At a recent Words on Water event at the Newcastle Public Library, a series of engraved wood plaques crafted by local artist Gloria Savoie was unveiled. They are to mark the “indoor” portion of the Miramichi Literary Trail. In attendance were the authors Sandra Bunting, Chuck Bowie, Doug Underhill, and Wayne Curtis. All read from their works and there was much conversation afterword. The biggest buzz revolved around the news that Wayne Curtis recently received the New Brunswick Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for the Literary Arts. In receiving this acknowledgement for his lifetime of contributions, he joins such past winners as M. Travis Lane, Beth Powning, and the late Raymond Fraser, another Miramichi native.
I was able to speak with Wayne at length both in person at the event and later, via email from his Fredericton home regarding this recognition. “I was delighted to get the news. Awards like this give legitimacy to what I am trying to achieve. Plus It is good to be in the company of writers like Lane and Fraser,” he stated.
Author Doug Underhill from the podium paid tribute to the high degree of detail in Wayne’s writing. In speaking with him afterward, I mentioned this, for I was in total agreement with Mr. Underhill. Wayne responded: “I am a sentimentalist by nature so I tend to dig deep into the grassroots of the matter, get down to the heart feelings. I feel more so I suffer more.” However, he mentioned that he tends to get too sentimental the more he reflects back on all that he has seen and experienced: “Sentiment can be both a virtue and a curse in that regard. I grieve about things that may go unnoticed to other people; things like the loss of the bat, the demise of our Canadian songbirds or the plight of the Atlantic Salmon.” Endowed with an amazing memory, it seems nothing escapes his notice, particularly in the New Brunswick outdoors, yet one that has changed a lot since his younger days spent growing up in the nearby rural community of Keenan. “I grieve about the changing of the seasons, both literal and metaphoric.”
I also asked Mr. Curtis if we could expect anything new from him: “I have a book coming out in the spring. It is called Winter Road, a collection of short stories that lead us from spring to winter, youth to old age. It should be around in April. I am now working on my 20th book, possibly my last, as I am getting on in years.” Mr. Curtis excels in the short story genre; Alistair MacLeod described him as “a master of short fiction,” To date, he has written seven collections of short stories, eight books of non-fiction (essays), three novels and a book of poetry.
The Awards were presented to the laureates by the Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick at a gala held at the Lieutenant-Governor’s residence on 4 November 2019. I asked Mr. Curtis if he was going to buy a new suit for the occasion. He wryly responded: “I do not need a new suit. I have a good black suit that is in style and a black tie.”
It sounds like he’s all set!
The Lieutenant-Governor’s Awards for High Achievement in the Arts recognize and celebrate outstanding New Brunswick artists and writers who have distinguished themselves by the excellence of their achievements and their contribution to the arts in the province.
For more information, visit: http://artsnb.ca/site/en/awards/
James M. Fisher is the owner and editor-in-chief of The Miramichi Reader. The Miramichi Reader (TMR) —Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases— highlights noteworthy books and authors across Canada from coast to coast to coast (est. 2015). James works and resides in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane and their tabby cat Eddie.