It has taken me some time to gather my thoughts on the passing of Farley Mowat. There has been an outpouring of tributes to him since his death, and almost all of them have moved me deeply. Mowat had a huge impact on the person I am now, and his loss, of all of the literary losses we’ve suffered this year, hit closest to home for me.
When I was nine years old, my aunt took me to see Never Cry Wolf. I was completely riveted for the entire 105 minutes. After seeing the film, I began devouring every book that Mowat had written. I was still in the midst of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series (my aunt had taken me to see The Black Stallion four years earlier), and my nine-year-old mind was blown that they both had Farley in their names. The two Farleys (and my Aunt Mary) made me the voracious reader that have been ever since.
In Grade 8, I did an oral presentation on The People of the Deer for my Social Studies class. It was an impassioned outcry against relocation and cultural destruction. It was probably not that brilliant, but it felt like the Gettysburg Address. I practiced for weeks, and I was able to deliver the entire thing without the use of notes. It is one of the few perfect marks I received in school, and it’s one I’m most proud of. From this experience, I learned that I was good at, and enjoyed, formulating arguments, and that I had a knack for public speaking without relying on written cues. I took this with me all the way to university, and then on to Write Reads.
In Grade 9, I wrote a short story about a naturalist working for the government of Canada who was nearing retirement. He was also a writer. I don’t remember much more about it, but I was proud of it, and it reflected a vision of the future that I had for myself at the time. My profound hopelessness with math and chemistry prevented me from pursuing a career as a scientist, but the writer part stuck. It was one of the first “grown up” stories I had ever written, and it was part of my journey toward becoming a writer. Soon after that, I discovered Hemingway and Salinger, and started binging on them, and a new vision for the future emerged which has changed with each new writer I’ve discovered over the years.
But Farley Mowat started it all.