June 01, 2020

Debra Purdy Kong retires from Linguistics General Office

The Department of Linguistics extends its best wishes to Debra Purdy Kong on her retirement last week. Debra has been the first face you see when you arrive at the department since the Fall of 2015 and her presence will be greatly missed in the Department General Office.

Debra has worked on and off at Simon Fraser University (SFU) since 1975. She worked in the Registrar’s office and as the Chair’s Secretary to Dr. Ted Sterling in Computing Science for several years before leaving SFU to pursue post-secondary education in Criminology. Following some of life’s usual twists and turns, Debra found herself back at SFU in Fall 2013 where she spent two years in the Department of Biology before joining the Department of Linguistics in Fall 2015.

Perhaps a little known fact to many in the Department of Linguistics, Debra is a mystery author who has written and published 10 novels and novellas and won several awards for her writing. Her most recent work, The Blade Man, is the sixth book in her Casey Holland series. Despite all of her writing achievements, Debra says that her work is not what she is the most proud of. “My crowning achievement isn’t my work,” says Debra, “but in having earned a reputation as someone who helps beginning writers.” In addition to her time in our department, Debra works as a facilitator for Port Moody Recreation’s creative writing workshop. This role has allowed her to watch writers progress and gain confidence as their first short stories and novels take shape into publishable works.

Debra’s advice for aspiring writers is to dream big, but stay grounded in reality. As in any field, success does not come without hardship. “Writing and publishing is filled with disappointment and obstacles, but also incredibly satisfying moments,” says Debra. “If you’re committed to it, you’ll be a life-long learner where tenacity is perhaps even more important than talent and education.”

In addition to continuing her writing career in retirement, Debra will soon also be a part-time babysitter to her first grandchild due to be born in July.

A message from Debra:

“Some, if not all of this, this background info will be a surprise to LING folks. That’s because my short, 4-hour shifts were devoted to LING work, not my writing life, so I preferred not to talk about it much.

I’ve tried to compartmentalize different aspects of my life, especially at work. SFU has been an important part of my life in different ways for a long time. My husband, daughter, and son all graduated here, so my retirement marks the end of an era in some ways.

I want to thank staff for their support during the tough times, and for the courtesy everyone’s shown me over the years. SFU is the most professional and safest workplace I’ve experienced, and for that I’m truly grateful.”

Debra's most recent novel, The Blade Man, can be found here:

> Mystery Author, Debra Purdy Kong

Looking for some new books to pick up? Some of Debra's favourite authors are:

  • Sue Grafton
  • Tony Hillerman
  • John Sandford
  • Maureen Jennings
  • Lee Childs