Interview with Wayne Arthurson, 2023-24 Writer-in-Residence

Garrett Faulkner caught up with Wayne in October 2023 to talk about his work, finding community as a writer, and his efforts to represent other authors.

What do you write about and what are you working on now?

I've written about a wide variety of topics in my career, but am known for my crime fiction, many times as it relates to urban Indigenous experience. But not exclusively. At the moment, I'm finishing up the edits on a crime novel, and once that's completed I will work on a novel that starts as a mystery but slowly transforms into a Cold War political thriller.

Describe your role as Writer-in-Residence and what you will be doing this year at U of A. How are you hoping to engage with students, the campus community, and Edmonton literary scene?

I'm going to be flexible and try not to fully define my role as Writer-in-Residence. There are many facets to the position, including reading and commenting on submissions from students, staff and Edmonton writers, responding to invitations to visit classes, and being open to the needs of writers on campus and off in any way I can. Writing can be a solitary experience and sometimes a writer in residence role is to just connect with writers, in a group or individually, and through conversation provide a sense of – I don't know, maybe hope, or at least the feeling that you're not alone in choosing to be a write in whatever stage your career is. Or you just like to write, whether you choose to make it a "career" or not.

You're also a prolific writer of nonfiction. How do you go in search of real-life topics?

I don't really specifically search for topics to write about. Sometimes I'm hired to write about these topics and sometimes I just discover them on my own and find a way to get to write about them.

Many will be interested to know you also have experience as a literary agent. Could you speak more to your work in this role?

I've been a literary agent for a number of years, first as an independent one and now as an agent at large for an agency. It wasn't a career path I set out to have. I sort of fell into it as I was assisting and advising other writers on various business aspects of their career contracts — rights, query letters, etc. — and was asked by a couple to be their agent. And then it expanded from there. It's just a sort of an extension of what I was doing for myself as a writer on the business and industry side and now I'm doing that, and more, for other writers. In the past year, I've managed to finalize eight deals of various types for writers I represent, including one for myself.

With so much experience in the literary and publishing world, what guidance would you give to a writer in the early stages of their career?

I would just say that there is no correct or proper way to be a writer or to write. Find the process of writing that works for you, don't think about publication and audience when you're working on something (unless you've been specifically hired to do so); just write something that pleases you first and then maybe see if other people, including editors, agents, beta readers like it. Then take all comments on your work and advice from other writers and others in the industry with a grain of salt and trust your gut on what you think works for you and the work and what doesn't. And finally, remember to enjoy yourself. Writing is hard work but there should also be a lot of joy in writing.