When Kingston WritersFest Artistic Director Merilyn Simonds isn’t at her desk, you can often find her in her garden. “I have been gardening almost as long as I have been writing,” she says. “I learned to write by reading. I learned to garden by digging. In both cases, I was driven by the divine: I wanted to fashion a world all my own.”

And fashion it she has—in extraordinary style. An award–winning freelance journalist, she published nine nonfiction books and scores of magazine articles on subjects ranging from soap–making to war before her making her literary debut with The Convict Lover, a book that almost single–handedly sparked the renaissance in Canadian literary nonfiction, and won her national and international acclaim.

She followed up with a bestselling collection of linked autobiographical stories, The Lion in the Room Next Door, and a novel, The Holding, which the Globe and Mail called “compelling…hypnotic” and “as engrossing as the most intensely crafted psychological drama.” The Holding was on the Canadian Booksellers’ Association bestseller list for five months and was a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Meanwhile, her travel memoir, Breakfast at the Exit Café—co–written with her husband, Wayne Grady—was an Apple Canada best of 2010 ibook and a top-ten nonfiction pick in January Magazine.

Merilyn’s latest release is A New Leaf: Growing with my Garden. Springing from her popular blog, The Frugalista Gardener the essays in A New Leaf glow with her love of plants and landscapes. “This shining book evolves as a gardener does, from hope to realism and back to hope—a by–your–beside companion, composed to seed our dreams,” says poet Molly Peacock, while Margaret Atwood certifies Merilyn as “the Saint of Frugal Gardening.“

Merilyn lives, gardens, and writes in a stone house outside Kingston.

Website: www.merilynsimonds.com and www.frugalistagardener.com