Donna Morrissey - Biography

Donna Morrissey grew up in a small outport in Newfoundland called The Beaches, where she says there were twelve families and her family wasn’t speaking to six of them because they were the wrong religion. Before taking up writing, she worked in a variety of occupations, including as a fish plant worker and social worker. While working at the fish plant, she was misdiagnosed with tetanus and given only several months to live. The health scare prompted her to make life changes. She attended Memorial University, where she studied social work, and she later attended an adult education program at St. Francis Xavier University, where a Jungian suggested that she take up a pen and begin scribbling the tales she told of her home. A short story that began with a character caring for twenty-five cats evolved into Kit’s Law, her first novel, which Morrissey wrote as her mother was dying of cancer. Morrissey and her family sent manuscripts to eight big publishers. A day after her mother died, Penguin Books accepted the manuscript, making Morrissey a Canadian writer of importance at the outset, as the novel won The Canadian Bookseller’s Award and the International Winifred Holtby Award for Regional Fiction. Her subsequent novels, Downhill Chance (2002) and Sylvanus Now (2005) also garnered national and international recognition. For both Downhill Chance and Sylvanus Now, she won the Thomas Head Raddall Award for best Atlantic Canadian adult fiction. Her short screenplay Clothesline Patch (2000), based on one of her short stories, won a Gemini for Best Short Dramatic Program as well as several film festival awards.