I was born in Victoria, B.C. and have lived on both coasts of Canada as well as in Greece, England, and Ireland. I make my home on the Sechelt Peninsula with my husband, John Pass. John and I built our house and raised our three children on an acreage near Sakinaw Lake.
I began my writing life as a poet and published three full-length collections of poetry – Arranging the Gallery (Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1976), Ikons of the Hunt (Sono Nis, 1978), and Black Cup (Beach Holme, 1992) – as well as several chapbooks, including Morning Glory (Reference West, 1992), which won the bpNichol Chapbook Prize for the year it was published.
After the births of my three children, I turned to prose and published Red Laredo Boots (New Star Books, 1996), a collection of personal essays about history and travel. Since then I have published three novels: Sisters of Grass (Goose Lane Editions, 2000); A Man in a Distant Field (The Dundurn Group, 2004); The Age of Water Lilies (Brindle & Glass, 2009); and a novella, Inishbream (first published in a limited edition by the Barbarian Press in 1999 and then as a trade edition by Goose Lane Editions in 2001). I also published a second collection of essays, Phantom Limb (Thistledown Press, 2007) and a memoir, Mnemonic: A Book of Trees (Goose Lane Editions, 2011). My work has been shortlisted for a number of awards, including the Pushcart Prize, the Relit Award, the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and the Hubert Evans Prize for Non-Fiction (three times). Inishbream won an Alcuin Award for Design Excellence and Phantom Limb was given the first Readers’ Choice Award by the Canadian Creative Non-Fiction Collective at Banff in 2009. An essay from Mnemonic, “Arbutus menziesii: Makeup Secrets of the Byzantine Madonnas”, won the 2010 Edna Staebler Personal Essay Prize awarded by The New Quarterly.
My novella, Patrin, was published by Mother Tongue in September, 2015, and another novella, Winter Wren, was the first title in a new imprint, FishGottaSwim Editions, created by me and Anik See to showcase the novella form. Courtepointe, Annie Pronovost’s French translation of Patrin, was published by Marchand de Feuilles in 2018. A collection of essays about about horticulture, love, family stories, coyote music, and the mysteries of mathematics and genetics, Euclid’s Orchard, was released by Mother Tongue Publishing in September, 2017 and was a finalist for the Hubert Evans Prize for Non-Fiction in 2018. My novella, The Weight of the Heart, set in B.C.’s dry Interior, was published by Palimpsest Press in Spring, 2020. Blue Portugal and Other Essays is just out from the University of Alberta Press (2022).
Current writing: I am working on a novel, Easthope, set in a small coastal village; and I have recently completed a book-length essay, Let a Body Venture at Last Out of its Shelter, about the artist-model relationship, obsessive love, and beauty.
My interests include natural history, ethnobotany, textiles, and music. I’m an avid if sloppy quilter. I grow vegetables and flowers happily, if carelessly. John and I operate a small private press, High Ground Press, printing broadsheets on a 19th century Chandler and Price platen press and an Adana tabletop press.