Writer to watch
Writer to watch: Robert W. Gray
GG-winner Douglas Glover wrote a winter tale for us. He also recommended Robert W. Gray as a writer to watch. Read what Robert has to say about what inspires him to write.
"R. W. Gray is an amazing young writer with a startling range and emotional penetration. From dark and minutely observed intimacy to flamboyant postmodern exuberance, he writes with style and panache; every carefully chosen word strikes home."
- Douglas Glover
- Douglas Glover
Growing a Tail
by R. W. Gray
I come from a family of mythological creatures and tall-tale tellers: people who live in the most reckless and absurd way possible, and the people who love them and show that love by seeing those foibles and face plants as fodder. My grandfather was mythic. He danced with loons, he was so small they stuck him between the double hulls of the naval ships to weld, and he was a furious smoker which led to him setting fire to himself as we sped down the highway on our way to Barkerville to pan for gold once. Mythic.
When he died he only grew bigger in the tales, but he left the rest of us with no new material. Whether due to genetics or poor example, we, too, now each have our mythic moments. We take turns. And we take turns telling the tall tales. We pass them back and forth like some giant ball of rubber bands, adding another, then another, until they can build a small town and rest stop near what started simply as the Christmas the neighbour shot himself in the basement.
But growing up with embellishment as a food group creates some uncertainty. Is it true that the very religious wing of the family drove off a bridge on their way to church one Sunday? Is it true that grandma was a Klondike girl in that seven-year gap in her twenties where no one knows where she was? Did my single mother really join the mile high club in a Cessna flying over my brother and me in a field below waving up at her? One of those things might be true.
I wasn't born mythic or good with stories. I was not brave and at first was a poor writer and reader. My mythological moments were always unintentional, like the time I was almost eaten by a cougar at the age of three. The cougar was the more compelling character, really. He sniffed me and shuffled off into the trees in search of livelier game.
Growing up, in the belly of the ship with the beasts, it seemed best to be quiet, watch and stay alive, while they carried on with their beastly ways. In truth, I couldn't see my own mythic potential. And writing seemed like the safer vocation anyway.
But then I got the feel for it, how telling the tale, telling it taller could be a little mythic. How the uncertainty doesn't cloud the truth so much as unleash it. Now I write for the uncertainty. I write for the mythology of it. I write with my brother's hand in mine as our mother flies over, the wings of the plane dipping like she's waving back. And when the tales happen upon the truth of it, I am, at last, grandpa's little mythological beast.
R. W. Gray has published his poetry and prose in numerous journals and in the anthologies Seminal, And Baby Makes More, Queering the Way, and Quickies 1 and 2. His first collection of short stories, Crisp, was published by NeWest Press (2010). Ten of his short scripts have been produced and the most recent, alice & huck, won awards at festivals in New Orleans, Beverley Hills, and Honolulu. He currently is a professor of film and screenwriting at University of New Brunswick.