Florence McNeal (née McNeil)

Florence McNealFlorence McNeal died August 26, 2013, at the age of 73 or 76 or 80 depending on which driver’s license, health card or other document she was using at the time (a delightful fact that will not surprise those who knew her – her bother has commented that she was sometimes his older, and sometimes his younger, sister). She earned her BA from UBC in the 1950s (in keeping with her own vagueness), where, among many other activities, she wrote a regular column for The Ubyssey. She spent the next few years after graduation teaching high school and writing, most notably a series of stories that appeared on John Drainie’s CBC radio program, Canadian Short Stories.

She returned to UBC to earn her MA in creative writing with Earle Birney and went on to publish 11 books of poetry with some of Canada’s most prestigious publishers. Then, at the suggestion of her editor, she wrote the first of her four highly successful novels for young people, which have been translated into a dozen languages and adapted for film. She also published an acclaimed novel for adults, Breathing Each Other’s Air. She won many literary awards for both her poetry and fiction, both in Canada and abroad. Florence also spent a number of years teaching English and creative writing at the post‑secondary level, teaching at Western Washington University, the University of Calgary – where she met her husband – and then back at UBC, before she retired to write full‑time, and took an occasional visiting professorship.

Florence is survived by her husband, David, PhD’76, her brother, Alex, her sister, Theresa, and many nieces and nephews.