Wanda Taylor, CNFC’s Vice-President, is an award-winning author, journalist, and college professor. She writes both fiction and nonfiction across children’s and adult markets. She has bylines in numerous publications, including Quill & Quire and the Globe and Mail. Additionally, her features, essays, and poems have been published across Canada, the US, and the UK. Her newest nonfiction book is set for release with Nimbus Publishing, Spring 2024.
Angus MacCaull is a recent graduate of the King’s College MFA in creative nonfiction where he wrote his memoirmanuscript, Ghost Tones. He also completed a BA in liberal arts from St. John’s College in the US, and an MA in applied linguistics from the University of Birmingham in the UK. Angus has published poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in publications that include Prelude, filling Station, and CV2.
Angus recently proposed the launch of a memoir book club with the support of CNFC. I spent time chatting with him about this idea to find out more and explore what his hopes are for the book club and CNFC members.
Wanda Taylor: I am thrilled by the idea of creating this gathering place for memoir writers and those interested in writing memoir, to come together. But before we get there, tell me a little about your writing journey.
Angus MacCaull: It started when I was a kid, around age seven. I would write travel journals on my experiences traveling with my family…I wish I had kept those. I taught overseas in Oman and Korea for several years and always kept that interest in writing. I would find ways to support that; like seeking out a local café and developing a reading series abroad. I eventually returned to Canada (Nova Scotia) to help with the family business but continued writing. I published in some small publications; poetry and essays. I also published book reviews. Then in 2021, I turned to the Kings MFA program and transitioned to full time work as a freelancer.
WT: What led you to the idea of creating this memoir book club?
AM: I have always been a big reader, and I really appreciated what I learned from other writers. But memoir was a new genre for me. As I was writing it during my MFA at Kings, one of the mentors said, reading is work. That stuck with me. There is excitement about the genre these days and I wanted to find a way to provide a forum for people to think deeply about what they’re writing.
WT: Your idea isn’t entirely the book club mold we normally think of. Yours is unique, with a slightly different function and focus. Tell me about that.
AM: So, there wouldn’t be any regularly assigned books where everyone gets it, reads it, and then shares thoughts. The focus will be on giving folks a chance to talk about the memoirs they are already reading. We would go for about an hour on the last Thursday of the month, for example. I would talk about a selected craft piece, then we would get into what each person is reading, giving us a chance to discuss and think critically about those books. It [the book club] would also include prompts, some direction, and some free flow. But the goal is for people to share what they’re reading and writing.
WT: You approached the CNFC with this idea. How do you think a partnership of this sort could benefit CNFC’s membership?
AM: I co-founded a reading series in Antigonish that lasted for seven years. It was a stand-alone event a few times a year. But without the support or backing of an organization, it became harder to keep it going. I approached a local bookstore as a possible partnership, but they didn’t have the staffing resources for this idea. Then I thought about who else is out there supporting writers and I saw CNFC as that right fit for this kind of focus.
WT: How would members get involved and what would their commitment or level of involvement be?
AM: It would be a drop in the first 2-3 sessions to see how it goes. We will post a note so members can RSVP to receive the link. That would help me get a sense of how many people are interested. Doing this with CNFC is important to give some backbone and structure to the idea, and to tap into a writing community that already exists.
WT: We look forward to launching this idea, and I’m sure our members will be as excited about the possibilities as we are. Any final thoughts?
AM: Reading isn’t only work—it’s also fun! I hope members find that when they show up to the book club.