After Seven Years, Writer Gets His Words Out
First book paved way for three more to come in 2009
By: Melissa Martin
Canstar News – August 20th, 2009
Traditionally, a writer’s prerogative is to write into the night and rise well after the sun does.
John Toone might be like that too, if it wasn’t for the pint-sized energy of son Jackson, 5, and daughter Gloria, 2. As it is, by 9 a.m., Toone has already been up for hours. But with the kids at the library, the writer has a chance to nurse a coffee on the deck of his gallant old Fort Rouge three-storey.
“I would argue,” he says, when asked about his role as past-president of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild, “that Winnipeg in particular, and Manitoba in general, are producing some of the best writers in Canada.”
If early reviews are any indication, Toone himself may soon be counted among them. In April, his debut poetry collection From Out of Nowhere “boldly emerged like a call from the shadows of the Fort Rouge bridge: swift, startling and resonant,” raved Winnipeg Free Press reviewer Jennifer Still.
Toone chuckles. “It sounds better than my writing,” he says. But the review suggests he succeeded at his stated goal: capturing “the contrast between the city and the country, a book about growing up in Winnipeg and having that connection to the prairie, how that is acquired and how it is perpetuated.”
True, he had a long time to study that question. Seven years ago, Toone, 34, left his corporate job, where he travelled the Arctic managing properties for The North West Company. He threw himself into authorship, earning an English degree from the University of Manitoba and workshopping his writing through the guild.
Now, Toone is poised to celebrate 2009 as his breakout year, with a poetry collection out from Turnstone Press and two children’s books slated to be released in October.
The latter, Catch that Catfish! and Hope and the Walleye, funded by a grant from the Manitoba Fisheries Enhancement Fund, will teach kids about the importance of conversation and the “fish in Manitoba that are real characters,” Toone says.
The kids’ books were illustrated in rich, mixed-media palettes by local artist GMB Chomichuk, who is also working with Toone on a darkly provocative graphic novel, Sixgun Quixote.
“Working with John is more like making music than making art,” says Osborne Village resident Chomichuk. “You can tell him exactly what you’re thinking, he’ll tell you exactly what he’s thinking. It’s not about feelings, but about doing your best work, because being nice doesn’t help anyone get better.”
Now, Toone, who grew up in St. Vital, is challenging himself. Traditionally, he’s been happy to retreat from the world – Toone doesn’t have a television or a cell-phone, and homeschools his children with his educator wife Carol Drosdowech – but now, he’s gearing up for the launch of his website, johntoone.ca.
And he’s ready to see what other opportunities come his way. “Will I ever derive 100% of my income from writing? Probably not, no matter how successful I become,” he shrugs, noting that he’s been recently doing readings in schools.
“But I’m a writer not only in the time I commit, but the focus that I have: after my family, it’s on my writing.”
Post date: 2009-11-03 04:40:05 UTCBack