About Jean and Heather

Why the photo of the beach? We both love to write beside the water.

We also love to visit schools to meet young readers and writers. Tech savvy, we’re happy to meet readers online or in person. If  you want to talk about books or writing, we’ll find a way to be there.

Here’s a little bit about each of us.

JEAN MILLS

When and Why did you start writing?

When is easy – I started writing at age six, as soon as I had learned the alphabet and figured out how the letters went together to form words. Before that, my head was always full of imagined adventures – my own, my family’s, my toys’. Once I had the ability to write things down, I got busy and I have never stopped. As for Why – the answer is simple: because I had to get those stories out of my head!

Favourite books?

Short answer: too many to list here!

Long answer: as a kid I loved the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew series, as well as A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, E. Nesbit’s House of Arden, and so many more. It wasn’t unusual for me to pick up eight books (the limit for one kid at the old North York Public Library) and return them a few days later – all read – so that I could pick up eight more.

Other favourites include classics such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. There’s also Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute (which I reread yearly), the mysteries of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, and the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth.

As for contemporary favourites – I always look forward to a new mystery from Louise Penny. And Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce is a character I wish I had created myself!

Writing highlights?

Opening the box from the publisher and seeing copies of my first novel for young readers, Wild Dog Summer, was thrilling. And it happened again a few years later with my second book, The Legacy. Since then, I’ve been lucky to see my name in print on newspaper articles, short stories and features in magazines, books for ESL learners and several self-publishing projects. But the real highlight of my writing life is finding myself in thrall to a character who has taken me over and simply has to be written out. There is nothing like it!

My philosophy of KidLit?

In current KidLit, I sometimes wonder if market trends and adult sensibilities aren’t the driving force behind much of what gets published. Any book, no matter what the intended audience, should be an engaging story, shared in language that respects the reader’s intelligence and interests. Surely not all kids are that fascinated by vampires and gritty problem-of-the-week novels – but, looking at the bookstore shelves over the past few years, it certainly seemed that way. Kid-driven? Or adult-driven? I don’t have the answer, but I do know if we want to nurture a generation of capable, engaged readers, we need to provide them with choices, not force-feed them the latest publishing (money-making) trend. What is my philosophy of KidLit? A good story, well told.

 Jean’s beach

jean's beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HEATHER WRIGHT

When and Why did you start writing?

I started writing when I was in about grade 5 or 6. I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys mysteries, so that’s what I tried to write. My stories were, what I now call, “and then” stories. Something would happen and then the next thing would happen and then the next, and so on–each event usually being introduced by the words, “And then.” My friend, Diane, liked to write stories, too. We were in grade 7 at the time and she was crazy about horses and I loved dogs, so that’s what we were writing about. The first time she shared one of her stories, I was blown away. Her characters actually talked! Unlike me, who was still writing in “and then” mode, she had mastered dialogue. Wow! I realized then what my stories were missing. Thanks Diane!

Favourite books?

I’m still a big fan of mysteries and love the classic writers Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Rex Stout. When things get busy in my teaching/writing life, I often go back and reread them. They’re like old friends now. I love Louise Penny’s books and also those by Susanna Kearsley, and JK Rowling. One of my favourite writers is Laurie R. King, who writes about Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Mary Russell. I read all the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was young, so it should be no surprise that the first story I had published and was paid for was called “Sherlock Holmes and the Cumberland Barrister.” I like to read non-fiction, too, mostly about medieval history.

Writing highlights?

The first time I saw my name in print for “Sherlock Holmes and the Cumberland Barrister” convinced me that I was going to keep working to make sure I got to feel that good again. It was the culmination of many years of dreaming of being a writer and a pretty magical moment. Holding my first book, Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens, was a very cool moment, too. Reading the reviews and hearing other people talk about my work is also very exciting. Scary but exciting.

My philosophy of KidLit?

My writing goal is to tell a good story. I want to give my characters lots of trouble, so that my readers want to turn the pages to find out what happens next. Good always wins over evil, and kids can be heroes. I don’t think kidlit should preach, but I do think that it should empower. I want readers to feel the way I did when I was a young reader. After reading about other people’s adventures, I believed that, like them, I could be brave, I could solve a mystery, I could save the day. Those feelings are hard to come by when you’re young, but I treasured them when I found them in books.

Heather’s beach

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