Anna Kerz

My family came to Canada in the spring of 1954 and we moved into two rooms in a skinny, stuck-together house on Kensington Avenue. Moving to a new country and learning a new language wasn't easy. Neither was living in a rooming house near the market. But I always knew that my parents were watching over me, so I never felt that I was missing out.

At school I loved recess. We played skipping and dodge-ball and circle games. When I wasn't playing, I was reading. Even before I knew all the English words I sat with books and studied the pictures. When I came to parts I couldn't read, I just filled in the blanks with something I made up.

By the time we moved to the east end of Toronto and I started at Duke of Connaught Public School, I could speak English pretty well.

Our school didn't have a library, but once every couple of weeks our teachers walked us up to the Ashdale Public Library on Gerrard Street. In the library there was, and still is, a wonderfully bright room on the second floor filled with books for children. I remember a kind, soft-spoken librarian who introduced us to new books each time we came. I loved every visit and I soon became a non-stop reader. I remember bringing home the coloured fairy tale books. They were gruesome; filled with witches and giants who didn't think twice about eating children. But I read them all, even though the stories were responsible for more than one nightmare. My other favourite books were The Borrowers, The Moffats and Nancy Drew mysteries.

Although I learned to speak and read quickly enough I couldn't spell for beans. I'm not sure why, but spelling rules just didn't work for me. I made a lot of mistakes and my writing always came back covered with red marks. For a long time I kept my stories short. I didn't really try writing anything worthwhile until I was in high school. Of course by then I had my own dictionary and I knew how to use it. Even so, the possibility of becoming a writer never entered my head. Besides, back then my dream was to be a teacher. That dream came true because when I finished high school I went to teacher's college and for the next thirty-two years I taught public school. I loved it. During those years I did go to university and slowly, one course at a time, I got an honors degree in English. And then I retired.

I have to admit I was a little worried about retiring. What would I do when I wasn't a teacher?  I thought long and hard and finally realized there were two things I wanted to do. I wanted to be able to tell stories, and I hoped some day, I'd be able to write a book of my own. At first those were just dreams. I wasn't sure I had the abilities to make either one come true. People told me it was hard to get published. They said it might take as long as ten years. But when I thought about it I realized that those ten years would pass anyway. So I took classes and worked with storytellers and writers who showed me the way.

And now three of my books have been published: The Mealworm Diaries, The Gnome's Eye and Better Than Weird.  I'm also lucky enough to be able to tell stories to audiences of all ages; which only proves that sometimes dreams do come true.