I wrote my first ‘published book’ in the fifth grade. It was titled ‘One Summer in France’. The book was about a girl who goes to live with her mysterious French aunt, meets a mysterious French boy, and solves a mysterious murder case (Do you see the pattern?). The writing style was something like Carolyn Keene and Judy Blume and Louisa May Alcott—in other words, pretty mixed-up! The dialogue was ridiculous and the French was atrocious.

But I still love that ‘book’. For all of its faults, it was, in fact, so much better than the efforts of my classmates that my teacher praised me in front of the entire class after she

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Leanne aged 10 years

read it. She called me aside at recess and told me I had all the makings of a great writer and storyteller. She asked me what I liked to read and after I answered her, she made me a list of books to read that I’d never heard of by C.S. Lewis, and Roald Dahl and Francis Hodgson Burnett. I was encouraged, energized, and empowered by that teacher. I bought a notebook and fancy pen with my allowance money that week and I haven’t stopped writing since.

My family moved from Canada to the United States and back to Canada and then back to the United States while I was growing up. Reading and writing helped me cope with the upheaval. Anne of Green Gables, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Lord of the Rings, Little Women—the list goes on—were always with me, even when I was forced to leave the people and places I loved behind.

In seventh grade another teacher encouraged me to keep a journal, which I did. I still have those worn hardcover volumes filled with my hopes and dreams. I go back and read them sometimes for inspiration and to stay in touch with the energy of my younger self.

I write every day now. I write for myself. I write for others—the people in my life who have encouraged me to do what I love. I write to try to put down on paper what I see with my eyes, what I feel with my heart, and what I conjure in my dreams. I write because I am. I am a writer.