I was never the best student; I abhorred being told what to do. And what made matters worse was going to a boys school where I was condemned to wearing a blazer and tie. Most teachers said that I had an attitude, and I suppose I did. And so when I finally graduated, it was like being released from prison. I was free at last.
The one thing I really liked about school was writing. I wrote my first story in Grade 4. I liked the idea of telling a story. And I liked getting it right. My writing was problematic, to say the least, when I was a teenager, but I finally began to get a sense of the narrative in university and then when I started to travel and see the world. My first real moment of literary certitude happened about halfway through writing my first novel – in Paris no less – when Chantal, a character I thought I had expunged from the story, insisted on coming back. She insisted on it, not me. That’s when I knew I might be on to something. After that, I wrote all the time and to pay the bills, took on various jobs – closed caption editor and newspaper columnist. This went on for years. I completed five novels and two screenplays and an assortment of short stories and articles, but nothing was getting published. I thought about getting a real job and decided to try to teach. I liked the idea of working with teenagers. They saw life with wide open eyes. They made me laugh. I wasn’t sure of the profession at first. As much as I enjoyed working with students and leading class discussions, I never felt comfortable in the role of task-master. As well, I didn’t have much of a hankering for the marking – never saw the point in it – and always struggled with the politics of the industry. However the students were the thing. No matter how I felt each morning – whether inspired or completely dull-witted – the first student of the day, that first person to walk into the room, would manage to engage me and the day would just go from there. It was always fun. With teenagers, the cachinnation and merriment were never-ending.
I am still writing. My prose is always improving. I expect to have a novel published soon. But I teach now too, and I like it. I’m starting to think that I should write a book about that.