frances_backhouse_by_typewriterI made my first foray into the world of freelance writing in the mid-1980s, while living on British Columbia’s idyllic Hornby Island, after earning an undergraduate degree in zoology from the University of Alberta. Although the rental house I called home was hard to heat and rodents regularly scuttled about in the walls and attic, it offered priceless ocean views from the corner of the living room. I parked my manual typewriter there and began producing stories for the likes of Canadian Geographic, Harrowsmith and The Beaver.

After a couple of years of writing on the coast in winter and working as a park naturalist in the mountains in summer, I embarked on a new adventure: teaching geography and biology at Lilongwe Secondary School in Malawi, Africa, as a World University Service of Canada volunteer. My two and a half years of work and travel in Africa were filled with learning and memorable experiences.

Shortly after my return to Canada in 1990, I landed a five-month job as a member of a research team studying grizzly bears in the remote and spectacular Khutzeymateen Valley. The next two summers saw me out in the field again, this time doing seabird research on the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Meanwhile, I found myself unable to resist the pleasures of working with words. I reconnected with some of my old magazine markets, cultivated a variety of new ones, and wrote a book proposal, which led to the publication of my first book, Women of the Klondike. Since then, I’ve continued to dance back and forth between short-form and long-form, journalism and creative nonfiction.

I am a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, the Creative Nonfiction Collective and The Writers Union of Canada.

Frances on the Moosehide Slide trail, Dawson City (© Frances Backhouse)

On the Moosehide Slide trail, Dawson (© F. Backhouse).

From October to December of 2008, I was Writer in Residence at Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon, a fabulous opportunity that gave me time to finish writing Children of the Klondike. And in 2009 and 2016, the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources awarded me fellowships to attend inspiring week-long IJNR institutes in Puget Sound and North Dakota. In 2012, I completed an MFA in creative writing at the University of Victoria and now teach in the UVic Writing Department.

My favourite leisure activities include reading (of course), gardening, singing, and exploring wild places. I live in Victoria, British Columbia, with fellow writer Mark Zuehlke.