Pamela Hickman - Author
Pamela was born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Environmental Studies and Biology from the University of Waterloo. During university, Pamela had several interesting summer jobs, including working for the mosquito control program with Alberta Environment out in Edmonton. She spent every day dressed in chest waders, standing in marshes and studying the insect life that thrived there. She started her writing career as the Education Co-ordinator for the Federation of Ontario Naturalists for seven years. This involved writing education kits about nature and the environment that were used by teachers in classrooms. Her first education kit was on wetlands --- a subject she knew a lot about from her mosquito control days! Since going freelance in 1990, she has published over 35 children's nature books. In 1992, Pamela, her husband and three daughters moved to Canning, Nova Scotia, where they are surrounded by nature and inspiration.
Through her books, Pamela tries to capture her readers' interest in nature by finding some of the truly weird and wonderful aspects of plants and animals. She is very enthusiastic about the amazing creatures "out there" and hopes that comes through in her writing. Pamela is a big believer that creativity is an important part of writing non-fiction. It's what you do with the facts that counts! Many of her books also focus on hands-on activities that involve the reader in nature discovery. Developing a respect and fascination for nature and its conservation are her ultimate goals.
Where do you live now?
We live in the small rural village of Canning, Nova Scotia, in the beautiful Annapolis Valley.
When did you start writing?
In 1981 I got married and spent a seven-month honeymoon traveling through Europe. Shortly after arriving back in Canada, I got a job with the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (FON) to write an education kit on wetlands for grades six to eight. This was definitely a turning point and, in many ways, the beginning of my career.
Where do you get your ideas?
Our property in Nova Scotia includes a wooded ravine, marsh and meadow, so I don't have far to go to find inspiration for my books. I can watch birds, hear cicadas and smell the wildflowers as I work. Nature offers unlimited scope for new discoveries, and I know it will continue to challenge and intrigue me throughout my life.
What is your favorite book?
A very tough question. My favorite picture book is possibly Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney because it reminds me so much of Nova Scotia. For a young reader's novel I think I would choose The Railway Children by E. Nesbit. My poetry choice would have to be Toes in My Nose by Sheree Fitch.
What are your hobbies?
I love gardening, reading and camping, and I collect antiques.
What was your training or schooling?
As a teenager I spent my summers working as a counselor at a nature day camp in Mississauga, Ontario. This was a great introduction to the “magic” that is created when children are exposed to nature's fascinating secrets. Later on, I attended the University of Waterloo and majored in environmental studies and biology. The abundance of fieldwork and hands-on learning was exciting --- a terrific way to learn and have fun at the same time. After graduation from university, I spent a year out west, working at the Alberta Environment Center in Vegreville in the Plant Sciences division.
How did you get involved with children's books?
Children's books seemed like a natural progression from the educational materials that I was already writing for the Ontario Naturalists.
Do you have any tips for young creators?
Write for the joy of it, and write often. Keeping a journal is a terrific way to record your thoughts and observations. You never know when you might want to go back and use some of those ideas or relive an experience. Keep a file of everything that you write, even if you “don't think it's good enough.” Revisit your file periodically. You may be pleasantly surprised.
What is the thing you like the most about creating kids' books?
I love being creative with words and images, and learning so much about nature as I go.
How do you research or create your books?
I use a number of sources of information for my research, including books and journals, scientists and other experts, the Internet and my own observations (preferable).
What's your greatest childhood memory?
Our backyard. We lived in a suburban neighborhood, but we had a huge backyard full of terrific climbing trees, a variety of fruit trees, vegetable gardens and lovely flower gardens that my mother planted and cared for. It was a terrific place to play.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be different things at different times, including a flight attendant (I used to love flying), a scientist and a nature interpreter at a national park. I never dreamed of becoming an author, honestly!
What is your favorite animal?
I get asked this question all the time when I visit schools. I don't have a favorite. The more I learn about different creatures, the more I see that they all have something amazing about them.
What is the weirdest or most interesting job you've ever had?
My jobs through university included a summer out in Alberta, where I worked for the province's mosquito-control program. Every morning my partner and I would drive out to the countryside, climb into our chest waders and walk waist-deep into sloughs, ponds and marshes to count mosquito larvae and take samples of other aquatic organisms. It was wonderful work!
Do you have any special secrets or insights about one of your books or characters?
In my book, A New Butterfly, the little girl depicted is actually my middle daughter, Connie, and the illustrator (Heather Collins) used a photo of her when she was three to draw the images.