SFU English hosts reading and launch event with writer-in-residence Sam Wiebe

September 27, 2023

Simon Fraser University’s Department of English officially welcomes alumnus and award-winning author of the Wakeland novels, Sam Wiebe, as its writer-in-residence on Friday, October 13th. Everyone is invited to SFU’s Harbour Centre campus at 7 p.m. for a reading and reception.

Wiebe is already offering writing consultations, which are open to the SFU community and the public. He provides feedback on creative work and advice about how to get published.

“I’ve worked with big presses and small presses,” says Wiebe. “I’ve edited an anthology. I continue to submit stories and get rejections and acceptances, so I have a good sense of what the publishing world is like. I hope that people will avail themselves of that…I can advise them how to write a query letter, submit stories, and more.”

While still an SFU English graduate student, Wiebe decided to write his first novel. He admits that embarking on such a big project during this busy time in his life was not ideal, but he felt compelled to do it anyway.

“I had this feeling that if I didn’t write a novel now, it would never get done—that I’d be 50 and writing manuals for IBM or something, never having done it,” says Wiebe.

Though his first novel didn’t sell, Wiebe didn’t give up and his subsequent books, including the popular Wakeland detective series, have done well. He draws inspiration from the detective fiction and mystery novels he grew up reading, as well as from Vancouver itself. Born and raised in the city, Wiebe feels a deep connection to it.

“I couldn’t imagine not writing about Vancouver,” he says. “I find it so deeply fascinating. It’s on the cutting edge of harm-reduction, foreign capital and ownership, housing and land questions, the fact that it’s on unceded territory…it opens up so many interesting questions of who gets to live here and what a city should be and how it should function.”

In Wiebe’s latest book, Sunset and Jericho, Vancouver’s housing crisis is front and center. In this fourth installment of his popular detective series, Dave Wakeland and all the other characters in the novel are motivated by “the grinding feeling of never being able to get ahead, never being able to own a home, the sense that at any minute your life can be ripped out from under you,” says Wiebe.

During his residency, Wiebe will be working on a historical novel about Vancouver. He’ll be looking at the city in the 1970s and ‘80s, as well as his own family history. He’s already discovered an interesting episode in his grandfather’s life.

“A couple of months ago, I learned that my grandfather was one of the WWII veterans who took over the old Hotel Vancouver when the government wouldn’t build housing for veterans,” he says. “Basically, this was an armed occupation of a building that led to social housing being built. I thought that was just the coolest thing to find out about your family.”

To attend the writer-in-residence reading and launch event on October 13th, click here.