An avid essay writer in high school, Paula Aird came to Canada in 1966 with the intention of earning an English degree and returning to her native Grenada to be a teacher.
The plan changed when her older sister, who had already graduated with a Sociology degree from a Canadian university, advised her to pursue Science studies because she felt the subject area presented a lot of opportunities.
Aird took the advice and graduated with a Biology degree from Carleton University after studying part-time at George Williams (now Concordia) University while holding a full-time job.
Certification from the Canadian Society of Laboratory Technologists as a registered technologist led to a transfusion medicine career and a position as manager of the merged Ottawa Hospital’s three transfusion laboratories where she oversaw, among other things, the transferral to patients of blood and blood products.
Aird later managed the DNA and tissue-typing laboratory.
A decade ago when the hospital was downsizing, she took a package and returned to her love affair with books and started a career as an author.
“Looking back, I have no regrets about leaving the job at the hospital,” said Aird who was in Toronto last week to launch her third fiction novel at the Grenada Consulate. “My son was in high school at the time, my daughter was in university and my husband was working. We were at a good place then in terms of me making that decision to return to the passion for writing which never left me.
“I was employed and raising a family. After I left the hospital, I had all the time in the world to read – which I love because my dad gave me books at age 10 – and write.”
Her first novel, What Goes Around, was published in January 2004 while Beneath the Surface was released two years later.
“The books are based on experiences I have heard of or endured,” she said. “I love exploring different writing styles so my first novel was written in the third person, the second was done from one person’s perspective and this recent one has four narrators with the story switching back and forth between Grenada and Canada.”
No Dress Rehearsal tells the story of Monica Patsy who, in trying to save her 13-year-old son from adolescent pitfalls and an abusive stepfather, sends him to Canada to reunite with his biological father who is married with two children.
The teen’s arrival coincides with his father losing his job and eventually moving out of the family home, leaving his wife to care for her two kids and the recently arrived young man from Grenada.
“This book deals with relationships, finding love and overcoming hurdles,” said Aird, the youngest of six children who attended St. Dominic Roman Catholic School where her father was the principal. “It highlights important issues facing society today.”
Inspirational speaker and writer Dawn Brown is convinced this is Aird’s best book.
“It’s a delightful read with characters who draw you into their lives,” said Brown who is also the director of Student Life Services and head of Career Services at Carleton University. “It’s difficult to put down.”
Aird also attended St. Joseph’s Convent on a government scholarship and worked as a civil servant before migrating to Canada 45 years ago.
Grenada’s honorary Consul General Jenny Gumbs welcomed Aird to Toronto.
“It’s not often that you see someone making the transition from one career to another and being so successful in a short space of time,” said Gumbs. “Paula’s story should be an inspiration to young people given that the median age a person stays in one job is decreasing.”