Janet McNaughton: Biographical Fact Sheet

(For more information, you'll find links to on-line interviews at the bottom of this page.)

Place of birth: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Born: 1953

Home: St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Graduated from Runnymede Collegiate, Toronto, 1973.
Honours BA, York University, Toronto, 1978.
Masters of Arts, Memorial University of Newfoundland, folklore, 1983.
Doctorate, Memorial University of Newfoundland, folklore, 1989.

My husband, Michael Wallack, is now retired. He taught political science at Memorial University of Newfoundland for over forty years. Our daughter, Elizabeth, has a BA in psychology and is completing an MA in Community Health at Memorial University's School of Medicine. She is interested in aging, has worked for the Alzheimer's Society and is currently working for the provincial government.  

dressing up in Toronto, about 1962Janet McNaughton, 1970

Janet McNaughton with daughter, 1985author Janet McNaughton


I had one cat, Minou, who died in October of 1998 at the age of sixteen. In the spring of 1999, we became owners of an Alexandrine parrot named Merlin. She was two months old when I brought her home. Merlin is often in my office while I write and hears most of my first drafts. We're not sure who owns whom at this point. Click on the link to visit Merlin's Page. 

How I Became a Writer:
I have always loved reading. I started writing when I was about eleven. In university, I did some creative writing courses, but when I went to graduate school I stopped writing creatively. After graduating from university, I began to write for magazines. My first articles were about gardening and environmental issues. When a friend decided to enter medical school, she asked if I wanted to take over her newspaper column, reviewing children's books. I did this for a few years, until the weekly paper I wrote for went out of business. Then, I started reviewing books for magazines. Today, I rarely write for magazines. 

    Around 1990, I decided to try to write a novel for young people. My first try wasn't very good. I couldn't find a publisher, and I put it away. My second try was better. I'd learned a lot. Catch Me Once, Catch Me Twice was published in 1994. Then, I decided to return to the not-very-good book I had tried to write before. That 100 page manuscript was rewritten into a book about twice as long. It became To Dance at the Palais Royale. This second book was very successful, winning three awards.

    I'm very happy to be able to spend my time writing. I usually can't wait to get to work in the mornings.

What I Do When I'm Not Writing

These days, if I'm not writing, I may be teaching.  

When I'm at home, I spend time gardening. I have two gardens, a very small, civilized one in my backyard in St. John's and a large, unruly one at our cottage in New Chelsea, Trinity Bay. In New Chelsea, the crowbar is one of my favourite gardening tools and I'd be lost without the wheelbarrow. I plant trees, try to keep the weeds at bay, and consider myself lucky if I can get the lawns mowed before the grass grows too high to tackle. There is never enough time to do everything that needs to be done at the garden in New Chelsea. It's an endless challenge and I love it. In summer, I grow a lot of our fruits and vegetables there.

Writing is very sedentary work, so I need to exercise. I walk a lot. I try to walk most days, 7 kms a day on a path around a lake near my house and sometimes up Signal Hill when there's no ice. In winter, I snowshoe. I'm also very serious about yoga, although I'm not good at it and it takes a lot of effort for me to improve. I have been doing Iyengar yoga for about 16 years, and I am now a level two student. My teacher, Bev Winsor, is one of the best teachers in Canada.

I also volunteer for writers' organizations. I've served on a number of committees for The Writers' Union of Canada, the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Canadian Children's Book Centre. I'm a past president of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I've served on the board of The Writers' Union of Canada. We have a good network of writers organizations in Canada and I believe in them strongly.

More Information: Visit these on-line interviews.

To read an interview, visit this link for CM Magazine.

To read an author profile by St. John's writer Kathryn Welbourn which was published when Secret Under My Skin was released, visit Quill and Quire's The Secret Under Her Skin.

To hear me read from The Secret Under My Skin and listen to a discussion about the book and the environmental issues raised, visit the Alder Institutes's archive for the radio program "Open Air." Go to the Open Air Program Archive and page down to Episode 39, December 21, 2000, or search the page for Janet McNaughton. You will need a Real Audio player to listen. This is a long interview.

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