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Laurier's Brantford campus
Laurier writer-in-residence Joseph Boyden working on third novel
Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
Laurier’s writer-in-residence Joseph Boyden likes to tell a good story. But he also wants to start a discussion about the cultural divide in Canada and the concern he has about the alarming number of teen suicides in the Aboriginal community.
Boyden is the author of Three Day Road and Through Black Spruce, the winner of the 2008 Giller Prize. While in Brantford Nov. 17 for public readings and a lecture, he announced he is working on the third novel in the trilogy, which will likely be out in spring 2013. He is also writing his first young adult novel.
“When I set out to write, my number one priority is to write a good story that people want to keep turning the pages on,” said Boyden. “The teen novel is helping to cleanse my pallet from the big novel I’m working on.”
Fans of his work attended a public reading at the Brantford Public Library Thursday afternoon. Boyden, who has a mixed heritage of Irish, Scottish and Métis, gave a public lecture in the evening at Laurier’s Brantford campus about the issue of teen suicide.
“I’ve become a bit of an advocate for taking away the stigma of suicide,” Boyden said earlier in the day. “I made a serious attempt at 16, and rather than be a shameful thing and a stigma I think we need to talk about it. Even if one youth hears about it and changes his or her mind, I’ve done something important.”
Boyden was inspired to start a not-for-profit organization in 2008 after hearing about dozens of attempted suicides in James Bay that occurred over a six-week period. Through his organization, he aims to help Aboriginal teens by taking them on hunting and fishing excursions.
“A lot of these kids haven't been out in the bush. Kids want to get out and do this now. I think it's helping. We need to get kids back on the land, Aboriginal or otherwise."
During his visit to the Brantford area, Boyden also gave a public reading Nov. 18 at Six Nations Polytechnic, located in the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.
Boyden, 45, currently splits his time between Northern Ontario and New Orleans, where he lives with his wife Amanda Boyden, who is also a writer. When asked what took Boyden to New Orleans in his mid-20s, he answers, “My motorcycle.”
This is around the same time that he decided he wanted to be a writer and had dreams of writing the great Canadian novel. He started writing a novel, but it wasn't working. His wife suggested he cut his teeth first on some short stories. He took her advice and the voices that kept calling to him were from his Ojibwe and Métis background. After writing a collection of short stories, he decided he was ready to try something bigger.
It took him almost five years to finish Three Day Road. When it was released it won numerous awards, including the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize.
“I felt very blessed as a young writer to have such success right off the bat. It was stunning to me,” Boyden said.
He says his second novel, Through Black Spruce, was fun to write. Much of the research had already been done with his first book. His third novel – the last in the trilogy – will feature three protagonists.
“It will tie the other two together and complete the circle,” he said.
Boyden will visit Laurier’s Waterloo campus in early 2012.