Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal
YWCA Woman of Distinction for the Arts
Award of Merit from the Alberta Teachers’ Association Safe and Caring Schools Project
Larry Sand Business Award for significant contributions to Edmonton’s LGBTQ2S
Maureen Irwin Award for contributions to Edmonton’s Lesbian community
I was born on a Good Friday in Castor, Alberta, a small town about 2 ½ hours southeast of Edmonton. My mother said she could hear the church bells ringing for the 3 PM service. I grew up mostly in Jasper Place, which is now part of west Edmonton, and attended the University of Alberta for a year or two before moving to Montreal in 1967.
In Montreal, I got my start in books working for Esther Handel at Everyman Books on St. Catherine’s. When Everyman’s closed, Esther secured a job for me at one of her brother Louis Melzack’s Classic Bookstores. I married Joe Vannelli in 1971, and in 1972 we set off for a hitchhiking trip across the continent and into South America. He drowned in Tramandai, Brazil, and I moved back to Alberta.
I worked for Classic Books in Calgary and Edmonton, and in 1977 partnered with Jill McIvor to open our own bookstore, , on Whyte Avenue. We sold the shop in 1984. After we sold Aspen Books, Annick Press published my children’s picture book, And I’m Never Coming Back*. I subsequently wrote two adult novels that were published by Fifth House Publishers: Madeleine & the Angel* and The Last Sigh*.
In 1993, I opened my second bookstore, , also on Whyte Avenue. Orlando was a progressive, feminist bookstore that specialized in post-colonial issues, cultural studies, queer studies, and literature from small presses.
When Orlando Books closed, I went back to school and obtained a Master of Education in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Alberta. I subsequently taught English at Grant MacEwan University, the University of Alberta, and Dalhousie University. I also wrote a series of intercultural communication video scripts for NorQuest College in Edmonton, an English for Academic Purposes workbook* for Oxford University Press, and I served as the first coordinator of Borderlines, the Writer-in-Exile program in the City of Edmonton.
Over the years I have lived in various places, including a year in Paris, France and a year in Granada, Spain. In 2013 I moved with my partner, Mary, to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. That same year my one-act play, Secrets, was produced at the 2013 Edmonton International Fringe Festival.
The Heart Begins Here*, my third novel, is now available from Inanna Publications.