Words on a Limb Interviews Maureen Fergus

543233The air is crisp and chilly in Winnipeg as fall descends on us. We had a unique opportunity to sit and talk to one of our favourite picture book authors, accomplished writer and mom, Maureen Fergus.

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan and raised in Winnipeg, she has lived quite a journey to arrive at her dream of creating multiple picture books, several young adult novels, including a wildly popular fantasy trilogy. She admits, that in spite of all her achievements, the one thing she values is most is the recognition of her many readers and fans.

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Maureen spoke to us over the phone from her beautiful home, apparently full of treasures (more on that below), in Winnipeg where she lives with her husband, three children, a hedgehog and the family dog Buddy, affectionately known as Sir Barksalot – handsome fella, no?

Here is her story. If you are a young writer, there is plenty of gold in this river.


Welcome Maureen, it’s a privilege to speak with you today. What kind of kid were you , how much of it has stayed with you?
Maureen at 4I’ve never been asked that, that is an interesting question. I was very studious, I liked school, I was a perfectionist. I loved a good laugh, I thought I was hilarious, that certainly hasn’t changed. The perfectionist thing mellowed a lot once I had kids. You sort of have 2 choices when you have 3 kids in 3.5 years. You can continue to try to be a perfectionist and go off the deep end, or you just relax a little and except that not everything can be in its place all the time.

But in terms of the way I think and I approach situations I think a big part of that has stayed with me. In fact, I can go back and have a very clear memory of who I was at 4, how it felt to be 4, how I saw the world at 4. I can see that vividly, even at the ages of 7 or 11. This really helps me as a writer because, when writing picture books or books for middle grades or for older teens, I’m not thinking from the outside looking in, I’m thinking what a kid would do or think. I really try to put myself back in that place to write.

Do you have any creations from when you were a child?
I actually have one story that I wrote when I was 10 or 11. It was about a super pickle that goes to Ottawa and becomes a member of parliament. I was just a rambling sort of story. As a young girl, I never really wanted to be a writer, it was never my objective. I was always much more interested in science and math. I did love reading – I would keep a journal, keep up with out-of-town friends through snail mail.

I remember one other story from grade 7. I had a perfectionist teacher. Every week we had to write a story and my goal was write one that would get a 10/10. So, I wrote a story making fun of how strict she was. I wrote about me turning over the table, kicking the garbage can and how Miss Shanks got really upset. Funny enough it was a piece of writing that most closely resembles what I’m writing 20 years after. I got 10/10 for that one – the only 10/10 she gave out that year, it appealed to the perfectionist in me. Fortunately, she pushed me to get in touch with the voice of the writer I was going to become. It wasn’t a moment where I suddenly recognized I was going to be a writer, but looking back now, I realized it was the first moment when I really tapped into what that voice was going to be. I would like to go back and let her know that, even though I did not know it at the time, she had a pretty profound impact on my 20 years down the road. Continue reading

Interview with Aubrey Davis

GravatarHello everyone. A couple of weeks ago I reached out to one of my favourite Canadian authors, the incomparable Aubrey Davis, who I met many years ago when he was kind enough to autograph a copy of Bagels From Benny for my kids. I asked if we could connect and learn about his journey as a writer. When we got news that he was available, we set up some time and had a chat with Mr. Davis. Here is his story. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you.


I’m Mauricio, managing editor at WOAL, and I had the unique privilege of spending some moments with one of Canada’s most cherished story-tellers and children’s authors. A world traveler, he has mastered the gift of recounting timeless traditional tales in both the oral and written disciplines for a modern day audience. We had a chance to reflect on writing, culture, books, movies, the state of the education but most indulging of all, to me, the distinct art of story-telling. He joined us via Skype from sunny downtown Toronto, on of all days, Mother’s Day.

Welcome Mr. Davis. We know early on you began your career as a story-teller, what inspired you to become a writer?

It began when I was a kid, I was 9 years old and I lived next door to a writer. I never spoke to him about his writing, nor did I see any of his writing, I just lived next door to him. One day I woke up and felt, I want to be a writer too. I kind of caught it like a cold. So I bugged my mom for a typewriter, and a great big Webster’s Dictionary and I started to write.

What I loved to write back then was funny things. I really loved humour. I was a fan of Mad Magazine and the Bible. I was a religious kid on my own, not through my parents. And I just kept writing funny things until grade 8.

Who were some of your champions supporting you early on? And what happened in Grade 8?

I think it was when I was a kid, my 6th grade teacher. I noticed all the other kids got their stories handed back to them and I was the only one that didn’t get a story back. I didn’t know what was going on. He read my story to the whole class, with tears of laughter running down his cheeks. And I thought “Oh, this is nice”. I loved to write in school.

I had a grade 8 teacher that wrote, “There’s nothing worse than humour poorly done”. That shut me down, and I didn’t write again until I was I was about 40 and I came into story-telling.

How did teaching shape your writing? Continue reading