Wayne Curtis

Wayne CurtisPhoto: Writers' Federation of New Brunswick
Wayne Curtis
Photo: Writers' Federation of New Brunswick

Wayne Curtis (writer, poet, and playwright) was born 9 February 1943 on the Howard Road on the outskirts of Blackville, New Brunswick. Wayne Curtis is the son of John Curtis (a well-known river guide) and Brycie Coughland, and is the second-eldest of four siblings, one of whom is Herb Curtis. The first eight years of Curtis’ education took place in a one-room school house. Later, he began attending Blackville High for the ninth grade, but dropped out soon after in order to work on the family farm and help pay the bills. Later in life Curtis completed his GED diploma and went to St. Thomas University, where he pursued a BA with a major in English literature.

Curtis’ work is predominantly set in the Miramichi. He makes use of this area evocatively, and describes it accurately, bringing the landscape to life. The Miramichi River was his family’s livelihood, a landscape they depended on in mind and body.

As a boy attending a country school house, Curtis’ literary influences were people in the school readers, such as Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, and renowned prairie writer Sinclair Ross. He was also inspired by Canadian landscape writers Charles G.D. Roberts, Grey Owl, and W.O. Mitchell. After studying literature at St. Thomas, he became interested in the Russian writers Anton Checkhov and Leo Tolstoy, as well as the Latin American writers Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Curtis is a writer of social romance who recollects the past with a sense of tranquility. His characters are a part of the landscape and the landscape is a central part of their character. This duality of being one with the land resonates strongly in his literature. His writing often explores the human condition, love, and the sentimental, which makes it heartfelt and often melancholy. Those who review Curtis’ work often describe being “immersed in the world he vividly creates”; he has been called “a lyrical and sensuous stylist” (Fitzgerald). His work is commonly held up as having a love for the past with elements of nostalgia and memory.

Curtis’ three novels are One Indian Summer (1993), Last Stand (1999), and Night Train to Havana (2008). He has also published four collections of essays: Currents in the Stream (1988), Fishing the Miramichi (1994), River Guides of the Miramichi (1997), and Fly-Fishing the Miramichi (2004). His four volumes of short stories are Preferred Lies (1998), River Stories (2000), Monkeys in a Looking Glass (2005), and Wild Apples (2006). His one collection of poetry is Green Lightning (2005). In addition, Curtis adapted one of his short stories, “The Dance,” for television and it was produced jointly by Cinefile Productions and the CBC. He has also written two screenplays, At Point Cheval and Chico-Che, which have not yet been produced.

In addition to his creative work, Curtis has also been a contributor to many magazines and newspapers, including Quill & Quire, Fly Fisherman, The Atlantic Advocate, Outdoor Canada, Eastern Woods and Waters, Maritime Sportsman, Outdoor Atlantic, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, The Telegraph-Journal, Times & Transcript, The Daily Gleaner, The Miramichi Reader, The Miramichi Weekend, and The Chronicle-Herald.

Curtis’ work has been recognized with a number of awards, a few of which are the Richards Award for Short Fiction (1993), the Atlantic Salmon Federation Conservation Award (1999, 2005), the George Woodcock Award (2003), and—Curtis’ proudest achievement—an honorary doctorate from St. Thomas University (2005). Curtis has also been writer-in-residence at the Institute of Superior Arts in Havana, Cuba (1999), and at the Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon (2002).

Wayne Curtis is a writer who has given the people of central New Brunswick, and New Brunswick in general, an identity through his depictions of this land. This identity is most vividly expressed in his novel Last Stand (1999) and his short story collection River Stories (2000). At his best, he is as good as Ernest Buckler of Oxbells and Fireflies. He is New Brunswick's great landscape painter with words.

Curtis is the father of three sons: Jason, Jeff, and Steven. He currently divides his time between Fredericton and his cabin on the Miramichi River. Besides writing, he takes pleasure in playing the fiddle and listening to music.

Kyle Chamberlain, Winter 2008
St. Thomas University

For more information on Wayne Curtis, please visit his entry at the New Brunswick Literature Curriculum in English.

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Curtis, Wayne. Currents in the Stream. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 1988.

---, writ. The Dance. Dir. Tony Larder. Prod. Roman Betman and Bathy Cameron. Perf. Brian McSorley, Chantel Goguen, Chris Ballem, and Wally MacKinnon. Cinefile Productions and CBC Television, 2000.

---. Fishing the Miramichi. Fredericton, NB: New Ireland, 1994.

---. Fly-Fishing the Miramichi. Rothesay, NB: Neptune Publishing, 2004.

---. Green Lightning. Fredericton, NB: Bawdy House Press, 2005.

---. “Growth.” New Muse of Contempt Magazine. Ed. Joe Blades. 1994. N. pag.

---. “Heavy Ice.” Atlantica: Stories from the Maritimes and Newfoundland. Ed. Lesley Choyce. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 2001. N. pag.

---. Last Stand. Halifax, NS: Nimbus Publishing, 1999.

---. Monkeys in a Looking Glass. Saint John, NB: DreamCatcher Publishing, 2005.

---. “Mowing the Brooks.” New Brunswick Reader [Saint John, NB] n.d. 2002: N. pag.

---. Night Train to Havana. Roslin, ON: Lion's Head Press, 2008.

---. One Indian Summer. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1993.

---. Preferred Lies. Halifax, NS: Nimbus Publishing, 1998.

---. River Guides of the Miramichi. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 1997.

---. River Stories. Halifax, NS: Nimbus Publishing, 2000.

---. “St. Peters, Millerton.” New Brunswick Reader [Saint John, NB] n.d. 2001: N. pag.

---. “Student Encyclopedia Information.” Email to Kyle Chamberlain. 23 Nov. 2008.

---. “Tight Lines.” Great Canadian Fishing Stories that Didn’t Get Away. Ed. David. E. Scott. Burnstown, ON: General Store Publishing House, 1996. N. pag.

---. Wild Apples: Field Notes from a River Farm. Fredericton, NB: Goose Lane Editions, 2006.

---. “The Write Way.” Wayne Curtis’ personal website. 26 Nov. 2008

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

Cran, E.E. “Curtis Demonstrates his Deceptive Powers: Fredericton Author’s Short Stories Set in Cuba, Florida, and Pamplona.” Telegraph-Journal [Saint John, NB] 28 Jan. 2006: A16.

Davidson, Dan. “Tales with a Maritime Air.” The Klondike Sun [Dawson City, YK] n.d. 2002: n. pag.

---. “Wayne Curtis: A Self-Made Wordsmith Soldiers On.” The Klondike Sun [Dawson City, YK] n.d. 2002: n. pag.

Dykeman, Daphne. “Wayne Curtis Evocatively Describes the Miramichi.” Telegraph-Journal [Saint John, NB] 19 Mar. 2005: n. pag.

Fitzgerald, Judith. Rev. of Preferred Lies, by Wayne Curtis. The Globe & Mail 26 Dec. 1998: D10.

Fraser, Sharon. Untitled article. Atlantic Books Today 4 (Fall 1993).

Gordon, Jennifer. Inventory to the Wayne Curtis Fonds. Archives & Special Collections Department: Harriet Irving Library, U of New Brunswick, 2005.

Kitts, Colleen. “High School Drop Out Makes Good: Wayne Curtis Has Nine Books to his Credit—and Now a Doctor of Letters.” Telegraph-Journal [Saint John, NB] 4 June 2005: n.pag.

Mortimer, Maggie. “Farm From the Madding Crowd.” The Globe & Mail 21 Apr. 2007: D11.

Murray, George. “Miramichi River Stories Awash with Nostalgia.” The Globe & Mail 23 Sept. 2000: D18.

Nowlan, Michael. “Author Wayne Curtis Writes Another Fine Collection of Stories.” The Daily Gleaner [Fredericton, NB] 24 Sept. 2005: n.p.

---. “Poetry About Life on the Miramichi.” The Daily Gleaner [Fredericton, NB] 26 Feb. 2005: n.p.

---. “Wayne Curtis Writes about a Time that Will Never Return.” The Daily Gleaner [Fredericton, NB] 11 Nov. 2006: C3.