Givner, Joan 1936–

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Givner, Joan 1936–

(Joan Mary Givner)


Born September 5, 1936, in Manchester, England; immigrated to United States, 1958, naturalized U.S. citizen, 1962; naturalized Canadian citizen; daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth (Parker) Short; married Richard Bogg, August 8, 1958 (divorced October 9, 1963); married David Aaron Givner (a professor of philosophy), April 15, 1965; children: (second marriage) Emily Jane (deceased), Jessie Louise. Ethnicity: "White." Education: University of London, B.A., 1958, Ph.D., 1972; Washington University (St. Louis, MO), M.A., 1962.


Home—2587 Seaview Rd., R.R. 1 Mill Bay, British Columbia V0R 2P0, Canada. E-mail[email protected].


St. Clair County Community College, Port Huron, MI, lecturer in English, 1960–65; University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, lecturer, 1965–70, assistant professor, 1972–76, associate professor, 1976–82, professor of English, 1982–95; full-time writer, 1994–. Wascana Review, editor, 1984–92. Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College, fellow, 1978–79; Malaspina College, Cowichan Campus, instructor in creative writing; judge in competitions, including National Newspaper Awards, Governor General's Awards (nonfiction), Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Competition, and Saskatchewan Book Awards.


Modern Language Association of America, Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association, Saskatchewan Women Artists Association, University Women's Club.

Awards, Honors

Canada Council grants, 1973–78; Humanities Endowment Fund fellow, 1978–79; Notable Book of the Year designation, New York Times Book Review, 1982, for Katherine Anne Porter: A Life; Canadian Book Council Fiction Award, 1992; James Tipree Award shortlist, Sunburst Award shortlist, and Canadian Science-Fiction Award shortlist, all 2000, all for Half Known Lives; Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award finalist, and Silver Birch Award finalist, both 2006, both for Ellen Fremedon; Diamond Willow Awards shortlist, for Ellen Fremedon, Journalist.


Katherine Anne Porter: A Life, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1982.

Tentacles of Unreason (short stories), University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1985.

(Editor and author of introduction) Katherine Anne Porter: Conversations, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1987.

Mazo de la Roche (biography), Oxford University Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1988.

Unfortunate Incidents (short stories), Oberon Press (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1988.

Scenes from Provincial Life (short stories), Oberon Press (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1991.

The Self-Portrait of a Literary Biographer, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1993.

In the Garden of Henry James (short stories), Oberon Press (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), 1996.

Thirty-four Ways of Looking at Jane Eyre (stories and essays), New Star Books (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 1998.

Half Known Lives (novel), New Star Press (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2000.

Playing Sarah Bernhardt (novel), Simon & Pierre (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.

Ellen Fremedon (middle-grade novel), Groundwood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.

Ellen Fremedon, Journalist (middle-grade novel), Ground-wood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005.

Ellen Fremedon, Volunteer (middle-grade novel), Ground-wood Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2007.

Contributor to literature journals and other periodicals, including book reviews to Quill & Quire, B.C. Book-world, Toronto Star, and Malahat Review.

Work in Progress

A fourth novel featuring Ellen Fremedon, titled Ellen Fremedon, Debater.


A writer and former professor of English at the University of Regina, Joan Givner began writing for children after retiring and moving to an island off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. Inspired by its author's memories of her daughters' childhood, Ellen Fremedon introduces a twelve year old who intends to write her first novel while on summer vacation. Ellen begins by focusing on her family and discovers that her frustratingly pesky twin brothers, her busy parents, and her spunky, opinionated Gran provide a wealth of colorful grist for her literary material. Then the Meggitts move in next door, throwing Ellen's peaceful town into turmoil and providing even more material, as well as sparking some family drama. In Ellen Fremedon, Journalist, the young writer decides to join with best friend Jenny and start a town newspaper, although their quest to find the truth uncovers some surprising hidden facts.

"Ellen's first-person narrative will resonate with many readers, particularly those with an interest in writing," commented Carolyn Phelan in a Booklist review of Ellen Fremedon. Calling the second installment "a wonderful tale about a young girl learning about life and growing up," Resource Links contributor Deb Nielsen added that Ellen Fremedon, Journalist "certainly lives up" to its predecessor.

Givner once noted: "For most of my career I taught full-time at the University of Regina. My publications included two major biographies, an autobiography, a collection of interviews with Katherine Ann Porter, three collections of short stories and a great many scholarly articles. Most of these works dovetailed with my teaching duties and changed over the years. I moved from teaching American literature increasingly into women's studies, in the last years teaching graduate courses on life-writing, keeping up with new theoretical approaches to literature.

"In 1994 I left Regina to live on Vancouver Island, and my early retirement became effective in 1995. Apart from one semester teaching back in Regina, and one semester teaching creative writing at Malaspina College (Cowichan Campus) on Vancouver Island, I have since 1994 been a full-time writer. From that time on I have devoted myself mainly to fiction.

"I published In the Garden of Henry James, a collection of short stories, with Oberon Press in 1996 and two years later published Thirty-four Ways of Looking at Jane Eyre, a mixed collection of stories and essays, with New Star Press in Vancouver. In November of 2000 I published my first novel, Half Known Lives, to good reviews, and am continuing in that genre."

In addition to her books for children, Givner has also produced a second adult novel, Playing Sarah Bernhardt, and she continues to contribute articles and reviews to a variety of Canadian publications. Sadly, her daughter Emily, who with sister Jessie had inspired Givner's popular middle-grade heroine Ellen Fremedon, died in 2004 at the beginning of a literary career of her own; Emily Givner's work was released as A Heart in Port, the publication overseen by her mother.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, second edition, Oxford University Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.


Booklist, November 15, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Ellen Fremedon, p. 582; November 1, 2005, Carolyn Phelan, review of Ellen Fremedon, p. 45.

Canadian Book Review Annual, 2004, David E. Kemp, review of Playing Sarah Bernhardt, p. 174.

Chicago Tribune, January 30, 1983.

Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 5, 2001, Kathleen Byrne, review of Half Known Lives.

Herizons, summer, 2002, Cynthia Callahan, review of "Half Known Lives," p. 31.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 6, 1983; December 8, 1985.

Malahat Review, summer, 2005, Mike Matthews review of Playing Sarah Bernhardt, p. 89.

New York Times Book Review, December 15, 1985.

Resource Links, February, 2005, Deb Nielsen, review of Ellen Fremedon, p. 17; February, 2006, Deb Nielsen, review of Ellen Fremedon, Journalist, p. 22.

Room of One's Own, December, 1992, special Givner issue.

School Library Journal, February, 2006, Cheryl Ashton, review of Ellen Fremedon: Journalist, p. 131.

Time, December 6, 1982.

Times Literary Supplement, June 10, 1983.

Washington Post Book World, December 5, 1982; November 17, 1985.


Joan Givner Home Page,∼givnerj (May 5, 2006).