Jan Coates – “What If…?”

“What if…?” It’s the beginning of every story. What if you met a blind woman in a used clothing store?  What if you were a seven-year-old boy struggling to survive in Africa without parents?  What if pigs could fly or a hurricane asked you to dance? Being a fiction writer means constantly wondering, imagining – how does it feel to be somebody else? It’s a lot like being nosy…
I live in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and I’m a writer and illustrator, a former teacher, and a mother.
my definition of home.
I grew up in Truro, NS (Janet Mingo) and went to Acadia University; I love my bike, travel, France, chocolate, Georgia, picture books and my family (not necessarily in that order). I’ve been writing for young readers since about 2000; it was a long and winding road until the publication of my first picture book, RAINBOWS IN THE DARK, in 2005, by Second Story Press of Toronto. I now have 5 trade novels published and 5 trade picture books, as well as 18 leveled readers published by Caramel Tree readers. My sixth novel for middle grade readers, THE HERMIT will be published by Nimbus in the spring of 2020.


If she could have only one food, she’d be torn between potato chips and apples. She learned to swim (and got over her fear of water – sort of) when she was 55! She loves Craftsman style houses (built in the 1930s and 1940s), and old stuff in general.
She can watch the sun sparkling on the water, ocean, lakes, rivers –  for hours. Even puddles. If she could have one wish granted, by say a fairy dogmother, it would be to see her kids every week, at least once or maybe twice… If she could have two wishes granted, she’d also wish to have a book published with HER name on the cover as author/illustrator!
My young adult novel, A HARE IN THE ELEPHANT’S TRUNK, (Red Deer Press), a fictionalized version of Jacob Deng’s story as a Lost Boy of Sudan, was a Finalist for the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Award (Children’s Text. Jacob now works as a Minister for Youth and Information in South Sudan. In reading through my “interesting” facts above, I’m proud to say one of my wishes has come true – my picture book, KARISSA & FELIX, a story of finding hope after loss, is now available, mainly through contacting me. I didn’t begin experimenting with art until three years ago – it’s never too late to try something new, and I’m having so much fun with my watercolor pencils! Please click on the “soul smiles” button above if you’d like to check out my cards.
Thanks so much for stopping by, and I hope you’ll get in touch:
or leave a message here. 


  1. Stirling’s Farm Market, Highway 1, Wolfville, Nova Scotia
  2. Select Coles/Chapters locations
  3. Select independent gift shops and bookshops such as the Dartmouth Book Exchange, Woozles, TattleTales (in Halifax and Dartmouth, The Inside Story (Greenwood, NS) and Blockshop Books and Lunenburg Bound in Lunenburg, NS.
  4. My publishers’ sites: Second Story Press, Red Deer Press, Nimbus Publishing, Pajama Press, Running the Goat Press and Nevermore Press
  5. Amazon.

Happy reading and writing! 



36 thoughts on “Jan Coates – “What If…?”

  1. Just wanted to say hello to a fellow NS writer. I hail from East Dalhousie not so far from Wolfville. Actually my brother in law lives in Wolfville.
    Haven’t heard of “Rainbows in the Dark” but I will make a point of getting a copy.

  2. jan coates

    Thanks for stopping by, Laura. We have a cottage at Horseshoe Lake, near New Ross – congratulations on your upcoming novel – isn’t “the call” an amazing experience? I’m in the middle of seeking a publisher for my middle grade novel – a not-so-amazing experience!

  3. Congratulations! Best wishes for continued success while pursuing something you love and were born to do! So very happy for you! Big Hugs! I’ll be watching BT in the morning and feeling so very proud!

  4. Cathy Cotton

    I very much enjoy your talk at the library conference in new Glasgow! I bought your new book -A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk for my daughter, it looks like a great read and very informative about the lost boys in Sudan. Rainbows in the Dark is another great book, I thought it would be a good addition to my library at Felix Marchand Educational Centre. Thanks again for signing both!

    1. Thank you so much, Cathy. The opinions and support of people who work with kids, and books for kids, daily is really significant to me. I totally enjoyed the librarians’ conference, too; especially the adult feedback (for a change).

  5. Hi Jan!

    I was just browsing your website hoping to find a link to the teaching guide that goes along with A Hare In The Elephant’s Trunk. I checked the publisher site and there is a link but for some reason I am unable to download the PDF. I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction.

    I also would like to say wonderful job on the book. I was fortunate enough to meet Jacob at Acadia. I remember going to one of his talks, and running into him often around campus. I am not sure if he remembers me but I certainly remember him and I am so pleased to see this book out there for young people to read. I am in the education program at UPEI and I have been talking it up when I can. I have a professor who teaches social studies as well as the Indigenous Education classes who has asked to borrow my copy.

    All the best,
    – Leila

  6. Hi, Leila:
    Thanks for getting in touch – I just went to the publisher’s site and clicked the “Educator’s Guide” link, and the guide downloaded instantly
    so I’m not sure what the problem might be. I’ll send you an RTF copy via email. HARE is approved for curriculum use by the NS Dept of Ed for Grade 9 ELA and Grade 12 Global Studies. We’re all pretty excited about the GG Nomination, and anxiously awaiting the announcement of the winners on November 15th. Jacob and I would very much like to be in attendance at Rideau Hall on November 24th!
    Best of luck with your studies, and thanks for your support.

  7. clmackay

    Dear Jane,
    My 10 year old daughter received a signed copy of The Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk for Christmas. She read it quite quickly and then, so did I. It is now her favorite book and I was really impressed with it. It is a truly amazing story and you did a fantastic job of telling it. I feel very grateful that my daughter is able to read a book like this that can take her from the little universe in which she is so comfortable and plunge her into a reality that makes her think and reassess her life. Thank you and Jacob very much for sharing this incredible story.

    1. Thank you so much for telling me about your experience with my novel. Before the book was published, Jacob and I were hopeful it might empower some young readers to initiate change, either in their own lives, or in the lives of those in the world at large. I had readers between the ages of 10 and 15 in mind when writing the story, so I’m happy to hear your ten-year-old daughter (and you) enjoyed the book.

  8. Jan Coates

    had to write you i seen your name on facebook and had a chuckle my name is Jan L Coates as well. I live in lake Echo Nova Scotia quite a coincendence for sure

  9. Marion Van Driel

    How very delightful! From the other side of the country, I’ve actually been in Truro and hope to return one day. I have written two children’s books but not been brave enough to release them yet…

  10. Thanks for stopping by, Marion – finding a publisher is such a huge part of being an author, and it’s really useful to read hundreds of kids’ books along the way – I still read several every single week – there’s always so much to learn from other writers!

  11. Elly Oskam

    Hi Jan
    I am taking a course as part of my master’s degree in education at the University of Lethbridge in southern Alberta. Our professor, Robin Bright, has introduced us in more depth to various genres and formats of children and young adult literature, and we have spent considerable time discussing the importance of having Canadian authors in our classrooms. Robin’s daughter, Amy, brought in a number of books, of which A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk was one, and it really caught my attention. Since one of the assignments asked us to research a Canadian author, I was interested in finding out a bit more about you and your writings. Can you give me a bit more insight as to what got you into writing?
    Thanks so much!

  12. Bonna Chapman

    Hi Jan,
    I’m a friend of Nancy’s. Plus I ran into Karri and she said I should email you.
    I’ve been looking for an agent.
    Have any names for me I need help!


    1. Hi, Bonna: I’m assuming you mean Nancy, my sister? And Kari Thornton? I don’t have an agent, so I can’t help you. Seems there are very few Canadian literary agents, but I’m sure the WFNS can provide you with a list of agents. Good luck!

  13. Paula

    Excited to read your book, The Power of Harmany. We received it today for our classroom. I am a teacher in NB. The students and I were excited when we read that it was set in Springhill, NS (my hometown) and that you went to Acadia (so did I)

    1. Hi, Paula – thanks so much for getting in touch. I grew up in Truro, but set the book in Springhill because I wanted to include Anne Murray as it’s a book about singing, among other things. My mother-in-law is living in the nursing home in Springhill right now. I’d love to hear from your students if any of them get around to reading it – are you involved in the Hackmatack program? Cheers!

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  15. Trystan Cutts

    hi jan i am a student studying “a hare in the elephants trunk” and i need to learn about your cultural, social, political, and economic influences on the story. i just have 1 question? what really inspired you to write the story.

    1. Hey, Trystan: Thanks for getting in touch. Have you read the interviews at the back of the book? I think they might help answer that question, but the short answer is that I wrote a 400-word article about Jacob for the Acadia University Alumni Bulletin (he was a student there at that time). While interviewing him for that article, we spent two hours together, and I walked out of the coffee shop determined to do something to help his efforts in South Sudan. He’s an incredible person and has since built a school in South Sudan; he’s currently working in South Sudan in a government position, despite the fact his wife and three young children remain here in Nova Scotia. Hope that helps!

      1. Trystan Cutts

        wow! you actually replied haha, being a big author I wasn’t expecting you too, thank you. this helped alot and i now have an idea of what inspired you.

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  17. Claire

    Hi I’m doing a project about A Hare in the Elephants Trunk mixed with the Southern Sudan Civil War for my world cultures class. I was wondering if you have any videos or information I can show the class about Jacob, the book, or the war. Any information you may have would be great!

    1. Hi, Claire:

      Thanks for getting in touch! Here’s a link to a short TV interview Jacob did in the fall of 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYxrduJj6YE Jacob is currently working as a Deputy Commissioner in South Sudan, despite the fact his wife and three young children are here in Nova Scotia. He’s determined to make a difference in his homeland.

      and the book trailer I made for the novel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpXx3mpV4os

      Hope these links work for you; if not, you can find them easily through Google. Best of luck!


  18. I have been looking at your pictures and found RAINBOWS IN THE DARK showing a picture of my cousin Alice Priestly. I am an illustrator too….my website Bernadette Watts Official Wedsite was created by Alice. I only have an old laptop and cannot print off anything. If I sent you an envelope and postage cost please could you send me a copy ? I hope you get this message

    1. Hi, Bernadette – thanks for touching base. I see Alice’s work on your website! Lovely books you’ve created. I’m not sure what you’re looking for – is it the photo of me with Alice? If so, I can send you the image through email if you give me your address. Jan

      1. Thankyou!It shows you and Alice sitting together…..she looks younger than 55 so maybe old photo.
        you are in a lovely room, green ceiling , pictures on the wall. No other people or animals.
        If you send it as a straightforward email…..no “files” etc as I can’t cope with anything sophisticated…..I could get someone to print it off for me and then I can put it into my Family Album and notebook which goes back several generations. My great grandfather was Alices great great grandfather. we are also related to Walter Langley, painter, and to William IV King of England.
        info@bernadettewatts co.uk both ought to work!
        the photo has a title….Rainbows in The Dark.

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    1. Hey, David – thanks for the congrats. Hope your daughter’s enjoying Wolfville – we could have coffee if you’re ever in town. I’m a grandma x 2 now, one kid in Kingston, ON and the other in Toronto. Cheers!

      1. My daughter is in third year, and looking to do graduate work. She loves Wolfville and Acadia. I usually get to Nova Scotia once or twice a year. Must be nice having grandkids!
        All the best, Janet

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