Catherine Austen

Catherine Austen

Aylmer, QC

Hackmatack Children's Choice Award (English Fiction) (Winner, 2013)

Quebec Writers' Federation Prize for Children's and Young Adult Literature (Winner, 2012)

Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book Award (Winner, 2012)

Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic (Young Adult category) (Winner, 2012)

White Pine Honour Book (Runner-up, 2012)

Quebec Writers' Federation Prize for Children's and Young Adult Literature (Short-listed, 2010)

Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children (Short-listed, 2010)


Intermediate Fiction (Ages 10-14)


Catherine Austen was born in Newcastle, New Brunswick and raised in Kingston, Ontario. She has four older brothers and sisters who blessed her childhood by (a) loving and babying her; and (b) pre-exhausting her parents. She spent her youth running around unsupervised, taming wildlife, blasting K-tel records, and playing kick-the-can long past dark.

Catherine always loved learning but she didn’t always love school, so she skipped a couple of grades to get it over with faster. She worked, travelled, and went to university, where she studied political science and environmental studies. She is a nature nut, and whenever she sees a documentary about a woman who raises orphaned elephants or studies endangered turtles, she wonders how she ended up working at a desk in the suburbs.

Catherine moved to Aylmer (Gatineau), Quebec, 20 years ago, to work in the national conservation movement. She lobbied for federal endangered species legislation, started a family, and published stories for adults. She loved all that, but eventually she wanted to spend more time with her children and her writing, so she quit her job to write freelance. She wrote her first children’s story in 2003, and she is starting to get the hang of it.

Catherine&;s first novel, Walking Backward, was published by Orca in 2009 and was nominated for several literary awards. She has since published four more books for various ages: My Cat Isis, illustrated by Virginie Egger (Kids Can Press), 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6 (Lorimer), which won the 2012-13 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Award for English fiction, 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6 (Lorimer), and All Good Children (Orca), which won the Canadian Library Association’s 2012 Young Adult Book Award. 

Catherine has given readings, presentations, and writing workshops to enthusiastic audiences of all ages. She was a participating author in the 2012 MASC Young Authors&; and Young Illustrators&; Conference, the Ottawa Public Library&;s 2012 Teen Author Fest, the 2013 Hackmatack Author Tour, the 2014 Gaspe Festival du Livre, and she will be touring Nova Scotia in May 2014 for Book Week.

Catherine considers herself a humour writer, but she suspects she is alone in this opinion. When she is not writing, she likes to read, quilt, photograph mushrooms, practice yoga, visit museums, admire her cats, and walk her dog in the woods. She lives with her husband and two children, who are the first readers of all her stories.

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Everything I've Learned about Being a Writer

I offer three presentations for different grade levels (see below). In all cases, I bring a Powerpoint slide show to pace my talk (with humourous slides of photos, cartoons, quotations and fun facts). My presentations are very personal, and full of anecdotes -- I would talk forever without my slides to keep me on track. You will know me well by the time I leave.

I include a brief (5-minute) reading with each presentation, and I end with a brief (5-minute) Q&A session, as well as inviting questions throughout. My talks are always meant to inspire the audience to write their own stories and to persevere in whatever field they wish to pursue.

Presentation : "Making Up Stories"Literacy, imagination, and how a cat helped me write a picture book about ancient Egypt.Grades K-3, 45-60 minutes)A Powerpoint slide show, with ancient Egyptian props and a reading of My Cat Isis.


  1. Introduction to me and my books (slides 1-8: from what I wanted to be when I was little to how I became an award-winning author)
  2. Everyone has stories to write (slides 15-22, with examples of children’s writing and literacy opportunities, from cards to comics, and suggestions to incorporate more writing into daily life)
  3. Things all writers need (slides 9-14, about perseverance, hard work and humour)
  4. Writing in ancient Egypt (slides 23-26, with lots of fun facts)
  5. Modern picture books (slides 27-35, the development of a picture book from idea to launch)
  6. Reading of My Cat Isis (32 pages)
  7. Q&A throughout and at end

Follow-up activities (left with class): Draw your pet and write its name in hieroglyphs; Family Literacy Activities list.

Presentation : "10 Tips for a Fearless Writing Life"Phobias, fears, and following dreams.(Grades 4-8, 1 hour)A Powerpoint slide show, with a reading from Dave Davidson: 6th Grade Fear-slayer


  1. Introduction to me and my books (slides 1-6, how I wanted to be a veterinarian but grew into an award-winning author)
  2. Reading from Dave Davidson: 6th Grade Fearslayer
  3. Phobias and why I write about them (slides 7-14, with lots of fun facts)
  4. Follow your fears to a good story idea (slides 15-19, with confessions of how I stole the idea for this book from my son’s life)
  5. Writers can&;t be afraid of hard work (slides 20-23, about writing and revising)
  6. Writers must face the fear of rejection (slides 24-28, with cruel facts, rejection letters and reviews)
  7. Don&;t be afraid to say what you mean (slides 29-33, with a story written by a 3-year-old)
  8. How to slay your fears by writing well (slides 34-40, with inspiring quotes and advice)
  9. Q&A throughout and at end

Tip sheet left for class: “Ignite your Imagination: Ideas for Starting Stories.”

Presentation : "Writing Aint All That"Dystopias, wormy apples, and the writer&;s glass as half full and half empty.(Grades 7+, 1 hour)A Powerpoint slide show, with a reading from All Good Children


  1. Introduction to me and my books (slides 1-6, me as a teen and my circuitous route to publication)
  2. Rejection and acceptance (slides 7-13, with rejection letters, fan letters, hate mail and statistics)
  3. Fame and fortune vs. broke and unknown (slides 14-18, with cruel statistics and funny quotes)
  4. Fearing and daring (slides 19-23, about taking risks that may or may not pay off as a writer)
  5. Dystopias in fact and fiction (slides 24-29, about the sad and beautiful world)
  6. Writing dystopian fiction (slides 30-33, on why I wrote All Good Children)
  7. What&;s the worm in your apple? (slides 34-36, with inspiring stories from teen writers)
  8. After the existential crisis, there&;s all the hard work (slides 37-42, about writing and revising)
  9. Reading from All Good Children
  10. Q&A throughout and at end.

Tip Sheet left for Class: "Where Young Writers can Publish their Work."

Presentation type: Reading

Recommended levels: Junior (4-6)

Fees: Varies by location