The news of Canadian author Alice Munro winning the Nobel Prize for Literature didn't catch Douglas Gibson off-guard.
Gibson, who will be in Thunder Bay later this month for a workshop and presentation of his one-man show, is the long-time editor of the Nobel Prize winning author.
His confidence in the author led him to shower and shave the evening before the Nobel Prize announcement. He wanted to be ready for the onslaught of interview requests that would follow if this was the year the hype surrounding Munro resulted in a Nobel Prize.
“I was delighted by this wonderful news, but I wasn’t totally surprised,” Gibson said, who had first worked with Munro in 1976. “It’s about time.”
In fact, other than his editorial duties, Gibson played a pivotal role in Munro becoming the first Canadian and 13th female Nobel Literature laureate.
Earlier in her career Munro received significant pressure from various outside sources, like publishers, editors and critics, to leave short stories behind and become a novelist.
The pressure was severe and even led to the author developing a case of the much-maligned writer’s block.
Once he got wind of this, Gibson said enough was enough.
“At this point I came along and she told me what was happening,” Gibson said.
“I said, ‘Alice, they’re all wrong. You’re a great natural short story writer. You’re a sprinter and they’re trying to turn you into a marathon runner. This is crazy.’ I said if you want to go on writing short stories for the rest of your life I will publish them, and I will never ask you for a novel.”
As to what made Munro such a celebrated writer, Gibson said the answer is a simple one.
He explained her greatest gift is telling realistic stories that have the ability to captivate and resonate with readers.
“All of the major novelists and short-story writers will say, I don’t know how she does it. She can make the lives of ordinary people come alive,” Gibson said, and added her stories don’t feature high adrenaline tales of car chases and dramatic falls off mountains.
“It’s just the sheer quality. She’s wrapping you up in their stories so that you’re turning the page and you have to know what’s happening next.”
Gibson will be in Thunder Bay in the last weekend of October, as he will present his one-man stage show that has traveled across the country.
Symbolically, he will be returning to where the groundwork for his tour began.
Gibson was last in Thunder Bay in 2010 for the Sleeping Giant Writers’ Festival, at which time was working on his book Stories About Storytellers, which was released in 2011.
He was asked to give a reading from his work in progress, something that he had not been expecting. He chose to share a portion of his time working with author W.O. Mitchell, and it instantly became a hit.
“Here’s my first reading, and I find people are laughing like hell at the W.O. Mitchell funny stuff, and then they’ve got their hankies out and they’re really sad at the deathbed stuff,” Gibson recalled.
“It changed my life. I thought, when I publish this book if I can get away from behind the podium, which keeps you away from the audience, and walk around the stage and tell stories I might have something.”
After his initial reading in Thunder Bay he returned home and wrote what has become his one-man show. He has since gone on to give over 60 shows in every Canadian province, and uses music and a video screen to help create caricatures of his subjects, and enhances the experience.
In addition to the presentation, he will also be conducting a workshop in association with the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop.
Gibson will be presenting his show at the Valhalla Inn on Friday October 25. Tickets are $15 and are available at Calico Coffee House, the Northern Woman’s Bookstore or online at nowwwriters.org.
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