About Writing: René says: Nobody can just wake up and decide to be a writer. It takes planning. From childhood my brothers kept giving me new books to read and I loved daydreaming about them. I was not a careful student and my relaxed attitude to spelling and grammar annoyed my teachers so I didn't tell them that someday I'd love to be able to make people laugh, or cry, or think new thoughts, from a story I wrote. I worked and travelled and took notes about everything I did. In my second year at University a friend dared me to apply to the Honours degree Creative Writing program. Very few people get in. I submitted a poem, part of a play, and a murder-mystery short story set in the mine I had worked in and got accepted. That it required a fifth year of university was worth it because I got to learn from award-winning author/professors. Though I had lots of material from my unusual jobs and travel adventures, I had to learn consistent writing quality needed of a professional writer. I sold two plays before graduating and in 1985 got my first professional publishing contract with Scholastic Canada. The $500 advance made me feel like a king! Like a hockey player who finally gets paid to play the game, I felt I had achieved something special! But like a hockey player I also need to practice and practice and keep sharp, so I continue to write daily.
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Professional Memberships: René has been a member of the Writer’s Union of Canada since 1985, and as an award-winner, he can be booked through the Canada-wide Author’s Booking Service. See the Contact René page for bookings at schools or libraries.
Education: René attended elementary and high schools in Ontario and Illinois. He studied Theatre Performance at Ryerson and graduated from York University with an Honours B.A. and a B.Ed. In the Creative Writing program he was taught by Canadian authors: Clark Blaise, Mavor Moore, Matthew Corrigan, and Sheldon Rosen. Tim Wynne-Jones (now famous for his writing) taught him visual art. René taught for twenty-seven years as an Intermediate and Junior grade teacher, Reading Specialist, Spec. Ed. S.E.R.T., Behavioural Teacher, Science and Technology and Senior Drama teacher at a private high school. René was a frequent presenter to teachers on Science and Technology, Fletchville Math programs and Improvisation Drama.
Personal Life: René was born in Zaandam Holland in 1954 and immigrated to Canada in 1957. After high school René worked as an underground mine-worker, construction labourer, truck driver, upholsterer, and taxi-driver. He was also a 'deck cadet', working on the freighter Tadoussac on the Great Lakes just so he could write about it. René and Shirley married in 1985 and have two sons; Adrian and Daniel.
René's award-winning novel Leaving Fletchville is based on a true story of an underage child taking care of siblings in the absence of parents. The hero, who is Black in a predominantly white town, has to lie to authorities and he also endures racism. The book's narrator, a boy with a reputation for laziness and is suspected to be a dummy, becomes a co-conspirator and protector of the young family. Leaving Fletchville is about character, racism, fatherhood, and friendship.
René loves Canadian History. Many hours were spent in libraries, public and government archives, and on the Internet to unearth forgotten stories. Each edition of Canadian Disasters also became a project for his students to help in research and proof-reading for youth interest.
Just the Facts Ma'am... If you are an eye-witness or a relative of someone involved in an event written about in Canadian Disasters, or an event that should be, René would love to hear from you.