Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel Picture (credit Jim Gillett).jpgBy Russell Hirsch

Kenneth Oppel is one of Canada’s leading authors for young adults. His Silverwing series about the adventures of migrating bats captivated a generation of readers and earned him the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award in both 1998 and 2000. In 2004, Ken won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Literature with his novel Airborn. Born in 1967 in Port Alberni, British Columbia, Ken grew up in Victoria, BC and Halifax, NS. After publishing his first novel, Colin’s Fantastic Video Adventure, at age 17, he obtained a degree in Cinema Studies and English from the University of Toronto. He has lived in England, Ireland and Newfoundland and is now based in Toronto. I had the opportunity to hear Ken talk to the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable last October and was inspired to touch base with him.

What’s the earliest story you remember writing as a kid and what were the books or films influencing you at the time?

In grade five I launched into a sci-fi epic called Starship (later retitled Rebellion) which was a shameless rip off of Star Wars. I lived and breathed Star Wars at that time. I wrote many chapters in a Hilroy school exercise book before abandoning it.

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Richard Van Camp

Richard Van CampBy Curtis LeBlanc

Richard Van Camp is the author of twelve books and a proud member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Fort Smith, North West Territories. He is a graduate of the En’owkin International School of Writing, the University of Victoria’s Creative Writing BFA Program, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia.

Richard was a major factor in my decision to come to Vancouver and pursue a BFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. After studying his novel The Lesser Blessed in an introductory English Literature class at the University of Alberta, I began researching Richard and found his name coming up often in connection with UBC. That spring, I promptly submitted my application to transfer.

More recently, I connected with him on Twitter (@richardvancamp) and asked if he would be willing to do an interview. As I believe is evident in the following email exchange, Richard Van Camp is as funny, tender, and incredibly generous as his writing suggests.

First: a quick one for you Richard. Top three favourite authors?

My top three favourite answers at this point in time are:

  1. Gregg Hurwitz for The Punisher’s Girls in White Dresses (Marvel). For anyone doubting the authenticity of graphic novels today, check out this tale of brutal violence and redemption.
  2. The writing team of Mike Costa and Christos N. Gage for the IDW graphic novel GI Joe: Cobra -The Last Laugh. This series follows “Chuckles”, a GI Joe operative hell bent on infiltrating Cobra. It’s ruthless, terrifying and a story I think should be mandatory for all creative writing students. The research that went into this narrative is mind-blowing and I’ve read the series three times now. I know I’ll go back many, many times as it’s an instant classic: right up there with Elektra Assassin and The Walking Dead.
  3. Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead (Image Comics) is one I’ve followed for years and it just does not let up. The thing about Kirkman’s writing is he makes it very clear that in the zombie apocalypse, it’s not the zombies you have to worry about: it’s the humans. [Read more…]

Mary Schendlinger

MarySchendlingerBy Tristan Koster

A lot of us have dreams of writing a bestseller or that groundbreaking article, but very little of that ever comes to light without the work of accomplished editors and publishers. For more than forty years Mary Schendlinger has been editing and publishing literary works. She’s also a writer who specializes in comics and creative nonfiction, much of which has been published in the literary magazine that she co-founded: Geist.

In addition Mary is the author of Prepare to be Amazed: The Geniuses of Modern Magic, Power Parenting Your Teenager, The Little Greenish-Brown Book of Slugs and many articles, comics and reviews. She has edited books for Douglas & McIntyre, Greystone Books, Raincoast Books, Heritage House, Calypso Books, and Arsenal Pulp Press, and has worked as the editorial/production assistant and promotions manager in-house at Talonbooks and Harbour Publishing. She teaches both at UBC and SFU.

In an email correspondence she described her career as “not a very commercially successful one” but Mary has been able to support herself and her family and her path reflects the kind of career that many of us could only dream of.

What got you started writing?

I don’t know because I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I was just one of those kids who was always writing stories. There are some comics that I made; I thought they were just little pictures with words on them. Many years later I found out they were comics. I didn’t know they were comics at the time, first of all because I was little, and second because my dad disapproved of comics so we didn’t have any around. It’s probably why I like them so much. My dad was a great guy but he disapproved. Later I did other things, to make a living, and I had kids. But the writing was always there.

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Charles Demers

CharlieDemersby Rob Peters

Born and raised in Vancouver, Charles Demers has published two books: The Prescription Errors, a novel, and Vancouver Special, a collection of essays, which was shortlisted for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize. He regularly performs comedy at live venues across Canada and on CBC Radio One, where he has been described as “Truly one of the smartest comics out there.” He often appears on The Debaters and This is That. He’s written extensively for television, radio, stage, and the web, and he works as an adjunct professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of British Columbia.

You’re often introduced as a writer, comedian, and political activist, usually in that order. Which of those labels do you most strongly identify with?

The cop-out-but-sort-of-true answer is: it depends on the situation. They’re overlapping categories to a certain extent, and I think I’m happiest, or most satisfied, when I get to engage all of them at once. One of the greatest moments of my professional life in the past several years was at a CBC Debaters taping in Saskatoon, where I was arguing for  Tommy Douglas. It scratched a lot of itches at once: I got to write something that I felt was smart and funny, I got to perform it for a super hot crowd, and I got to slather the whole thing in socialism. A while back we did a taping in Kelowna, and I argued that it was time to give Karl Marx another look, and I won the debate; normally we don’t care who wins or loses, it’s like wrestling, but to win for Karl Marx in the middle of one of the most conservative places in Canada, and to have made the audience laugh, felt very nice.

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