The books behind Alis the Aviator

I joke that I didn’t have to do too much research for Alis the Aviator – at least not specifically for it. What I did instead was immerse myself in aviation history for seven years leading up to it.

I started that journey in 2007 when I first sat down with John Bogie, former president of Laurentian Air Services (and Air Schefferville). The days and weeks I spent with him at his Ottawa office talking while digging through photos and documents, became the foundation for my first book.

(You’ll notice the Otter in Alis the Aviator has a distinctive paint scheme…)
I knew “G” had to be for Goose, like CF-BXR in that book. But also because my grandfather, Andre “Andy” Chenail, flew a Goose back in the 1950s.
And “W” would be for Waco – not for the city in Texas, but for this bi-plane that I’d first learned about during my Laurentian research.
My second book, Polar Winds: A Century of Flying the North, had me in the Western Arctic for months – which was my plan all along! I love it so much up there. So quite a few of the aircraft featured in Alis the Aviator appeared in that book (like this York).
One of my favourite things to research for Polar Winds was the airships, blimps and Zeppelin. And guess what starts with ‘Z’ in Alis the Aviator? You got it!
The story of Professor Leonard and his aerobatic feats above the skies of Dawson City, Yukon in the early 1900s filled the first chapter of Polar Winds. What a fascinating character!

And growing up near Gatineau, Quebec, I remember the sky filled with hot air balloons for the annual festival.

Reminiscing Over First Drafts

I was cleaning up my files and came across this – the first draft of what became Alis the Aviator! Looking at these pages brought up the memory of sitting on my little backyard patio in Edmonton in June 2014. My son, Andre, was about two years old at the time. I had finally gotten him down for his afternoon nap and I brought my favourite notepad out with these blank scrap pages (I like doing rough drafts or outlines this way. It feels way less precious. These pages were literally destined for the recycling bin anyway, so who cared if I made a mess!)

I had just finished my second aviation history book and I had so many random aviation facts in my brain. Like the poetry I wrote in my teens and twenties, I had been carrying around words and lines for days in my head. So when I sat down to write, it all came pouring out. Many of the aircraft and even the words are exactly the same now as they were in this draft!
I had fun playing around with rhyming words, trying to figure out how to fill the blank spots in the alphabet. All those years spent writing poetry and song lyrics really came into the process. It came down to rhythm, rhyme and a whole lot of fun!

Featured in VoyageHouston!

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail.

Danielle, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I just love the written word, and I have devoured books since I was little, so it makes sense that I devote my life to writing stories – my own and other people’s. I started freelance writing and editing with my middle school newspaper back in Canada and wrote angsty poetry and songs when I was a teenager. In university, I studied History and thought I’d become a professor, but the stories called me back. I published my first adult nonfiction book, For the Love of Flying, in 2009 and since then I’ve published two more: Polar Winds and In This Together (a collection of essays I edited). I’m now working on everything from kid’s books to novels and memoir, and in 2019, my first picture book – Alis the Aviator: An ABC Aviation Adventure – comes out.

To read full interview, please click here.

Alis the Aviator Available for Pre Order!

Only one month to go until my first picture book flies out into the world!

Some of you have been wondering how to get ahold of copies (thanks so much for asking!). Here are a few ways to track ’em down online and in person.

You can pre-order now for delivery or pickup, or you can wait until July 2nd – Alis’s official book birthday!

  • Indiebound (US) – do a search to find your closest independent bookstore. Then contact them to see if they have it in stock or get them to order it in!
  • Barnes & Noble (US)
  • Amazon
  • Chapters-Indigo (Canada)
  • Target is also carrying it, at least online.
  • And don’t forget your local library can always bring in a copy. You just have to request it through their website or a staff member!

And of course you can also come see me in person at launch events around North America. I’d love to say ‘hi’ and sign your book!

Finalist in Writers’ League of Texas contest!

I am thrilled to announce that one of my works in progress – HURTS – was a finalist for this year’s manuscript contest in the general nonfiction and memoir category.

I’m still pinching myself! In fact, it’s been about a month since I heard the news and I think it’s just sunk in.

After all, this is a book about Canada’s largest Indian Hospital written by a Canadian transplant living in Houston. Knowing that the topic and writing could connect with the judges despite the big geographic distance is a huge boost for when I dig back into the revisions later this year.

Congrats to all the winners and finalists!


The Sunday Painter by Antonia Angress


Orientation by Daniel Carlson
Possum Fields, A Novel by Pamela Diamond
Coalition by Katrina Murphy
Take My Life by Rachel Ballenger 
A Bark of Baser Kind by Sophia Veltfort
Lost by Charlotte Wyatt


WINNER (General Nonfiction)
Sleeping in a Sunset by Laurie Paternoster

WINNER (Memoir)
House, Mississippi by Ursula Pike


Closure: How Solving My Sister’s Murder Broke Me Open by Theresa Bastian
Gifts from Damascus by Susan McDonald
Hurts: Searching for the True Story of Canada’s Largest Indian Hospital by Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail
Every New Beginning by Tiffany Parcher



Far Away Bird by Douglas Burton


The Invisible Prisoner by Erica Hairston
Feevah by Brenda Hummel
Revolutionary Spirits by Matthew LaWall-Shane
Valadon: A Girl From Montmartre by Terri Taylor


When Marisol Goes Home by Susan San Miguel


Star Crossed by Dwayne Goetzel
Mind’s Construction by Matthew LaWall-Shane
Pharmacide by Elizabeth Steiner
The Ballad Panacea by Marcus Tyler


Cue the Corpse by Karen Duxbury

Grave Promise by Lisanne Davidson
An Instant Out of Time by Lori Roberts Herbst
Hollywood Down Low by Leigh Paulk


Love Fronts by Connie Estes Beale

Cartel Cover by Risa Leigh 
Flirty Romancing by Mary Ann Loesch
What Remains Behind by Rodney Walther


Not for Sale by James Peyton


Malt U.S. Cola by Dwayne Goetzel
Pharmacide by Elizabeth Steiner
Helpers by Rick Treon
Shine Your Eye by Rodney Walther 


Sleep Leap by Jennifer Voigt Kaplan


Lockjaw by Robin Cox
The Blue Hour by Erin Liles
A Night Without Light by Cathey Nickell
Enchanted Gulf by Noah Weisz


Icarus Flight School by Krissi Dallas


Off Edge by Carol Barreyre
The Ascenditure by R.S. Dabney
Revolutionary Spirits by Matthew LaWall-Shane
Sugarcoated by Melody Robinette

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.