Writing is a Lot Like Appliqué

Okay. So… full disclosure: Yes, I was drawn to the field of occupational therapy because of my deep-seated beliefs in its noble goals of promoting uniqueness and meaning and diversity. But I also LOVE crafts. And I was told, mistakenly, that crafts were central to the profession.

Although they once had been, by the time I was studying OT, the profession was hell-bent on distancing itself from the basket-weaving image. But truth be told, I believed then, and still very much do, that there is huge therapeutic value in doing crafts. There, I said it!


My life-long love affair with crafts, particularly appliqué, started when I was seven years old. My aunt, Kathy, gave me this small wall hanging that she had made with scraps of material and bits of embroidery floss. I loved that aunt and I cherished that little cloth picture. Something about its colours, its simplicity, was just so beautiful. And it had emotion. This little work of art has hung on a wall in my various homes ever since.

Inspired by my aunt’s creative genius, over the years I learned embroidery, crewel, and quilting techniques, and eventually began designing my own appliqués, striving for the same effect.

After my improbable year-long sailing of the North Atlantic, I made the appliqué of our sailboat, Inia, being tossed about in monstrous seas, mid-ocean, mid-storm, in the middle of the night, to convey what I had experienced; more importantly, how I had felt.


Then I decided to write a book about the adventure. And I discovered that, to my surprise, the writing process and the appliqué process are similar. There is the starting with a general idea, a theme, the drawing of bold strokes, the adding of focal points here and there, the taking away extraneous clutter, and the finishing touches— always thinking; what’s missing, what’s enough, what’s too much, until it feels ‘emotionally accurate’, until it feels ‘just right’.


I am over the moon to say, my debut book, Ready to Come About, will be released next month. What’s more, Laura Boyle, artistic director at Dundurn Press, used my sailing appliqué to design the book’s cover. It’s an emotional match made in heaven. It’s perfect on every level. I couldn’t be happier.

Thank you, Laura!!


Port Hope Presentation and Book Signing


“In the fall of 1996, we bought a single-masted, fin-keeled Tanzer 26 and christened it after David’s grandfather’s boat. The Killarney II marked the end of cottage rentals and the start of marina-to-marina sailing on Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte, which carried on through the boys’ teenage years.”

That is a quote from my memoir, Ready to Come About, being published by Dundurn Press.

Our Lake Ontario sailing was limited to brief jaunts during David’s two weeks off. It was anything but “extreme sailing” and, in no way prepared either of us for what lay ahead. A decade or so later we found ourselves alone in a 37 foot boat circumnavigating the North Atlantic Ocean.

Killarney II Picture_0002

A Lake Ontario stopover on the Killarney II was along the wall in the Port Hope Municipal Marina, where we experienced the quiet, the small town friendliness, the fishermen coming and going, the lovely beach, the unexpected arrival of Shad fly season and the infamous Port Hope storm surge! That night will be etched in our memories forever!

Port Hope Library

Now, almost 21 years later, my husband and I are returning to Port Hope, this time by car.

The Port Hope Public Library, in partnership with Furby House Books, has invited David and me to do a presentation of our year-long adventure on the high seas, what precipitated the voyage, and what we learned by it.

There will be an audio/visual presentation, readings from my memoir, Ready to Come About, and a Q&A. Books will be available for sale and signing.

If you are in the area, I hope you will be able to join us for this event.

furby house books

Friday June 14, 2019 at 1:00 p.m.

Port Hope Library
31 Queen St.
Port Hope, ON
L1A 2Y8


Occupational Therapy and My Memoir: they actually have a connection!

My grandparents, while in their early sixties, the age I am now, were diagnosed with severe progressive neurological disorders; my grandfather had ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, my grandmother, an aggressive form of Parkinson’s. They lived in a modest stone house, downtown Hamilton, Ontario. My mom and dad were their main, almost only, source of support.

While my parents cut the lawn, shopped, and banked for them, I followed my grandmother as she shuffled around the kitchen making a Finnish staple, “Pulla”. And I watched my grandfather put classical music on their Hi Fi, usually Sibelius, then hook himself up to a tube connected to his liquid “lunch-in-a-bag” hanging from the chandelier in the centre of the living room. He had lost the ability to swallow.

Even though I was only around eight at the time, their struggles made me ache. But I also marveled at their ability to still find joy in their shrinking worlds. And their desire to hold onto what independence they had, shaped me, profoundly and forever.

In high school I was told about the profession of occupational therapy, and that, at its core were: the view that there are lots of ways to live a life; the belief that autonomy and self-determination is what makes us whole; and the assertion that we have the right to take risks.  In that instant, I knew I was meant to be an OT!

queens emblem

My career spanned several decades, throughout which I embraced those core OT values – that is, as a professional, with my clients. However, as a parent of three sons, sometimes I wasn’t so sure.

Ready to Come About, being released by Dundurn Press this May, is the story of my improbable year on the North Atlantic, and my personal journey within, through which the mom in me ultimately became convinced there is no more precious gift than the liberty to chart one’s own course, and risk is a good thing… sometimes, at least.

Given the OT subtext of Ready to Come About, I emailed OT Extraordinaire, Sue Baptiste, to ask if she would be an advance reader. Her answer was an immediate “yes”, and her praise, swift and high.

To my delight, here is what she had to say:

Sue Baptiste Words for FB and Twitter

Recently I joined Sue for a wonderful lunch in Hamilton.

2019-03-28 14.07.18



Thank you so much, Sue Baptiste!