Many years ago, I interviewed a man who worked as a TV writer. I had finished my B.A. (First-Class Honours English, Film and Communications) from McGill University in Montreal. I was now enrolled at the ripe old age of 21 in a graduate program in communications at Concordia University, also in Montreal.
So, there I was in this guy’s apartment, perched on his sofa asking questions for my research project. I don’t remember the research topic and I don’t remember the questions.
I do remember that at some point I confessed I really wanted to be an actor. But — I also yearned to be a writer. I didn’t know what to do with my life.
His advice was unequivocal. “Be an actor while you’re young. You can always be a writer when you’re 40.” Or words to that effect.
Oddly enough, that’s almost exactly what happened.I worked as a professional actor for 12 years and performed in more than 60 stage productions.
I went on to work in arts administration, where I wrote study guides, press releases, newsletters, brochures, and successful grant applications. I also dabbled in fiction, screenplays, and stage plays.
In 1994, I won first prize in the 24-Hour Playwrighting Competition at Vancouver’s New Play Centre (now named the Playwrights Theatre Centre). My play helped me win an Explorations grant from the Canada Council for the Arts and then a grant from the Vancouver Foundation. Along the way, I completed a one-year Certificate in Publishing from Simon Fraser University.
Eventually, I landed a job at a university, where I wrote letters asking people to donate to their alma mater.
I decided I liked universities so much that I worked at quite a number of them — where I’ve written magazine cover stories, feature articles, news stories, speeches, media releases, web copy, email broadcasts, video scripts, direct mail collateral, funding proposals, cases for support, brochures, newsletters, annual reports, institutional documents, advertising copy, posts, blurbs, and tweets. And more letters.