Short bio

Ami McKay’s debut novel, The Birth House was a # 1 bestseller in Canada, winner of three CBA Libris Awards, nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and a book club favourite around the world. Her new novel. The Virgin Cure, is inspired by the life of her great- great grandmother, Dr. Sarah Fonda Mackintosh, a female physician in nineteenth century New York. Born and raised in Indiana, Ami now lives in Nova Scotia.


Long bio

I was born and raised in rural Indiana. Between cornfields and Interstate-65 I learned to tell tall tales, play the piano and drive a yellow 1972 VW Super-Beetle.

After an undergraduate degree in Music Education and graduate studies in musicology at Indiana State University, I moved to Chicago to teach music at an inner city high school for the arts.

While my days were focused on teaching music, I spent most of my nights filling notebooks and journals with short stories and ideas for novels. Trying to make my way in the Windy city as the single mother of a two-year-old, I kept my words to myself, having decided that a career in writing would have to wait. In the meantime, I kept a copy of a Time magazine article about Toni Morrison (along with my notebooks) hidden under my bed. I read the article whenever I felt down, and drew a large red circle around her recollection of her child spitting up on the manuscript of her first novel.

In 2000, I moved to Scots Bay, Nova Scotia (For the love of a good Canadian man.) The prolonged wait for my residency papers to be processed gave me plenty of time to embrace the writing life. (Thank-You Immigration Canada) After much prodding from my partner, I agreed to start sending my writing out into the world. In an effort to start small, I chose the year 2000 as ‘the year of writing thank-you notes to people I don’t know.’ My first attempt, led to an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Once people stopped looking at me like, “haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”, I took bigger steps towards the writing life. A summer workshop on “Writing for Radio” opened new doors and the opportunity to combine my love of music and sound with my passion for writing. This experience led to writing and producing documentaries for CBC radio as well as other freelance assignments. In 2003, an apprenticeship in the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia’s mentorship program gave me the excuse I needed to complete a first draft of The Birth House.

Now, every day is a writing day. There are still mounds of laundry to be done and bedtime stories to be read, but it’s all worth it when there’s a notebook waiting…on my desk, on the kitchen table…under the bed.

Awards and Recognition


CBA Libris Award Nominee “Book of the Year” (The Virgin Cure)
O Magazine “The Books of Summer” pick (The Virgin Cure)
Book of the Month Club “Blue Ribbon Pick” (The Virgin Cure)


CBC Canada Reads top 5 finalist for “Book of the Decade” (The Birth House)

Robert Meritt Award (co-winner with Allen Cole) for Outstanding Sound Design or Original Score for the 2008 production of Jerome: The Historical Spectacle produced by Two Planks and Passion Theatre Company.

Robert Merritt Award (nominee) for Outstanding New Play by a Nova Scotian Playwright

Evergreen Award. Presented by the Ontario Librarian’s Assoc.
CBA Libris Award  – Fiction Book of the Year

CBA Libris Award – Author of the Year
CBA Libris Award –Book Design of the Year (Kelly Hill)
Booksellers’ Choice Award – AIBA
Long listed –International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Short list –Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize
Quill and Quire Books of the Year
Toronto Star #1 Book of Original Fiction
Reader’s Pick – Irish Times

Discover Great New Writers Holiday Selection – Barnes and Noble
ABA Booksense Notable
Heather’s Pick – Chapters Indigo
Knopf Canada’s New Face of Fiction

Atlantic Journalism Awards – Excellence in Journalism Award (Finalist in the Feature Writing for Radio Category, Daughter of Family G)


Writing Credits



Writers’ Union of Canada
The Writers Federation of Nova Scotia – Writer’s Council Member
PEN Canada & the PEN Canada Rapid Action Network
Ross Creek Centre for the Arts – Writing Fellow
Historical Novel Society

Festivals, Appearances and Readings

Ontario Library Association Super Conference
Atlantic Public Libraries Conference
Read for the Cure
VIWF Incite Series
Grimsby Author Series
Northrup Frye Festival
Halifax Club Literary Luncheons
Bonnie Stern book club
Brescia College Sophia Lecture
Read by The Sea – River John, NS
International Festival of Authors – Toronto
Halifax International Writers’ Festival – Halifax
Word on the Street – Halifax
BookFest Windsor – Windsor, ON
Booked – Book Expo Canada – Toronto
Ottawa Writers Festival – Ottawa
Atlantic Book Festival
Halifax Public Libraries
Wolfville Public Library
St. John’s Public Libraries
Toronto Reference Library
National Library and Archives – Ottawa
Museum of Civilization – Ottawa
Edmonton Public Libraries
Calgary Public Libraries
Acadia University
Fieldwood Heritage Society
ArtCan Café
Canadian Association of Midwives
Macdonald Museum
Creative Writing Workshop Instructor – Ross Creek Centre for the Arts


  1. Pingback: The Virgin Cure | Melissa's Online Book Club

  2. susan curtis

    Dear Ms. McKay,

    I am a book blogger and a book club moderator. I read your last novel, Birth House before I was a book blogger. I enjoyed, but did not post because I was not a book blogger.

    I am interested in reading and reviewing your novel, Virgin Cure. If you would like to visit my blog at I love anything with historical fiction. If you would forward this to your publicist. I would appreciate it.

    I blog as a hobby not for monetary gain,

    Thank you for your time and attention.

  3. Samara Graves

    Wow! I just finished reading The Birth House in 3 sittings. I literally just put the book down and decided that I needed to leave a comment.

    I am originally from Halls Harbour, now living in Ottawa. I had many friends from Scots Bay during high school at Cornwallis District High. Reading this book makes me miss home. It was so fun to read a book set in my old stomping grounds and to see names like Huntley, Tupper and Bigelow.

    The writing was superb and the story line kept me engaged and dying to know how Dora’s life would turn out. I usually go for fantasy and murder mystery, but this book was recommended to me by a co-worker (as she knows I am from NS and thought I may get a kick out of the book) and she told me it was a great story -and that it was!

    I highly recommend this book. Thanks Ami for giving me a taste of home, which I do dearly miss.

    Samara Graves

  4. Laurie Ann Storring

    Just finished The Birth House in two goes….wonderful. Thank you!!!

  5. Ami

    Thanks for reading! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  6. Alison Schwarz

    The Virgin Cure is one of my favorite novels. I named my rescued white and cream chihuahua after Moth. I get strange looks sometimes from people when I tell them her name but after reading your novel, I think Moth is a beautiful name.

  7. Herleena

    Hello Mrs. McKay
    I am a student and we have to write an essay based on incidents that took place in your life and influenced you to write the birth house and virgin cure…the 3 influences that we have chosen are personal, social and cultural. Since you are fairly a new writer there is not any information out there about you. It would be great if you could give us a few examples on each. So… any influences that include family beliefs, and structure; any cultural thoughts that may have influenced you; and a few personal experiences. If you could back to us as soon as possible, that would be great. We read both of the marvellous pieces might I add. They were exceptional. We hope to hear from you

  8. Becky

    I cannot put this book down.
    My friend told me about this book and I searched the internet and finally found it! I was so excited to read it i had shipped overnight to my house. I absolutely love it! I am expecting my 3rd child and I am connecting with almost every character.. since this will most likely be my last pregnancy, I am embracing it and your book is helping! I will pass it along to my sister so she can enjoy during her pregnancy.

  9. Ann

    I LOVED your book! Can’t wait to read more of your GREAT writing!
    Thanks so much!

  10. Amanda

    I absolutely loved both of these novels…my passion is midwifery so as you can imagine I couldn’t put them down…..when is the third novel coming lol….your a great writer!!!

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