Brooks Author Enjoys Reading to Students
By Bruce Parker
(Reprinted from – The Weekend Edition, The Brooks Bulletin, Friday, April 16, 2004)
Volunteers come in different forms and donate different amounts of time. For Brooks author Donna
MacNaughton, volunteering comes in the form of talking and reading to students at Holy Family Academy.
When she first started volunteering for the school’s Literature Launch, MacNaughton asked the organizer
if she should first have a book published. The reply was no, you have written a book and it does not
negate the fact that you actually wrote it.
This was her second year of talking to students.
“I enjoy it. It is not something that I ever thought I would enjoy. I was kind of nervous about the whole idea
of it but it turns out I really do enjoy it”
MacNaughton has written two novels (series) for children in grades two to five and this is where she has
concentrated the majority of her author visits.
“The kids just ask so many questions. It is really interesting to come up with the answers. You see these
kids all wrapped attention wanting to hear what you have to say. They find it quite fascinating that they
actually know someone who has written a book.”
She also did some author presentations for high school students this year. The students were very polite
and attentive but the questions were limited.
As a volunteer, MacNaughton chose an older short story she had written.
In order to be an author, dedication to writing is a must.
The St. Joseph’s Collegiate administrative assistant loves to write and spends two and one-half hours
for four mornings each week putting pen to paper.
Her work has reaped some benefits with several articles being published including one entitled Princess
Camping in the RV Times magazine.
Her first publishing credit came from a short story run by the Prairie West magazine out of Bassano. The
magazine is defunct now but was in business 13-14 years ago, she says.
“I have always written. I had a few jobs where I answered phones and then the rest of the time I wrote or
read. I was very lucky.”
She had one job where she was allowed to take an essay writing course at the same time from the
“It’s not the kind of thing that most people would do but I have always written. Even when I was a kid in
school, I loved writing. I was the kind of kid who when the teacher said, ‘here is a sentence and we are
going to write a story’, I was just thrilled.”
Her venture into the writing field took a serious turn seven years ago when she started writing novels. She
has written four (two romance, action books for adult readers) that are in various stages of editing. While
none have been published she has enjoyed some success as a freelance writer and this is very exciting.
MacNaughton said that she writes just about anything. She recently had an article published in The
Brooks Bulletin on the Old Bank Mall. This involved a lot of research, she said.
The articles she writes are mostly from personal experience, although she has written some articles
involving research. She recently submitted an article to an Alberta Heritage magazine on Dinosaur
MacNaughton said she has eight articles out waiting to be considered by publishers. She is just waiting
to hear back from them.
“It seems that I actually have a lot to say and it is kind of interesting to find out that I can actually be paid to
say what I want to say.”
She said it is one of those things where you go for a lot of years working at various, different careers and
when you find something you are meant to do, that is when it all comes together.
When she first moved to Brooks in the early 1980s, MacNaughton completed an aptitude test at the
Brooks Campus of the Medicine Hat College. The test showed her first career choice should have been a
librarian. The second choice would have been a writer. At the time the choices seemed off the wall and
she did not give the options much thought.
Her interest in writing took a serious turn after reading The Outlander Series six years ago by author
Diana Gabaldon. The series even included a book on how she wrote her books. This book left her with
the impression that if Gabaldon could write a series while being employed and having a husband and
children, she could as well.
She sat down shortly after this and pounded out a rough draft of a novel in five days.
The Outlander series was introduced to MacNaughton by her sister-in-law. Shortly after this, she gave her
a subscription to Writer’s Digest magazine as a Christmas gift.
“That has just been my lifeline. I have learned so much just from reading the different articles.”
Writer’s Digest holds an annual writing competition which she has entered every year since receiving her
subscription. For the past two years MacNaughton has received an honorable mention for her
submissions. This is quite the accomplishment considering the competition draws 18,000 entries.
Honorable mention means she finished in the top 100 in her category.
“It is a difficult business to get into. You have to enjoy what you are doing because it is hard work. But I
have made some baby steps along the way.”
Las summer she enrolled in a creative writing course through correspondence and this is what
prompted her to submit articles.
The main intention of the course is to get students submitting articles so they can earn publishing
credits. MacNaughton said once you have publishing credits, someone will look at you seriously in the
“It has been interesting to see the different off-shoots that have come from my initial desire to write.”
The local author said she does not have a preference as to what she writes. She enjoys both short
stories and writing novels.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the manuscripts of the novel because they are this huge stack of
paper that I wrote.”
Not having a preference is that same as being a reader. MacNaughton said she will read anything she
can get her hands on.
She says it is important for anyone considering writing to be an avid reader. You also need imagination.