I grew up in Kingston, Ontario, the youngest of five children. I studied political science at Queen’s University and environmental studies at York University before moving to the Ottawa area to work for conservation organizations. Eventually, I quit office life to raise children and write freelance.
(You can still find fragments of my 20th-century work online, like this example – it’s true what they say about the internet being written in ink, not pencil. What you post today will be around in twenty years. Keep it in mind, people.)
I now live in Gatineau, Quebec, in a little house with a big yard full of rodents, rabbits, and the occasional fox and falcon. It is very inspiring.
I published a dozen short stories in literary journals in my 20s. I began to write children’s fiction after having kids and rediscovering the joy of storytime. My first children’s novel, Walking Backward, was published in October 2009 by Orca Book Publishers and was nominated for many awards. My first picture book, the unfortunately titled My Cat Isis, illustrated by Virginie Egger, came out with Kids Can Press in 2011. My first YA novel, All Good Children (Orca Book Publishers), won several awards in Canada and was nominated for a few in the USA. My middle-grade comedies, 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6 and 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6, came out with Lorimer, and also won some prizes and nominations. (You can read more about each of these titles on the My Books page.)
My next picture book, When the Squirrels Stole my Sister, is in development with Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
I’ve just finished a middle-grade animal adventure that I’m really excited about.
I recently resumed writing short fiction for adults. My recent stories have appeared in The Fiddlehead and The New Quarterly.
I’m active in Canada’s children’s literature community–I’ve sat on book juries, participated in book festivals, and given workshops and presentations at schools, libraries, and literary events from coast to coast.
When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading, but I also enjoy yoga, quilting, and kayaking. I love nature just a smidge more than I love art. I make good cookies and great salads. I take awesome photographs of mushrooms.
I am grateful for the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.
You can learn more about me and my books at www.catherineausten.com . (Actually, you’ll just learn all the same stuff about me, but I have some first chapters and follow-up activities for my books there, so it might be worth a visit.)