About Writing: René says: When I was a boy I loved reading and daydreaming. At school my casual attitude to spelling and grammar annoyed my teachers so I stopped telling them that someday I'd be able to make people laugh, or cry or feel something just from reading a story I wrote. 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 short story about a murder in the mine I had worked in and I got accepted. It required a fifth year of university but was worth it to learn from award-winning author/professors. I had acquired lots of material because of my strange jobs and travel adventures, but I had to learn the consistent writing quality required of a professional writer. In 1985 I got my first professional publishing contract with Scholastic Canada. They rarely take a chance on unknown writers. The $500 advance made me feel like a king! I haunted libraries, rare book collections and provincial and national archives and tricked my students into 'test-driving' the draft stories. Canadian Disasters (1st edition) came out in 1985 was reprinted three times. Later editions followed in 1999, 2006 and 2013. My novel Leaving Fletchville* got six rejections before ORCA publishers accepted it in 2008. It earned a Red Maple Honour Book award.
I continue to write daily.
* see Professional Reviews page
Professional Memberships: René is a long time member of the Writer’s Union of Canada, and as an award-winning author, 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 exclusive Creative Writing program he was taught by Canadian authors: Clark Blaise, Mavor Moore, Matthew Corrigan, and Sheldon Rosen. Tim Wynne-Jones (now a famous author) taught him visual art. René taught school for twenty-seven years in Scarborough and Northumberland County, 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 and popular presenter to teachers on topics of 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 boy taking care of his siblings in the absence of parents. The hero has to lie to authorities to succeed and endures racism as well. The narrator of the story, thought to be the 'school bully', becomes a co-conspirator and protector of the young family. Leaving Fletchville is about character, racism, fatherhood, and friendship.
René loves Canadian History. He has spent many hours in libraries and public archives, such as Ottawa's National Archives, to unearth forgotten stories. For every edition of Canadian Disasters he involved his students in research and proof-reading and some of them began researching for themselves.
Please Make Contact If you are an eye-witness or a relative of someone involved in an event written about in Canadian Disasters, or just an interested reader, René would love to hear from you.