Novelist Carol Shields has both US and Canadian passports. Born in the United States, she became a Canadian citizen when she married and moved to Canada at the age of 22. She says: "I carry both passports, and mostly use the Canadian one. But sometimes if it means I can get in a shorter queue at immigration, I use the American one." Since winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1995 for her book The Stone Diaries, she has been in demand all over the world and acquired many passport stamps. A work visa for New Zealand reminds her of a writers' festival that she attended in Wellington the year before last. "The festival was really quite exceptional - they brought in interesting writers, and had panel discussions and readings. What I found amazing was that even at a panel discussion there would be 1,000 people who would pay to come - I've never seen audiences quite like it," she recalls. "I loved New Zealand, Canadians generally do - it always reminds them of home." She acquired a Jamaican stamp last winter when she and her husband went on a university trip. Carol is a part-time teacher at the University of Manitoba where her husband is Dean of Engineering. She explains: "Our university is twinned with a university there, so we went for a week in February. They arranged a lunch for me to meet some Jamaican poets, playwrights, and novelists, which was nice." A stamp for India reminds Carol of a nasty experience she and her husband had in 1993. "We were there for an engineering conference and the hotel caught fire," she remembers with a shudder. "We were on a bus tour and returned to the hotel to see flames shooting out of the window. There was no loss of life but it was frightening, and there was heavy smoke damage and our things were ruined."
Carol's passports show that for the past 25 years she and her family have made an annual visit to France. She says: "We go to France every year. We have a house in a little village near Macon in the southern tip of Burgundy. I spend half the day writing, then we like to poke around at historical sights, go to restaurants, of course, sit in the garden and just enjoy ourselves." She has owned a house in France for 10 years and prior to that the family rented. "We once lived on a houseboat outside Paris - it was the only place that would take five chickens!"
Carol Shields's sixth novel, 'Larry's Party', has just been published by Fourth Estate, pounds 16.99.