Welcome back to our Showcase of artists and authors, people I’m privileged to know, with each story as intriguing as their work, captured in an array of acclaimed pieces and popular titles.
This time on the Showcase, I’m visiting with Kim Spencer, bestselling author of Weird Rules to Follow. Kim, welcome to the Showcase, and congratulations on your well-earned success! Let’s start with an overview of your book:
“In the 1980s, the coastal fishing town of Prince Rupert is booming. There is plenty of sockeye salmon in the nearby ocean, which means the fishermen are happy and there is plenty of work at the cannery. Eleven-year-old Mia and her best friend, Lara, have known each other since kindergarten. Like most tweens, they like to hang out and compare notes on their crushes and dream about their futures. But even though they both live in the same cul-de-sac, Mia’s life is very different from her non-Indigenous, middle-class neighbor. Lara lives with her mom, her dad and her little brother in a big house, with two cars in the drive and a view of the ocean. Mia lives in a shabby wartime house that is full of relatives—her churchgoing grandmother, binge-drinking mother and a rotating number of aunts, uncles and cousins. Even though their differences never seemed to matter to the two friends, Mia begins to notice how adults treat her differently, just because she is Indigenous. Teachers, shopkeepers, even Lara’s parents—they all seem to have decided who Mia is without getting to know her first.”
Now, let me share your bio:
Kim Spencer completed The Writer’s Studio program at Simon Fraser University with a focus on creative nonfiction. She has two short stories published in Emerge 20, an anthology released through SFU, and an experimental story in Filling Station magazine (issue 76) which was a finalist for the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association Awards. She was selected as a mentee by The Writers Union of Canada for the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People Of Colour) Emerging Writer’s Connect and ECW’s BIPOC Writers Mentorship Program. Her first novel, Weird Rules to Follow (Orca Book Publishing), debuted on the BC Bestsellers list in October 2022. Kim’s working on her second book, which is under contract for publication. She is from Ts’msyen (Tsimshian) Nation in northern British Columbia.
(Bill) Thanks Kim, it’s a pleasure to get to know you. Tell us, please, what inspired you to start writing?
(Kim) I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was around eleven or twelve. I grew up reading Judy Blume and the Sweet Valley High series. At lunch, I used to go to our elementary school’s library to go on the one and only computer. I would pretend I was a newspaper columnist (just like Elizabeth Wilkins in SVH). The librarian started noticing I would erase everything I had written; one day, he said, “You know you can print that, right?”
In my early twenties, I attended the Native Education Centre (now College) in Vancouver. We were assigned to read Beatrice Mosionier’s In Search of April Raintree and Half-Breed by Maria Campbell. Seeing Indigenous people on the pages had an impact. And, of course, Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian.
(B) I love the notion of you realizing your writing could be saved, even shared. What prompted you to create Weird Rules to Follow?
(K) I didn’t know I was writing it. It happened very organically over a few years. I would start writing on my day off while drinking my morning coffee.
When I applied for SFU’s The Writer’s Studio (TWS), they asked for my portfolio. I started copying and pasting my short stories into one document. Weird Rules To Follow is in almost the same order as what I submitted in my portfolio.
(B) What was that process like?
(K) Before attending TWS, I thought that my stories were alright. My cohort loved them and absolutely raved. That was a real boost. My grammar was horrific (I still struggle, but thanks to Grammarly, I get by), but I started prematurely sending my manuscript to publishers and was getting responses—we’re interested! I was also selected for a few BIPOC mentorship programs, which helped. Starting TWS to getting my book published happened within two years. I get that’s not what most people’s writing trajectory looks like, so I appreciate how things worked out for me.
(B) I think most writers would agree there’s no “normal” trajectory. May I ask, where were you when you wrote Weird Rules to Follow?
(K) At home, in my pajamas, before working in your PJs was a thing. I started working less and less and would write on my days off. I was and still live in Vancouver.
(B) And here I’d forgotten what it’s like NOT working in PJs! And are there any other messages or personal stories you’d like to convey to readers?
(K) I guess how important reading BIPOC is to me. Not only has it opened my eyes to the world around me, but it’s also helped me to be a better writer. Authors like James Baldwin, Jacqueline Woodson, Sandra Cisneros, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Terese Mailhot, and Souvankham Thammavongsa. There are so many!
(B) A brilliant list, and an inspiring trek that’s brought you here. Thanks Kim. Wishing you continued success, and looking forward to seeing your next book on the shelves!
(K) Thanks Bill.
In personal news, thanks to the Royal City Literary Arts Society, celebrating A Season on Vancouver Island with a multimedia reading, and skál to the University of British Columbia’s Scandinavian and Nordic Student Association for an excellent Gone Viking event, sharing stories from Gone Viking I and II, and announcing the launch of Gone Viking III: The Holy Grail, coming this fall. It’s the final installment of the Gone Viking travelogues – adventure, history and humour – as I return to Europe, Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland to reveal one of history’s greatest mysteries!
Coming up on the Showcase, visits with Caroll Simpson, bestselling author of Alone in the Great Unknown, and Adriana Barton, bestselling author of Wired for Music. More stories, insights, visits, and good fun.
Also, March is #NationalReadingMonth, so find a new book and enjoy!
Thanks friends, take care, and see you next time.
Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of the Gone Viking travel memoirs (Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries, Gone Viking III: The Holy Grail) and A Season on Vancouver Island. He’s won numerous book awards and received a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land.