The Way Lies North
Written by Jean Rae Baxter
 
 

Jean Rae Baxter was born in Toronto, but grew up in Hamilton. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of Toronto and a B.Ed degree from Queen’s.

Following graduation, she worked at CKLC Radio in Kingston, writing commercials and hosting her own recipe show as “Miss Dairy Maid.”
After two years of this, she decided to become a teacher. Thus began her career as a secondary school English teacher in Lennox & Addington County, Loyalist country twenty miles west of Kingston. During her time at Napanee District Secondary School, Mohawk First Nations students from the Tyendinaga Reserve near Deseronto were bused in to attend classes. While teaching at NDSS, she helped to develop curriculum in liaison with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (O.I.S.E.)

During her career in education, Baxter had little free time for her own writing, although she managed to produce a few poems, professional articles, and one-act plays that have been produced in schools and churches.
Although she grew up in Hamilton, “down home” was the region of Essex and Kent Counties on the shores of Lake Erie where her ancestors had settled, some following the American Revolution and some a century earlier, in the days of New France. There were many family stories to awaken her interest in Canada’s past, and frequently in these stories, the lives of settlers were interwoven with those of Indians of various nations.

In 1996, when she returned from the Kingston area to Hamilton, Baxter began to write in earnest. An interest in history had already led her into researching Canada’s past. Now she began to write about it, starting with the short story, “Farewell the Mohawk Valley,” which Ronsdale Press included in its anthology, Beginnings: Stories of Canada’s Past (2001).
“Farewell the Mohawk Valley” evolved into the opening chapter of The Way Lies North (Ronsdale Press, 2007), a young adult novel that follows a teen-age Loyalist girl, her family and friends through the perils of the American Revolution.
Baxter surprised herself by the discovery that she had a knack for writing adult fiction. Her short stories have been published in a variety of Canadian literary journals and anthologies. As well as other awards, in both 2003 and 2004 she received the Arts Hamilton Award for the best story by a Hamilton writer. In 2007 she received the Silver Hammer Award from Hammered Out, a Hamilton-based literary journal. Seraphim Editions published her first collection of short stories, A Twist of Malice, in 2005, and her literary mystery novel, Looking for Cardenio, in 2008.

She has held readings, signings, talks and workshops in many town and cities: Hamilton, Burlington, Dundas, Toronto, Peterborough, Toronto, Oakville, Windsor, Cambridge, Kitchener, Port Hope, Cobourg, Kingston, Napanee, London, Guelph and Saskatoon, as well as at Hamilton’s Festival of Friends, Hamilton’s Grit Lit Festival, at the Eden Mills “Fringe” Festival and at Canadian “ex pat” gatherings in China and Romania. She has served on panels at Bouchercon, Bloody Words, and Genrecon (Sarnia). In January 2008 she was the keynote speaker at “St. Charles Reads”, the annual literacy celebration of the Catholic Board of Education in Hamilton. On Hallowee’n niht this year she will be at BookFest Windsor, on a panel titled, “Books that Go Bump in the Night.”
As a member of Arts Hamilton’s Literary Advisory Committee as well as one of the organizers of the LiT LiVe Reading Series, she is an active member of Hamilton’s writing community.

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