Marilee Peters

Marilee Peters grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, the oldest of three girls. A city-dwelling kid most of the year, she looked forward to the summers when she would spend weeks on her grandparents’ farm in Manitoba. There, she ‘helped out’ with milking, haying, dressing barn kittens in doll clothes, and other urgent farm tasks.

When not living out her childhood fantasy of being a farmer, she mostly had her nose in a book and her head in other fantasy lands: Narnia, Middle-earth, Avonlea. She read her copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings so many times the covers fell off and the pages started to come loose. Of course, the same could be said for her vast collection of Archie comics. She still treasures those fragile, much-loved volumes of Tolkien, but she’s mostly moved on from Archie.

In order to continue her favorite activity—reading—she studied English literature at university, eventually earning a master’s degree with a specialization in Victorian novels (because they’re the longest). Along the way, she realized that writing, although harder than reading, was just as satisfying and you could even get paid for it. Since then, she’s helped write and edit guidebooks to Parliament Hill, program guides for theater festivals, newsletters about environmental policy, technology, and national parks, blogs about parenting and child development, and articles about everything from why kids don’t walk to school by themselves anymore, to money management; however, since writing and editing don’t always pay a lot, she’s had many other jobs along the way, such as lifeguard, chambermaid, and tree planter in the mountains of northern BC.

Marilee has two children, Olivia and Jackson, and when they were very small, she decided to return to university to become a librarian. Luckily, the University of British Columbia agreed that this sounded like a good idea, and she joined the Library Studies Program there, graduating in 2006 with a MLIS. It wasn’t too long, however, before she was back doing what she loved best—writing, researching, and editing for a living—this time as communications director at the BC Council for Families. Eventually, she became the acting executive director.

These days, Marilee is enjoying the same urban daily life/rural fantasy life she enjoyed as a kid. She lives in Vancouver and works as the communications officer for the Real Estate Council of BC. She’s also the editor of the BC Organic Grower, a magazine for and about organic farmers and farming. This lets her talk, write, and dream about farming, without getting her hands dirty.

She’s thrilled to be an Annick author and proud of Patient Zero: Solving the Mysteries of Deadly Epidemics, her first book. She was particularly fascinated by the story of John Snow and his determination to prove that cholera was spread through contaminated drinking water. Writing about his battles, she felt transported back to mid-nineteenth-century London, one of the most interesting periods in the long life of one of the world’s great cities.

Getting to meet Dr. Jennifer Gardy, a real-life epidemiologist (and TV personality!), and getting a personal tour through the BC Centre for Disease Control was another high point. Many of the doctors and scientists profiled in Patient Zero, like John Snow, worked alone, without support or respect from the rest of the scientific community. Dr. Gardy proved how much that has changed, and how epidemiology today is a collaborative effort involving professionals from many different areas.

In her second book with Annick Press, 10 Rivers that Shaped the World, Marilee again used her storytelling skills to make non-fiction come alive. This time, her focus shifted to ten of the world’s waterways that have played an integral part in the unfolding of human history.

In her latest book, Making It Right: Building Peace, Settling Conflict (Fall 2016), she writes about the issue of restorative justice. She hopes that the true stories of young people who are furthering the cause of conflict resolution without resorting to punitive measures like incarceration will encourage teen readers to think about creating a more peaceful and caring society.

Marilee’s advice for young writers is to “find someone you’re comfortable showing your writing to—a parent, a teacher, or a librarian at your school. You might discover that their suggestions and encouragement help your writing get even better.”