Meet the author: Wendy Lee Paquette

I met Wendy through my last interview with Mona Andrei. I am so happy to meet another writer, who like me, comes from a more technical background. Here’s a bit about Wendy that I learned from her LinkedIn profile.

As an Agilist and Scrum Master Il, Wendy Lee Paquette believes in servant leadership and transparency.

With an Information Technology (IT) background in Intake Management, Support
Team Management, Consulting and Development, understanding the stakeholder’s Whys are paramount to leading to any solution and customer satisfaction.

Pivoting from the right side of the brain as a Writer and Artist to the left side as a Business Intelligence Developer, Platform Administrator and Analyst Consultant in 2007, she’s a true out-of-the-box creative thinker.

One of the most important skills Wendy has in her toolbox is communication. She believes that technical skills can be learned, but soft skills are the gift that keeps on giving via coaching, mentorship, empowerment, customer service and demostration. She enjoys being front facing to customers or leading a team and/ or both.

As a celebrated 100% Single Mother, who not only mentored her own children to success but many professional and personal peers, Wendy is a believer in volunteerism, philanthropy and community.

Wendy is the author of the children’s book, A Parade to Remember. She lives west of Montreal in the city of Notre-Dame-L’Ile-Perrot. Wendy is an extraordinary woman who writes. She’s a lifelong learner, a problem solver, a mother, and an engineer of engineers.

When Wendy sees a gap, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t ask someone to fix it, she rolls up her sleeves and sets to work to set things right.

You can read Wendy’s short story, “Senenata,” soon to become a historical novel, at Humans. You can purchase her lovely book, A Parade to Remember, at Cornerstone Studio.

Wendy also blogs about celebrating successes, big, and small, at “Ice Cream for Supper.” Her life as a contractor inspired the name. After cementing a contract, Wendy announced to her children, “Ice Cream for Supper!”

Another new writer friend from Canada

Tell me a little bit about yourself:  As an adult, I realized I was neurodivergent.  I never learned to read during high school.  I could write, but everything was phonetic.  Still, I’ve always been curious and interested in learning new things, so I came up with ways to “game the system,” and learn.

It wasn’t until I got what in America would be my Senior year in high school that I ran into real trouble.  I couldn’t score high enough on the entrance examinations to go to college.

However, the way our system works, as an adult, I didn’t have to pass an entrance exam; it’s called being a ‘mature student’. I just signed up for some business classes that would help me in my job and started taking classes. 

One of my professors caught on right away that I had an unconventional method of learning. She asked me to take a special test and I was diagnosed with dyslexia, which probably would not be the diagnosis today.  A retired nun worked with me every morning before classes started and she taught me to read.  

(Oh my! I didn’t have quite that experience, but when I learned to write, I wrote everything mirror-image. If not for a diligent mother and 40 Valentines to sign, I may have never left kindergarten!) But back to Wendy:

Eventually, I finished my courses and got an administrative job at Concordia College. I administered the biology department.  During that time we had a mass shooting here in Montreal. My boss was one of the victims of the shooting.  I weathered through it as best I could. It was before there were protocols to help people through the trauma, and you know, life goes on. It wasn’t until eight years later that the stress caused me to strangle a nerve in my neck resulting in all kinds of health problems, including seizures. With treatment, I was able to get back in the swing of things.  

Have you always been a writer?  I began writing as a child, even though that was not my original career path, I’ve always been a writer.  

My career is in technology, I’m a Release Train Engineer for TD Bank. It’s a career specific to technology. Basically, I engineer engineers.  I’m responsible for delivering the work-product of the project.

(I had to look that one up. Here’s what I learned: A release train engineer (RTE) is a servant leader who facilitates program level processes and execution, drives continuous development, manages risks and escalates impediments while also acting as a full time chief scrum master for a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). 

How many books have you written?  I’ve written four, but just one is published. I’m working on an historical fiction novel that takes place during World War II.  I can’t afford to write full-time because of the time my career takes. 

How did you get started?  I began to work at my daughter’s elementary school.  Every holiday, we created a special display. When Remembrance Day came (November 11,) I realized there were no books or other resources to explain Remembrance Day to grade school students. There were just encyclopedia entries about tanks and war equipment.  I asked, ‘where are all the books?’ 

That week, a store refused to let a veteran sell poppies in the parking lot.  I realized there was a great need to remind people what the day is all about.

I decided to write a story about a little girl asking questions about Remembrance Day. Her parents go through the process of explaining all about the Day as the parade passes by. They explain how her grandfather had to go to war.  I used the Korean War because Canada had a big role in that war, and it seems to be such a forgotten war. We weren’t officially in Viet Nam.  There’s a misconception that Remembrance Day is to honor those soldiers in the World Wars. The Day is for all wars. A lot of Korean Veterans thank me for representing them. Canadians fought for Britain, so until we had our own constitution, we, as a country were not committed to war efforts.

I wrote the story in 20 minutes.  It came from my heart.  I thought about what questions would my two daughters ask, so it’s from the perspective of a young girl.

I brought my story to the school librarian.  She said, “you have to get this published.”  So I found a publisher.

(Even though Veteran’s Day is in October here in the USA, Memorial Day in May more closely resembles the purpose of Remembrance Day and that’s the day poppies are donned in the USA.  Memorial Day honors soldiers lost in wars since the Civil War.)

I had a friend, Kim Rumbolt-Vallinakis, do the illustrations for A Parade to Remember.  She was a stay-at-home mom with three kids who also was a publisher for an architectural magazine.  I sent her the story.  She did this amazing job.  

(Oh my! Another similarity between the two of us. I had similar help with my books! My grandson illustrated The Fable of Little Tzurie, and a cousin designed the cover of A Ship of Pearl.)

A Parade to Remember is in the Canadian War Museum.  

The first year it was published, the Canadian History Museum for the permanent research collection called. For a moment I thought I was in trouble for something. The curator said she couldn’t ask for a better book with all the right information. A Parade to Remember is now a piece of history.

I did a lot of research.  For example, it’s not one minute of silence, it’s two minutes of silence because it’s coordinated with how long it takes to recite the poem “In Flander’s Field,” by the Canadian poet John McCray.  That poem is the origin of the symbolic poppies.  

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

“In Flanders Field” by John McCrae

Where can readers find your books? I had publishers in the United States who were interested. They wanted it adapted for Americans, but the content is uniquely Canadian.  I went with a Canadian publisher, who sold it to the States as “print on demand.” It was available on Amazon, Indigo, Target, and Barnes and Noble. I lost any access to royalties.  I never saw a penny of those sales, so I halted sales. It can be rarely found on Amazon, but none of the royalties go to me.

During Covid, a friend of mine launched as a publisher.  You can get it from her at Cornerstone Studio.  I give back 5% of sales to support Veterans. 

What’s your biggest challenge:  My goal is to retire and write full-time.  My career is exhausting, so I often have little energy to write. I do Sudoku puzzles to unwind and prepare to write creatively.

(We talked about the right-brain/left-brain problem that happens when our career is technical.  It’s often difficult to switch gears.)

I wrote some other stories for children. One is about how chocolate is made, and another called “Dress-up is Fun for Everyone.”  This was the result of a little preschooler being mocked for dressing up in girls’ clothes.

small boy dressed as girl

I entered a flash-fiction contest and got some incredible feedback New York Flash Fiction Contest. You have one week to submit content specific story.  I wrote the story from a historical fiction genre. I got some really positive feedback: “You should really consider putting this in a book.” So that’s the basis of my historical novel work in progress.

It’s about a Canadian War bride who remembers Netherlands during WWII as she’s admiring the tulips given to Canada by the Dutch royalty.  Their princess came and stayed here to protect her during the War.  In May we have a festival with tulips.  The woman in my novel goes to the Festival and reminisces about her time during the war. My research really shocked me.  The Dutch Resistance had amazing musicians involved.

I have another historical fiction story that’s a little more modern.  It’s about a theft of a manuscript that involves Ernest Hemmingway.  He lived in Toronto during his early years.

For me, writing is not prescriptive.  Ideas keep popping into my head. I have so many stories.  I have so many ideas.

(Oh yes, I have the same problem. So many ideas, so little time.)

What was the most fun writing? 

My biggest challenge is time management.  My everyday life is so big with my career and home. I don’t get writer’s block, I have the opposite problem.  “Writers dam”. When I’m writing, a flood of ideas wash over me.

I love to learn about history.  It’s like taking a sweater and unraveling it.  I learned so much about Ernest Hemmingway and so much about the Dutch Resistance.  I like to imagine what it was like during this time… Through story-telling, I get to teach people about history.

Do you remember your first day of school? I do.  It was awful.  I had braces on my legs and wore weighted shoes. I was very pigeoned toes.  We had to wear tunics, and my hair was very short. I think I got gum in my hair and my mother cut it short. We had to line up in two lines with the girls separate from the boys.  The first kid that came up to me said, “Are you a boy, you’re wearing a dress.”  I thought, oh my god. 

What were you like in high school? I was very rebellious.  I was asked to leave my public high school which had a catholic school board.  Because I had a high IQ, they recommended an alternative school where I had to interview to get in.  The alternative school had a protestant school board.  The Catholic School did not want to lose the tax money.  Mom is Anglican, so she said, “I’m Protestant and she’s going to the alternative school.

At that new school, MIND (Moving in New Directions,) I was doing advanced literature and I couldn’t read.  If you give me a verbal exam, I’d get 100%.  Because I was so knowledgeable verbally, my incoherent writing was simply attributed to penmanship. No one recognized that I was writing phonetically. 

What advice do you have for someone who has the same background/childhood/aspirations as you?  Believe in yourself and NEVER give up. 

As so often happens with a new friend, Wendy inspires me. I plan to enter at least one contest this year. Wish me luck.