Author and Poet, Debbie Ouellet

Biography

 

Debbie Ouellet

 

I grew up in Welland, Ontario, one street down from the Welland Canal. A favourite pastime was standing along the shore to watch the ships pass. My sister and I would wave to the men working the boats and make up stories about where they were from and what the ship was carrying. Swimming and fishing were a big part of my childhood.

 

My first recollection of writing was in my grade-two class at Maple Leaf Public School. I remember receiving two pages of foolscap and a sharpened HB pencil. It was like someone had opened up a treasure chest and given me full reign to write to my heart’s content.

 

My favourite childhood books were by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. I still have my copy of them along with ‘Old Bayana’s Tales’ with my name scribbled inside its cover.

 

When I was in Junior High, the world was in turmoil. Bobby Kennedy’s assassination was all over the news along with the rising death toll from the Vietnam War. That’s when I started writing poetry. It was terrible stuff—antiwar poems with forced rhyme, rhythmic pieces about death and despair—the usual sort of thing for a teenager in the late 60’s. Star Trek was the latest rage as we all practiced our Vulcan hand salutes. I recall reading a poem I’d written about growing up at my grade-eight graduation ceremonies.

 

As I moved into high school, we all sat in awe as Neil Armstrong made his first tentative step on the moon’s surface. Art became a big part of my life as I created portraits of my classmates, illustrations for the yearbook, and backdrops for school plays. The tensions in Vietnam were building. Threats of nuclear testing over Canadian soil sent us in droves to the streets to march in protest. My poetry became even more political (but unfortunately, not much better). Some of it was put to music and I sang it in local coffee houses with my soon-to-be husband, Ray, on guitar. I don’t have recollections of writing much of anything after high school, though I continued to dabble in art.

 

I put my dreams aside and got on with bettering myself. After thirteen years of marriage and being told that I would never have children, at age 32, my son, Alex was born. It was at age 42 that I realized that Mother Nature has a sense of humour when I found myself pregnant with my second child, Sarah.                         

 

 

At the peak of my career, I had about 200 storefront and 100 franchise locations in 17 districts under my wing. I practically lived on the road or an airplane, always on my way to the next meeting. Taking all of six weeks off work when my daughter was born, I wading knee-deep back into the thick of things as soon as I was physically able.

 

That all came crashing down around me eight months later when, very suddenly, my father and a close friend and colleague of over twenty years died within one week of each other. This particular friend traveled for business even more than I did. He was killed in a car accident during a business trip leaving behind a wife and three young children. At his funeral, another colleague commented “at least his children are used to him not being around”. It was like the hand of God had smacked me up side the head and told me to reevaluate my life choices.

 

Shortly after, I resurrected my dreams. I resigned my job and spent three wonderful years at home raising my daughter. I took two writing courses with the Institute of Children’s Literature and rediscovered my love of poetry. I wrote and wrote and wrote. My first published piece was the children’s poem Rainy Night Opera which was published by chickaDee Magazine in April of 1999 and then later published in 2004 in Chirp Magazine and in 2006 in the children’s book ‘Animals On Parade’ by Owl Books. I remember the excitement of receiving that first phone call. At age three, my daughter’s speech was delayed so I was taking courses on how to help her expand her vocabulary. That was the day that Sarah learned the word ‘jump’.

 

I returned to the workforce in 2000 once Sarah started school. Starting out as a District Manager, within the year I was moved up to Operations Manager. A year later, I was asked to take over the Vice President role. I continued to write as much as time allowed. I also honed my business writing skills by participating in and writing tons of bids, business plans, consulting projects, and proposals.

 

EchelonOne Consulting: In 2009, I decided to combine my love of writing and my business expertise to launch my own consulting and business writing firm, EchelonOne Consulting. I'm happy to say that's it's won several local business awards and allowed me to carve a solid foundation in a thriving business community. I've always believed that if you help to build a strong business community, your business in turn will become strong. In 2011, along with 3 other local business owners, I helped found a grassroots networking group called Small Business Connect.

 

I still dabble in art. The illustrations you see on this page and some in various sections on this site are mine, done in soft pastels and coloured pencils, with a few pencil sketches. 

 

I try to stay active in the writing community. In 2012, I was awarded the City of Vaughan RAVE Award for Mentor/Educator in the literary arts. I’ve been a member of Vaughan Poets’ Circle since 2006, which I've chaired for several years. I’m a member of CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers), and The Ontario Poetry Society.

 

I believe in the advice that, if a writer wants to hone their craft, they’d better read a lot. My tastes are pretty eclectic and I have a system for choosing books to make sure that I round out the experience. I read a classic, then a children's book, a book about writing, then a book I’d like to read just for pleasure. I’ve always got a book of poetry on the go at the same time. For a list of some of my favourites (though not an all-inclusive list, these are the ones that come first to mind) visit my Favourite Books page.