Joseph Boyden

boyden-newInterview by Rachel Jansen

Joseph Boyden is a Canadian novelist whose books on First Nations people have been internationally acclaimed. His first novel, Three Day Road, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Award. Through Black Spruce, published in 2008, received the ScotiaBank Giller Prize. Most recently, Boyden published The Orenda; a thrilling epic that weaves together the lives of a Jesuit missionary, a captured Iroquois girl, and her captor, a great Huron Chief, in an unforgettable story of our past. On March 4th, The Orenda was announced the winner of CBC’s 2014 Canada Reads competition.

Boyden was born in Willowdale, Ontario. He completed his BFA in creative writing at York University, and then went on to earn his masters at the University of New Orleans. He currently splits his time between Louisiana and Northern Ontario, and teaches in the Optional Residency Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of British Columbia.

With his long list of credentials, and my deep admiration of his work, my hand shook as I dialed his number to conduct our interview over the phone. I soon found my anxiety dissipating; Boyden is humble, soft-spoken and quick-to-laugh.

What was your first publication?

I published a collection of poems in my undergrad. At the time there was something called Proem and they took a liking to a lot of the poetry that I was writing, the first time I tried to send out my work.
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Tyee Bridge

Tyee BridgeInterviewed by Andrea Hoff

Over the past fifteen years, Tyee Bridge has been writing essays and features on ecology, religion and urban culture. His work is gutsy and deeply researched, often exploring polarizing issues and drawing together unexpected narrative threads: the need for mythic stories in an era of information overload; a voyage to Antarctica and the pending apocalypse of Western Culture; an exploration of the fate of residential garbage in Vancouver from bin to landfill; the causes, cultural effects and possible solutions to Vancouver’s lack of affordable housing, to name just a few of the themes in his work.

His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Swerve magazine, Westworld, BC Business, and many other publications. He is the recipient of four National Magazine Awards and seven Western Magazine Awards since 2007.

He and fellow journalist Anne Casselman recently launched Nonvella, a publishing house dedicated to nonfiction novellas.

I caught up with Tyee Bridge via email at his home in Vancouver, BC to discuss the ideas behind Nonvella, his influences in writing, and what he envisions for the future of long-form journalism.

Can you chart the path you took into writing literary journalism?

I was physically inept and bookish from an early age. The first book that made an impression on me was D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, with the great illustrations, and I was always a fan of comic books—Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge, Spiderman, X-Men. I have an uncle who for some reason thought I would enjoy reading a box set of the collected essays and plays of Woody Allenat age 13 or so, which I did, and was permanently warped as a result. Fiction was sci-fi and fantasy: Tolkien, Herbert, Stephen King. I started to appreciate nonfiction and essays much later, mainly via the work of Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry.

As ridiculous as it might sound to anyone who is married to or otherwise financially entangled with a writer, what got me into writing nonfiction was realizing I needed to earn a living. Having run up my credit card while living in Portland and trying to write the Great Work of Metafiction That Would Change Everything, I hit the wall in more ways than one. I needed money and couldn’t go back to working in hotels and restaurants without having a panic attack. So I got into magazine freelancing. [Read more…]