Teresa Toten – Annick Press Profile

In the very first of very many moves, Teresa Toten arrived in Canada from Zagreb, Croatia, when she was just 13 days old. Although she mainly grew up in Toronto, Ontario, Teresa and her mother (Mama) moved around a whole lot. Throughout all of the new neighborhoods, new schools, and new friends, the only constants in Teresa’s life were Mama, books, and a burning career ambition to grow up and become a mermaid.

Wherever they lived, Mama would lug home books in a shopping bag from the library near her work every single week. What made this interesting was that Mama couldn’t read English and tended to pick books by their covers, so Teresa grew up on an exotic weekly reading mix including picture books, autobiographies, cookbooks, and boy adventure novels. She read them all, but was always extra-excited when Mama came home with books of fairy tale collections, which only served to fan the flames of Teresa’s mermaid ambitions.

Another constant was that, wherever they were, Teresa always wrote and told stories. Even though she got a lot of attention (and occasionally into a bit of trouble) over her stories, she never dreamed of becoming a “writer.” If anything, becoming a writer somehow seemed to be an even more unrealistic ambition than being an imaginary aquatic creature.

So, Teresa went off to university and happily got a master’s degree in political science. Soon, she was married and busy working and moving to Montreal (where she wrote and broadcast for Radio Canada International), Ottawa, New York, and finally back to Toronto again. It wasn’t until she had her own baby girls that Teresa got up the courage to translate her love of stories into a writing career. More than anything, she wanted to write a picture book for her girls. As it turned out, it might have been easier becoming a mermaid.

Teresa had the idea for Bright Red Kisses (September 2005) over 10 years ago and has been writing and rewriting it ever since. Who knew writing a picture book could be so curiously complicated? In the meantime, she’s written a short story and is now working on her fourth novel. Teresa has been a children’s book reviewer since 1996 and has written commentaries for The Globe and Mail, Review Press Reporter, and Canadian Children’s Book News.

Teresa absolutely loves being a mom, being a writer, and working with children. She volunteers as an ESL instructor, conducts creative writing workshops with street youth, and has extensive classroom and conference experience throughout North America. She is also on the board of directors at the York School, program chair at CANSCAIP, and a member of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, the Writers’ Union of Canada, IBBY, and the Ontario Arts Council’s Writers in the School program.

She usually gets her ideas from her own life and from the lives of the extraordinary people who surround her. Now that Teresa has finally written a picture book, who knows, one day she may get the courage to write about a little giri who wanted to grow up to be a mermaid.

Teresa is the author of the young adult novels The Game, which was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award in 2001, and The Onlyhouse, which was nominated for the Red Cedar Award in 1997.

Bright Red Kisses is Teresa’s first picture book with Annick Press.