Of Earthly and River Things

Author, writer and avid sportsman, Wayne Curtis is one of Atlantic Canada’s finest and most prolific writers. In his latest work, Of Earthly and River Things: An Angler's Memoir, Curtis voyages back through the tributaries of his past, throwing a pastoral net over the backwaters of his childhood to ensnare the sepia-tinged moments of love, loss, and life lessons gleaned through his rise to maturity on the waterways of New Brunswick. Recently he spoke with AE about the new book.

What inspired you to put this book together?
I wrote this book because I felt an obligation to do it for the river people, in the river people's voice and from their point of view. As someone who comes from a family that has been living on the river for two centuries - and because I write - I wanted to record the events and feelings for posterity.

Did the work come together quickly or did you really need to work at it?
Once I started the book and was on my way, things just fell into place, commencing with the small boy to the old man in chronological order. Still it was a couple of years in the making.

What was the most challenging aspect of the process?  
The most challenging was trying to tell it in words but also in the natural symbols (which is a language higher than words) the different moods of the river people, how the landscape and the river-scape controls our lives and how we feel about foreign ownership and the loss of the river community - now reduced to cottage country - as it used to be. 

What was the most rewarding part of the experience?
To have the river people read it and say that I had written just what they felt and thank me for doing it.

What did you learn during the process?
I learned that the river people have a spirit that we share in the same way that mountain people or prairie people have a common spirit. We are all held together by our love for a river that flows through our veins.  River people are like a cult in that regard.

How did you feel when the book was completed?
I felt that I had done justice to the river people, although I only scratched the surface.

What has the response been like so far from those that have read it?
So far the reviews have been excellent and the river people - who are my readers and my principle concern because I wrote it in their voice - have praised the book and a testament to the river way of life.

What's next on your creative agenda?
I'm working on a novel (set elsewhere) and I have a collection of Christmas stories I'm hoping to get published soon.

What made you want to be a writer?
I have always wanted to be a writer. Since school days in the fifties I have been a writer of stories. When I was in elementary school I wrote stories and sent them to my mentor Sinclair Ross, a great writer from Saskatchewan. He would say "You have the idea but you have to learn to cut a hundred words."

What do your family and friends think of your vocation?
My family is supportive and my friends, who are mostly writers - Alistair Macleod, David Adams Richards, Sheree Fitch, Harry Thurston and others have been supportive since day one. Mr. Ross has been dead for years.

What makes a good book?
Honesty and heart; I try to move the reader to tears of sadness and or joy.

What are your thoughts on Canadian literature today?
I have to say that I haven't been reading it, save for the above mentioned writers, I've been reading Russian, French and Latin American writers. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write from your own experiences and from your own heart.  That's the only way to find uniqueness and we must be unique, use our own brush stroke to be success artists. Individualism is seldom found in the classroom or on a computer screen, you have to live the experience to describe it with feelings.