When Rona was 14, she saw a student bullied in her English class in Durham, N.H. Her silent complicity inspired a short story that won a writing contest, clinched her first national byline and became a staple in middle-school classrooms. Nearly 60 years after she sat down to write, she still receives fan mail from kids who recognize themselves in her story.
At 14 Rona didn’t see where writing could take her. Writing was the family business, imposed on her by an ambitious mother, a writer who pushed both her daughters to publish and win prizes. Joyce took to the writing life but Rona chose a different path. She put down roots in Toronto, where she and her husband raised their son while making their mark in the magazine business. She capped her career as Editor of Chatelaine, Canada’s premier magazine for women.
Rona’s intimate and candid editorials became her signature. A column on her history of depression, a bold move for 1997, helped to kickstart the public conversation about mental health and launched Rona as a speaker. Her advocacy won her a National Champion of Mental Health Award from the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health. She continues to speak about staying well by cultivating joy, awe and purpose every day.
After leading Chatelaine through a decade of growth and innovation, she wrote the memoir her readers had been asking for, My Mother’s Daughter. Alice Munro called it “wonderfully honest and enthralling,” yet Rona did not think of herself as a writer. A writer would be working on her next book; Rona felt all written out. She led memoir workshops, gave keynote speeches, took up road tripping with her husband and wondered what was missing from her life.
Then her husband talked her into rescuing a dog with a torn right ear and a full-throated loathing of squirrels. He became Rona’s muse. She began to share Facebook posts on the people they met and the hidden beauty spots they discovered on their rambles through downtown Toronto. Friends asked for more, and one thing led to another. Decades after her first publication, Rona embraced her life’s work: writing. Click here for a visual preview of her new memoir Starter Dog: My Path to Joy, Belonging and Loving This World.