My mother learned to read when she was three, Susan Braleyand when she went to school, the other children ostracized her because she outshone them. So, not wanting to consign me to a similar fate, she chose not to teach me to read until I was in Grade One and had already been introduced to my primer, then populated with Dick, Jane, Sally, Puff and Spot.

Perhaps my mother’s caution gave rise to my titanic thirst for language. I’d try my father’s Popular Mechanics magazines if I’d already raced through the library books my mother had brought home for that week – for me and my (eight) siblings.

Inspired by Anne in Anne of Green Gables and the rest of the Anne books, I wrote stories throughout grade school, sometimes about a boy and his horse. My brothers’ library reading included Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion, which must have made an impression on me.

I thought I wanted to become a journalist, but my love of literature swept me into English lit courses at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. It’s John Milton’s fault that I stayed on to do a Master’s degree, so seductive was the impeccable blank verse and breathtaking architecture in his Paradise Lost. Then on to a postsecondary teaching career, which gave me a place to share my passion for words and ideas; by the time I finished in the classroom, I’m sure I taught enough students to fill a stadium, and what they taught me would fill more than a dozen.

When I had time (which wasn’t often), I wrote stories and poems, and completed a doctorate in Modern Literature. My most vivid mentor as I studied was Virginia Woolf, who argues – and demonstrates in her books – that all writers are inheritors as well as originators, and often find the spark of meaning in dialogue with each other.

Now as I write poetry and fiction daily in Victoria, I find myself in a city full (on an Island full!) of authors – devoted, gifted and generous folks who have made me welcome. And I’ve met other such congenial writers on line. Together we navigate the obstacles and welcome the joys of creating. Sometimes, we doubt, it’s true, but more often than not, we are astonished by the magnanimity of the imagination.