Jill MacLean has lived most of her life in the Maritimes, within walking distance of the sea. She graduated from Dalhousie University with an honours degree in biology, and subsequently worked at Dalhousie, the Fisheries Research Board, Mount Allison University and Sydney City Hospital. While living in Prince Edward Island, she spent three years researching an 18th century French settlement. Her biography of Jean Pierre Roma, published by the PEI Heritage Foundation, was reissued in 2005.
Her thesis for her master's degree from the Atlantic School of Theology linked chaos theory to the last four chapters of Job, which contain some of the finest poetry in Hebrew Scripture, and which encouraged her to begin writing poems herself. She was fortunate to join a Halifax-based group of poets who met regularly to critique their work. During a three-year stay in Winnipeg, she was equally fortunate to have as her mentor George Amabile, then poetry editor for Signature Editions. Signature published her first collection, The Brevity of Red, in 2003.
Soon afterwards, her grandson asked her to write him a book. The Nine Lives of Travis Keating, set in northern Newfoundland, was published in the fall of 2008 by Fitzhenry & Whiteside. The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy, a sequel to The Nine Lives of Travis Keating, was published in the fall of 2009 by Fitzhenry & Whiteside. Both books won the Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children's Literature; Travis Keating in 2009 and Prinny Murphy in 2010. Her third book for young adults, Home Truths (Dancing Cat Books,) was published in the fall of 2010. Jill took part in WITS in 2009, and made a number of school visits in St. John's, Newfoundland in connection with Atlantic Ink.
A keen naturalist who doesn't like heat, she has travelled to the Yukon, Northwest Territories, high Arctic and coast of Labrador. Her son and his family live in Newfoundland. Cars, canoes, kayaks, snowmobiles, coastal boats and her own two feet have sustained her longtime love affair with that province.
Jill has been a palliative care volunteer, and a dog walker for the SPCA and the Winnipeg Humane Society. She loves chamber and choral music. "Sable Island 44º N 60º W," from The Brevity of Red, has been set to music by Scott Macmillan: Currents of Sable Island premiered in St. Patrick's Church in Halifax in July 2008.Publications
Home Truths. Dancing Cat Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-897151-96-9
The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2009. ISBN 978-1-55455-145-3
The Nine Lives of Travis Keating. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008. ISBN 978-1-55455-104-0.
Jean Pierre Roma et la compagnie de l'est de l'ile Saint-Jean. Translated by Maude DesJardins. Acorn Press/Three Rivers Roma Inc., 2008. ISBN 978-1-894838-33-7.
Jean Pierre Roma of the Company of the East of Isle St. Jean. Acorn Press/Three Rivers Roma Inc., 2005. ISBN 1-894838-15-7.
"SPCA Shelter" from The Brevity of Red. anthologized in to find us: words and images of Halifax, edited by Sue MacLeod. Halifax Regional Municipality, 2004. ISBN 0-9687262-3-2.
The Brevity of Red. Signature Editions, 2003. ISBN 0-921833-92-X.
In manuscript form, The Nine Lives of Travis Keating received the inaugural Joseph and Dorothy Walmsley Award for 2006 at the Writing for Young Readers Worskhop at Humber School for Writers.
Shortlisted for the Atlantic Poetry Prize and the Acorn-Plantos Award; 'The Brevity of Red'