The most important thing I’ve learned about teaching is that my students have taught me everything.

An intimate workshop offers a thoughtful, provocative, respectful conversation. I’ve been engaged in these conversations since 1989.

Before I became a UBC professor, I worked at the BC Packers fish and chip booth at the PNE, the Hudson’s Bay record department, as a public health student visiting moms immediately post-partum, at the Woodlands School, at Poets & Writers in New York, as a temp in publicity at Tri-Star Pictures and a freelance story analyst, and as a Writer-in-Residence at the Writers Community and at Western Washington University.

At UBC, I’ve been privileged to work with students who are now the writers we are reading internationally and who inspire their own students today. Published or not, produced or not, their collective and creative moral response has informed and enriched my life.


I once spent a semester studying with the infamous Gordon Lish. There must have been thirty of us in the class and he started the session by reading from his correspondence with his writers (he was an editor at Knopf at the time). In his class, a writer would read aloud until somebody became bored or irritated and said, “Stop.” Thus, you never knew whether the real story might have started on page two, as they often do in a first draft. Mr. Lish read the opening paragraph of my short story, “Who He Slept By,” and declared, “If the writer of this story felt she could still do this, she wouldn’t be here.”

His methods didn’t work for me.

My gratitude goes to: Miss Hayward in Grade 3, Mrs. Hansen in Grade 7, UBC profs Jerry Newman, George McWhirter, Phyllis Webb, Jake Zilber, and Doug Bankson, Chip McGrath and Ted Solotaroff at Columbia, Michael Curtis at the Atlantic, John Metcalf, Leon Rooke, Kent Thompson who were so generous with me over the years, and Nancy Packer at Stanford. Belief begets belief: My long-time agent Robin Straus. In television: Jim Burt and Brian Freeman at CBC, much missed.



It was my pleasure to edit this UBC Creative Writing Department anniversary anthology, featuring the work of over sixty poets, dramatists, and fiction writers including Fred Wah, Roo Borson, Bill Gaston, Gary Geddes, Hart Hansen, Daphne Marlatt, Erin Moure and Andreas Schroeder.