Merilyn Simonds was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, spent her childhood in Brazil and came of age in a small town in southwestern Ontario. She began as a freelance journalist, publishing nine nonfiction books and scores of magazine articles on subjects ranging from the environment to soap-making, from art and architecture to war. From 1987 to 1991 she was an associate editor at Harrowsmith Magazine and has been a contributing editor at Harrowsmith, Equinox, Canadian Geographic and Saturday Night Magazines.
With the release of The Convict Lover in 1996, she became nationally known as a literary writer, exploring the zone where fact and fiction meet. Now considered a classic in Canadian creative nonfiction, The Convict Lover was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction and was chosen as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 1996 by the Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire Magazine, Elm Street Magazine and Maclean’s. It was translated into Chinese, Japanese, and German, and in 1997, was adapted for the stage by the Kingston Summer Theatre Festival, premiering at Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto in the fall of 1998.
The Lion in the Room Next Door, Simonds’s collection of linked, autobiographical stories, was published in 1999 to enthusiastic reviews and like The Convict Lover, became a national bestseller. The following year, it was released by Bloomsbury in England, G.P. Putnam’s Sons in the United States and btb Verlag in Germany.
The Holding, Simonds’s first novel, was published in 2004 to unanimously favourable reviews and spent five months on the Canadian Booksellers’ Association bestseller list. Published in the United States the following year, it was selected a New York Times Review of Books "Editor's Choice." The novel appeared in Germany in 2007.
In 2005, her short story "Miss You Already" was published in Germany, the Netherlands, and Canada, where it was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Her short fiction has been anthologized internationally and was included in a special 2009 issue of Journal of the Americas on Canadian literature and art.
In 2010, she published Breakfast at the Exit Café: Travels in America, a travel memoir co-written with her husband, Wayne Grady. Selected a Globe 100 best book of 2010, Joseph Boyden called it “a brilliant road trip I never wanted to end.”
In the spring of 2009, Simonds lauched a weekly essay on her website frugalistagardener.com. These were collected in 2011 and published as A New Leaf: Growing with my Garden.
Simonds has edited two anthologies: A Literary Companion to Gardens (2008) and A Literary Companion to the Night (2009). She has been writer-in-residence at Green College, University of British Columbia, and at the Whistler Vicious Circle. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia and privately mentors writers working in both fiction and creative nonfiction. She writes a monthly column, AboutBooks, in the Kingston Whig Standard and is Artistic Director of Kingston WritersFest. In 2012 she will published The Paradise Project, as a handmade book printed with a hand-operated 19th century press on paper made in part from plants in her garden.
Merilyn Simonds lives with writer and translator Wayne Grady on a small acreage north of Kingston, Ontario. She is a Loran Scholar mentor, a member of the McGill-Queen's Board of Directors, and Chair of The Writers' Union of Canada.