Born in Ontario, Canada, I had a rather different childhood than most people. That's all I want to reveal here, except to say my experience as an adult has largely been different from, but often the same, as other people's experiences. This sounds like the beginning of a novel. That's precisely what I thought at the age of ten when I decided to become a writer.
In 1979, I released To A Young Horse (Borealis), my first book of poetry, followed by The Body Labyrinth (Coach House) in 1984. I also joined the League of Canadian Poets in 1982. At the first AGM I attended Bronwen Wallace and Erin Moure suggested I run for Chair of the Feminist Caucus. I had a different idea of feminism, believing men needed to be included or it would always be an us/them situation. On the heels of The Body Labyrinth I released two audio tapes: Tape 5 (Gallery 101 Productions, 1985) and Black Moths (Public Energies, 1986). By now, I was firmly immersed in the world of creative writing in Canada, penning both fiction, articles and poetry, though I only published my poetry and a few articles.
I first strayed from my focus on a writing career when I earned my B.A. (Indigenous Studies, Laurentian), followed by a B.Ed (P/J focus, U of T), rounded out with a Certificate in Magazine Journalism (Ryerson), and then a thesis-focused M.Ed (Indigenous Education, York) and finally a D.Ed (Indigenous Education, UBC). At one point I felt like the eternal student, and realized my writing had been changed dramatically by my involvement in academia.
When I was hired as an elementary school teacher, that job set my writing career even further aside. Being a teacher consumed me. However, in January 2006 I created an international E-Zine called Big Pond Rumours as a way of staying in touch with my passion for writing, I also released a chapbook called Black Moths (BPR Press, 2006). I retired from teaching in 2016 to focus on my writing and released two other chapbooks: The Great Hoop Dance (BPR Press, 2016) and Odyssey and Other Poems (BPR Press, 2017). Unfortunately, I found that reviving my creative writing career was not fully accomplished until I retired my beloved E-Zine in 2019.
I have since released four full-sized books. In 2019, Naming The Shadows (The Porcupine's Quill), a collection of short fiction, and a cross genre history called The Name Unspoken: Wandering Spirit Survival School (Big Pond Rumours Press) were published. This was followed in 2020 by Stars in the Junkyard (Cyberwit), a double-sized collection of poetry, and Before The Heart Went Down: Selected Poems by Robert Billings (Cyberwit) which includes 12 previously uncollected works.
I am now working on at least four more books, though not all at once. There is my debut novel, Living True, which I have just sent out to make its round with various publishers. I am about to switch my focus back to poetry in order to get my fourth book ready for publication. Plus, I am in the process of collecting enough stories for a second collection of short fiction, and I have a collection of linked stories for a youth novel. To date, my work has been published all across Canada, in the USA, Mexico, the UK, the Netherlands, India, and Australia.
This is a picture of me with two of my siblings. Daniel is standing and Catherine is reaching. I am holding onto our cat, who the family had named - creatively - Tomcat.