Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

From the Other Side of the Desk

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I don’t know too many authors who have had a straightforward path to becoming a writer, and mine certainly hasn’t been. I studied sciences at the University of Toronto — I focused on biology despite the fact that I was at Victoria College, home of Northrop Frye, Margaret Atwood, and many other famous writers.

In my four years at university, I wrote many tests, exams and lab reports, but only one essay! However a few years after graduating, I attended the Banff Publishing Workshop and that led to a job as an editor at OWL (a children’s magazine) and later at Kids Can Press, a children’s book publisher. Before I left OWL, I’d already begun writing books, and I kept right on while editing at Kids Can. That’s why I often say that I got into writing from the other side of the desk.

I think I’m lucky to have been an insider in the publishing industry and over the next month of blog posts I’ll try to share some of the insights that’s given me. One downside is that having worked for many years as an editor, it can be hard to turn off my internal editor when I’m writing.

If you’d like to know more about how I became a writer, please check out my bio on this Web site (and for even more, take a look at I also provided answers to the Proust Questionnaire — try taking it yourself and you might be surprised at some of your responses.

And Another Thing …
Like most non-fiction writers, I love terrific trivia, interesting info and dumbfounding data (and awful alliteration!) I’m always searching for that one more fantastic fact that will amaze kids and ignite their interest in history or inventors, etc. So I’m going to end most of my posts with some trivia based on the date.

For instance, did you know that it was on this date in 1804 that Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France? (See my book Bones Never Lie, for the latest theories about how he died.) In 1848 Franz Josef I became Emperor of Austria, as well as King of Hungary on this date. The death of his son, Rudolf, inspired movies, ballets (Mayerling) and musicals. Franz Josef’s wife, Empress Elizabeth, was known as the most beautiful woman in the world and was murdered by an assassin who just wanted to kill a royal and Empress Elizabeth happened to be the closest. You can read more about her amazing story in my book Royal Murder.

But far more important is that on December 2 in 1964, drummer Ringo Starr of The Beatles had his tonsils removed. You’ll be pleased to know that he was released from hospital on December 10, and that he had records and a record player at his bedside to keep him entertained during his stay!

Thanks for reading.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Elizabeth MacLeod

Award-winning author Elizabeth MacLeod has written over 50 books for children. Her most recent book, Bones Never Lie: How Forensics Helps Solve History’s Mysteries, was published by Annick Press.

Go to Elizabeth MacLeod’s Author Page