JoAnn McCaig was born in 1953 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. She moved west with her family in 1960 and has called Calgary home for half a century or so. She came of age in the late 60's and early 70's and formative experiences of her young life included seeing the Beatles at Maple Leaf Gardens age 12, catching the Grateful Dead with Jefferson Airplane at the Okeefe Centre at age 14, and attending Festival Express at McMahon Stadium in 1970 – Janis Joplin’s last live performance.
Her first writing job came in 1976, when she was hired as an advertising copywriter at an AM radio station in Kamloops, BC. Her next venture was an industrial video production company in which she wrote and produced educational video programs for a variety of clients. Back to school she went in the early 80's and the academic study of English literature dominated her life – BA from UVic 1983, followed by an MA (1989) and PhD (1996) from the University of Calgary. From 1989 to 2009, she worked as a sessional lecturer in the English Department at the University of Calgary (and briefly at St. Mary’s University), and in that twenty year period, she ensured that hundreds of students not only overcame their Fear of Poetry, but also learned how to use the semicolon correctly. (In fact, despite having left the teaching profession, she remains a fierce grammar nazi, and has been known to end friendships over incorrect use of the apostrophe.) In the year 2000, she published her first novel, The Textbook of the Rose, with Cormorant Books. The novel was shortlisted for the Georges Bugnet Award and it won the WO Mitchell City of Calgary Book Prize in 2001.
In 2002, JoAnn published a scholarly book based on her doctoral research. It was titled Reading In: Alice Munro’s Archive and was published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press. This book has been adopted in archival science and cultural studies graduate courses in Canada and the U.S. She has appeared on CBC radio as a book expert and has published reviews in various venues, most recently Alberta Views. In 2007, JoAnn joined the Board of Directors at Broadview Press, an independent academic publisher headquartered in Calgary. The following year, she became a founding board member of Broadview’s literary wing, Freehand Books and she continues to sit on Freehand’s editorial and management boards. In 2010, she realized a lifelong dream by opening a bookstore, Shelf Life Books, in Calgary’s inner city Beltine area – thereby making the circle of bookishness complete.