Author Biography: Anne Laurel Carter
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
Don Mills. It was relatively safe, and if it wasn’t, we didn’t tell our parents. We were told, “Go outside and play,” and we did. No adults ever supervised our games in backyards, ravines and creepy unfinished basements. I once tried to hide in a dryer. I don’t recommend it. We played chicken on a dangerous train track. It was all fabulous. Here’s a picture of me with my older sister and brother. Church is probably over, Mom’s making Sunday dinner, and we’ve been told, “Change your clothes, and go outside and play.” Those magic words make us laugh.
I’m the messy one on the right. Still am.
DID YOU LOVE BOOKS? WHAT KIND OF KID WERE YOU?
More than reading, I loved when my mom read stories aloud at bedtime. I remember her voice reading The Wind in the Willows and The Water Babies.
My favourite thing to do was play with dolls because they became the characters in the stories I was always making up in my head. Plus, they obeyed me – no one else did.
In Grade One I had a book about Annie Oakley; my mom gave me leather chaps and a vest. For the next few years I knew I was destined to ride horses bareback in the circus. After school, I wore my chaps and galloped across the backyards of Don Mills on a broomstick horse. Then I was kicked by a real horse in a barn and that was it for my circus dreams (I still loved horses).
We got our first TV soon after that and I dreamed of becoming an actress. Unfortunately, I was unbearably shy at public speaking, or any kind of performing in front of an audience. In high school I longed to be in the school play but could not imagine how I’d survive the audition.
I hit the golden age of reading aged 10 in Grade 6. OMG – Nancy Drew. I organized a Nancy Drew library for my friends so we could pool what we had and read them all. I loved Black Beauty and The Wonderful Wizard of Ox. And comics. Stacks of comics that drove my parents crazy.
You wouldn’t know it by the prison photo on the right but I LOVED Grade Six. (In spite of that pixie haircut – my mom insisted. I cried all the way home from the hairdresser.) I looked like a boy and loved like a girl. I had the best teacher in the world, Mr. Carson. I had a crush on him AND his sons. He was the first teacher who said, “Anne, you could be a writer.” He won my pixie heart.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR NEW WRITERS?
Have adventures. Read. Try different jobs. Keep a journal.
At seventeen, I left Don Mills. I worked as a waitress in Scotland, milked cows in Israel, and helped at a Jean Vanier home in France. For a year, under a false name, I worked on a beach in California. With a M.Ed, I taught ESL for three years on isolated Cree reserves in Northern Quebec.
I had wonderful adventures until my congenital hip dysplasia required major surgery. I spent 3 months in a body cast and a year learning to walk because of nerve damage. Not adventure, but life. My experiences would inspire a novel about a girl with polio, In the Clear, just as living through the Yom Kippur War, and watching decades of conflict in the Middle East, and visiting Palestinians inspired The Shepherd’s Granddaughter.
WHEN DID YOU START WRITING?
Many times. Grade 6. High school. University. Nothing seriously until I was reading out loud to my own four small children. I hold them responsible. They were wild and often in trouble. To survive, I sat down and began to write stories.
DO YOU HAVE A SHORTER BIO?
Yes. Feel free to use this one:
Anne Laurel Carter was born in Don Mills in 1953. She’s been a waitress, baker, mail sorter, fruit picker and dairymaid. Her all-time favourite job was school librarian. Her eighteen books were inspired by something she felt needed telling, either from her experience, her children’s, or someone she’d met. She divides her year, writing and teaching, between Toronto and Nova Scotia.