I was born and raised in Montreal, in a neighbourhood called Park Extension. This was a great place for a writer to grow up because there were lots of colourful characters around, lots of street life, and lots of different ethnicities to be curious about. The predominant ethnic group at the time (the 60s) was Greek. I grew up hearing as much Greek as French and English, and I learned to love the food and customs of my Greek friends. It was, however, early training in being more of an observer than a participant. When I was 13 my parents bought a house in Ville St-Laurent, a suburb of Montreal. Perhaps because of my Park Ex days, I found myself hanging out mostly with a group of Armenian friends the first few years. I was just comfortable being different– and having to decode foreign languages. This gave me an interest in languages, so I went on to learn German (my father’s heritage), as well as Spanish in later life, which means I speak four languages, although none but English well enough to write in.
At cegep (which exists only in Quebec and is a transitional stage of higher education between high school and university), I started to write stories in my Creative Writing classes. There, I met a teacher, Fran, who became a mentor and really encouraged me to develop this passion. That’s when I first started to feel that I could be a writer and actually publish. I began going to readings and writing workshops whenever I could, to immerse myself in writing culture.
I studied English literature at university, but part-time, because I worked and supported myself from the age of 19 on. I lived in many different parts of Montreal, including downtown, Verdun, the Plateau, and did many different office jobs, such as documentation clerk in a shipping company and assistant editor for a Public Relations newspaper at McGill. Throughout all this time, I continued to write stories and had a few published, along with some poems, in small press magazines.
At the age of 29, Bachelor’s Degree, in hand, I moved with my partner to Nova Scotia and did a Master’s Degree in English. I got my MA and became a Ma all within weeks of each other, which was a neat experience.
The next move was across the water to Newfoundland, a place I had never been to. The ferry crossing was wild, with ripping wind and high waves which I feared would sweep my six-week old daughter overboard if I went outside. We stayed in St. John’s for two fantastic years. Newfoundland is everything and more than people say it is – charming, special, wet, and wonderful.
We returned to Quebec and I pursued a degree in teaching English, which led to my current job as an English teacher at John Abbott College in Montreal, where I have been teaching since 1996. Seven years in, I decided that if I were ever going to get back to writing in a more serious way, I had to lessen my teaching load, so I began teaching part-time and writing more. This led to my first book, Klepto. I have continued to combine teaching and writing ever since. Both are labour-intensive and the two together equal more than one full-time job, but I’m so happy to be able to earn a living and continue writing books.