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Philippa Dowding is an award-winning children's author and copywriter living in Toronto. She also writes poetry and composes and plays music for guitar. She has two university degrees in English, has met three Canadian Prime Ministers, and lived and worked on a glacier one summer. When she returned many years later and saw how much the glacier had melted, she started writing climate fiction for children, including her latest book, Occumlum Echo (DCB, 2022). Philippa has known all her life that she was a writer and started writing her first book at age nine after reading Charlotte's Web. Her main hobbies are guitar, sailing, skiing, and walking her dog. Her thirteenth book, Firefly (DCB, 2021), won the Governor General's Literary Award and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award.
Getting to Know You
I don’t remember hiding a book, but I do remember hiding how I felt about one. When I was 14, I read and re-read my older brother’s copy of The Lord of the Rings, much to my mother’s dismay. For some reason the book unsettled her, maybe because after reading it my brother longed to leave home and live in Middle Earth. So when I read LOTR I longed more quietly than my brother, but understood (thanks to him) that we all yearn for Rivendell once we’ve been there.
Well this is an impossible choice. So I’ll go back to my first book-love, and pick a line from Charlotte’s Web: “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”
My desk is relatively clean and tidy: right now it holds a few choice pens, a pencil, my glasses case, a few bookmarks, my cell phone top right corner, my laptop and monitor. My office though is a cluttered, busy place filled with boxes, guitars, sheet music, computers, paper, books, and art.
If I’m sleepless or discontented, it’s usually because I’m worried about what we’re doing to the planet. My children are adults now, but what will it be like for their children? For the young readers of my books? My newest book, Oculum Echo, is all about climate change and survival after environmental collapse. If you’re wondering if it helps to write about what scares me, the answer is yes: I get to structure the narrative and re-write the ending.
I’ve played guitar since I was 12 and have composed and recorded music ever since. I play casually with friends and sometimes at special events if someone asks, but my secret unfulfilled ambition is that I’ve always wanted to be in a band with maybe a violin, a piano, a bass player, and me. It’s just never happened.
Winnipeg is located in Treaty One territory, the traditional lands of the Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation. THIN AIR, the annual celebration produced by the Winnipeg International Writers Festival, strives to honour the First People’s rich tradition of sharing stories as the ground for building genuine community and restoring right relations.