Ex-navy, ex-banker, now novelist, journalist and professor.

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What we talk about when we talk about buyers’ pain

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Remember how Vancouver always used to rank top-5 in those most liveable cities lists? Yeah, I know. Most liveable if you have a few million for a house. But still. There we are in 2017. Number 3 according to MSNBC. What doesn’t get mentioned as often is our senior ranking on another set of lists.…

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Does your Myers-Briggs personality type predict Social Media Dependency?

My kid is going through the Science Fair years. In the past he’s done projects on his family history, on friction effects and probably several I’m forgetting. This year he tackled a hot-button topic. He decided to test whether social media dependency could be predicted by knowing a person’s Myers Briggs personality type. I say…

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Negative Empathy

Should writers of fiction review the work of colleagues? I avoid it personally, and my rational for doing is the basis for my side of a debate that was part of the CBC Literary Smackdown series a couple of years back. The other side of the issue was taken by esteemed Victoria-based novelist and nonfiction writer Robert Weirsma, who also writes a…

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FALLUJAH

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The Incredible Story of a Marine and his Opera I received one of the commission of my career in 2012. 20 years in freelancing. Hundreds and hundreds of published pieces in great magazines. And I finally got my first commission from Harpers. That was a big deal to me. And the story was big too.…

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A lesson writers can learn from architecture

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I worked on a novel project some years back that involved doing a lot of research into architecture. I interview architects trying to pick up ideas about how they spoke and thought. I walked around downtown Vancouver and central London with different architects trying to get a sense of how they see. It was all…

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How to Cook Very Difficult Food

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It was while I was attempting to make “soil” that it occurred to me that my experiment with very difficult dinners might drive me insane. This is edible soil, from the cookbook by René Redzepi, chef at the world’s most buzzy restaurant, Noma, in Copenhagen. Noma’s soil is sprinkled on a dish called “vegetable field,”…

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A Taxonomy of Unreliable Characters

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I get asked about unreliable characters a lot, a device that’s been used extensively in storytelling through the ages. Twentieth century novels like Lolita, Fight Club and Life of Pi come to mind. Maybe my students are extra interested in unreliability these days because of what’s happening in politics. I can’t say for sure. But…

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Ai Weiwei’s New York Photographs

This is the transcript of an address given 13 Nov 2014 at the Belkin Gallery in Vancouver. — Thanks everyone for being here. And thank you Shelly Rosenblum and the Belkin Gallery for inviting me. I’ve only been full time faculty here for 18 months or so. And one thing I didn’t know to anticipate were these cross-disciplinary conversations that…

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RIP Paul Walker

Paul Walker

Not a lot of RIP Paul Walker posts in my various feeds this morning, despite the Fast and the Furious lead having died a grisly death on Saturday. I guess Walker doesn’t have big profile in the literary scene. His films were middle brow. His acting wasn’t overly nuanced. So he died in the burning wreck…

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A New Phase in an Unpredictable Writing Career

My writing career started an unbelievable 25 years ago in an unbelievable place: banking. I can’t say it was by accident either. I started university as cluelessly as many (most?) students, thinking only that I was suited for the corporate life and with hardly a thought for what the content of a satisfying work day…

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