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Author stops in Macleod to talk to local students

author Thomas King

Acclaimed author Thomas King read to students from Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek on Thursday.

Thomas King attributes his decision to become a writer to love.
Love of a woman — not literature.
“That’s how I became a writer,” King said with a laugh Thursday. “It’s all because of romance.”
King spoke to students from Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek on Thursday while travelling to Lethbridge from Calgary promoting his new book “The Inconvenient Indian.”
After asking for a show of hands of students who like to read, King shared a fact that was surprising for an acclaimed writer.
“I love to read,” King told the students. “I didn’t always like to read. When I was a little bit younger than you, I didn’t read at all.”
King explained to the students that growing up as a native youth in a California town presented some challenges. And he didn’t help his own cause.
“When I was in high school I had a big mouth,” King said. “I was always getting myself in trouble with my mouth.”
King talked his way into a dispute with some other boys and one day during summer break stumbled onto the group lounging in the shade of a bridge.
Wanting to avoid a physical confrontation — and likely a beating — King ducked into the basement of a nearby building.
King was surprised to find himself in the fiction section of the library but decided to stay there to enjoy the coolness and avoid his adversaries.
“I figured the last place those guys would look for me was in the library,” King said with a laugh.
A friendly librarian discovered King and offered to help him find a book. Not wanting to disclose his real reason for being in the building, King passed himself off as a reader of fiction.
The librarian chose for King the Edgard Rice Burroughs book “A Princess of Mars.”
“I sat there for an hour and started to read the book. It wasn’t bad. It was actually quite good.”
King got a library card, signed the book out and was soon plowing through other works of fiction.
“It was probably the best activity I could come up with,” King told the students, explaining keeping his nose in books kept his big mouth closed and its owner out of trouble. “When I was reading everything was quiet in my world and I had some space to think and not have to worry about anything else in the world.”
King, who was born to a Greek mother and a Cherokee father, finished high school but dropped out of university in his first year. He worked at a variety of jobs, including as a photojournalist.
King later graduated from Chico State University with bachelor and master’s degrees. he then taught at Humboldt University and Utah State University, where he also earned a PhD.
King’s first novel Medicine River was published in 1990 and became a CBC TV movie.
King’s 1992 children’s book “A Coyote Columbus Story” and his 1993 novel “Green Grass, Running Water” were nominated for the Governor General’s Award.
In 1993 King published a collection of his short stories titled “One Good Story, That One.” He published the children’s book “Coyote Sings to the Moon” in 1998 and a novel “Truth and Bright Water” in 1999.
King worked as story editor for the CBC TV dramatic series Four Directions and wrote and starred in Dead Dog Cafe on CBC Radio.
Now teaching English and theatre studies at the University of Guelph, King has edited anthologies of short stories and collections of critical essays.
King in 2003 was the first Native Canadian to deliver the Massey Lectures. His presentation, “The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative,” was later published.
Through his career King has earned many awards, including in 2004 the Order of Canada.
King told the students he didn’t become a writer until after he immigrated to Canada in 1980 to join the Native Studies department at the University of Lethbridge, and then he had an ulterior motive.
“I wanted to impress a woman,” King said with a laugh.
King was interested in a woman he met at the University of Lethbridge and after inquiring with mutual friends found out she liked literature and writers.
King started writing short stories and shared them with the woman, who liked them.
“I’ve kept writing, and she’s still with me,” King said with a laugh, referring to the artist Helen Hoy.

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