Careers

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While I’m not quite done yet, now isn’t a bad time to think about where my career has taken me and where it might lead next. Not that I’ve had a single career. Like many people I’ve had multiple occupations. Sometimes I focus on one and sometimes another and sometimes, like the last fifteen years or so, they have run in parallel.

Though I had a very brief career as a chemist consisting of a degree, a couple of summer jobs and one publishing credit in the Canadian Journal of Chemistry, my work has mostly been in public policy and in the arts. Skipping the former for the present (it’s hardly linear in any case) I’d like to spend a few minutes looking back on the latter.

Even as a teenager I had a tremendous interest in amateur drama and, of course, writing bad poetry. Though I didn’t pursue it professionally, the lure of the theatre was always there and when the opportunity came to again try my hand at acting, I jumped at it courtesy of the active community in Yellowknife. I had a few choice roles and a lot of bit parts before I realized my real skill was as a writer. So after writing a few scripts – one of which took me to the National Theatre Festival in 1989 – I left Yellowknife to pursue a career in the arts.

It was a – modest – success. I did some semi-professional acting and directing (that is I got paid though not a lot) but mostly began to write. I had some early successes, plays at Lunchbox Theatre in Calgary and, later, at a number of venues around Alberta. I won a few play competitions and then the 3-day-novel contest. A few short stories – literary ones on CBC and SF ones in a number of markets – followed. But eventually it became clear I wasn’t going to make much of a living as an artist so I turned to teaching and arts administration. I kept writing and was rewarded with regular, if not frequent, publication.

Then I went back to my other career in government. The pay was better and there was a possibility for a pension. That’s when my writing career really took off.

Three novels later and I was hitting my stride. I edited one anthology of short fiction and, after buying Bundoran Press, two more. I also edited six novels (with another soon to follow). The photo above shows all the books I’ve written or edited and all the magazines and anthologies I’ve appeared in. It doesn’t show the digital pubs of course, nor the plays. Those are more ephemeral. Nor does it show the dozens of workshops I’ve given, panels I’ve spoken on, or the conventions or conferences where I’ve been a featured guest.

Not bad for 25 years as a professional artist – though paltry compared to some of my more successful friends.

And from here? Well, my life as a public servant is almost over (except perhaps as a public intellectual) – I can see the exit from where I’m sitting – but I’m certainly not done writing or editing. I’ve got two mystery novels looking for a home as well as several stories on the market. And I’ve got a notebook full of ideas for more. Maybe that’s the best thing about a career in the arts – it can really go on forever. Even death may not stop it.

And that’s ten minutes.

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