence.
FINDING MY GENRE
I only came to the realization that I wanted to write for children after trying several other types of writing and after my three sons were born. But finding writing time wasn’t always easy.
I wrote my first book, “Mr. McUmphie of Caulfeild Cove” when our third son entered kindergarten. And that same year, I began a six year stint with Vancouver’s morning newspaper, “The Province”. In those days “The Province” had an education page that was used in schools by Grade Five Social Studies classes. I was a freelancer, and worked at home. I was writing for kids and I’d found a niche for the two subjects I liked best: Creative Writing and History. For six years I wrote my weekly page – over 100 pages. A few of the pages became the seeds of ideas for future books.
OUR KIDS HAVE FLOWN LONG AGO…
But I still seem to live in a state of comfortable confusion with books and papers everywhere. And now we have two grandchildren. Boys, of course – first I had two brothers, then three sons and now two grandsons!
WE’VE MOVED TO AN ISLAND !
Eight years ago David and I made a big move. We sold our family home in Caulfeild, West Vancouver and moved to Bowen Island.
And since my hard-working doctor husband is now retired, we are also now able to spend more time in our much loved log cabin in the Cariboo region of British Columbia. We built the cabin 30 years ago and it’s our second home. Our friends tease us – they say we’re now living remote and more remote!
WHERE DO I WRITE ?
In both these ‘homes’ I do my writing in a loft. In the Cariboo it’s the loft of a barn. I look out at a small, quiet lake, grazing horses, and lots of wildlife. On Bowen Island my loft is the whole upstairs of our little house and I’ve had to purposely put my desk in a position where I’m not facing the ocean. I’m easily distracted by ferries and tug boats and eagles and herons!
WHAT I DO WHEN I’M NOT WRITING ?
I have a big garden. I love my flowers and I grow my own veggies. I enjoy quilting. In the Cariboo I still like to muck about with horses and cross country ski. I like to canoe in the Cariboo, kayak when we’re on the coast, and swim in both places.
And wherever we are, our black lab, Janna, insists on two good hikes every day.
EVERY WRITER IS A READER
In our house we have bookshelves in almost every room. And by my bed I have a stack of books waiting to be read.
I belong to three Book Clubs. I’ve been part of my OLD Book Club for forty years. But of course I joined a second book club when we moved to Bowen.
My third book club is a little different. It’s a Picture Book Book Club! It’s made up of eight friends who are all picture book writers and/or illustrators. I couldn’t do without these close friends. We debate, commiserate, inspire and encourage.
ONCE YOU GET THE BUG – YOU’RE ADDICTED !
It’s almost impossible to simply stop writing. Though I’m not always be in the middle of a new book, ideas never stop brewing. And it’s not just about books – there are so many kinds of writing I’m keen to try.
Writing is the best! Everyone should try it. Begin with a scrap of paper and a pencil. Begin with a daily journal or a travel journal or a poem.
Writing keeps the brain working, it keeps you looking for answers. Writing can be healing when you’re lonely or sad. It’s like having a best friend sitting down beside you. Writing is magical. It’s like setting off on an adventure to an unknown land!
WRITE ON !