Award-winning editor and writer from Rockland defies the odds
Auteur, poète, éditeur primé, Dominik Parisien a grandi à Rockland, a fréquenté l’École secondaire catholique L’Escale et s’est penché dans le monde littéraire en déménageant à Toronto pour travailler comme auteur et éditeur indépendant. Parisien est déjà connu, à l’âge de 30 ans, dans des genres tels que le steampunk, la science-fiction et la fantaisie - un âge auquel il ne pensait même ne pas se rendre à cause d’une condition médicale. M. Parisien a gagné plusieurs prix littéraires. Author. Poet. Award-nominated and awardwinning editor. Those are only a few titles in which to describe Dominik Parisien, who was born and raised in Rockland and attended L’Escale high school. He has now dived into the literary world by moving to Toronto to work both as a freelance writer and editor in the big city. Parisien has already made a name for himself at the age of 30 in genres such as steampunk, science fiction and fantasy by having won the prestigious Shirley Jackson Award for edited anthology and being nominated for even bigger awards – all at an age he himself did not think he would live to.
“I did some slight creative writing in high school. I was fortunate enough to have a creative writing class and a terrific teacher who pushed a lot of those creative aspects on me,” said Parisien. He then attended the University of Ottawa where he earned both his bachelor degree and masters in English Literature, while volunteering for several different magazines and catching his first break working as an assistant for Weird Tales, the world’s longest running magazine of fantasy and horror. Weird Tales is where he began dipping his toes into the editing aspect of the industry and realized that was where his true passions really lied. “It’s still very much about storytelling, but a different kind of storytelling,” said Parisien. “I love working with other people on their projects […] and to find the flaws in it and helping them improve it and putting all those things in one giant package with my vision for it.”
Parisien works as a freelance writer and editor in Toronto, a setup that works perfectly for him given his severe medical condition in which he suffers from chronic daily pain, convulsive episodes and severe insomnia. He has been living with these conditions since high school and has undergone several different types of treatments over the years.
“Freelance allows me to come here [to Rockland] and spend time with my family and still work from a distance,” he said. It provides Parisien with a flexible working schedule that allows him to take a step back if he is not having a good day, medically speaking. The editor-author does regular manuscript evaluations and editing for the publishing company Simon and Schuster in the U.S, while also tackling a wide range of projects with several different companies. “Generally speaking, I quite enjoy the variety and I like to dip into a number of different approaches at once,” said Parisien.
The young editor won the Shirley Jackson Award for his work The Starlit Wood, an anthology of re-imagined fairytales he co-edited with Navah Wolfe for Saga Press. This work is also nominated for the Locus Award, the British Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Award, which is the highest honor in this field. Parisien has a knack for creating or working on projects that are the first of its kind – as Starlit Wood is the first anthology of retold fairytales, his other renowned work, Clockwork Canada, is the first anthology of Canadian Steampunk and is nominated for the Aurora Award. Steampunk can be best described as retro-futuristic fiction that is set in the past but includes aspects of technology or as Parisien describes it himself: “alternate history.”
Parisien is currently working on a project that hits close to home – a disability project for a magazine that took over a series called The Destroy, in which the magazine has already ran Woman, People of Color and Queer editions of the series before asking Parisien to edit the Disabled people series.
“Every aspect of the creative process – all the writers, all the poets, all the non-fiction writers, all the editors – everyone has a disability,” he explained. “So, it’s a very much for us-by us project.” Although his main focus is on editing, Parisien still delves into his own writing – ranging from poetry, to fiction and also creative non-fiction, in genres generally inclined towards non-realist fiction, fantastical and magic realism. Parisien does not purposely stick to specific genres, but focuses more on what themes he wishes to relay, no matter what genre that may manifest itself into. “I’m a pretty emotional person so I want people to have some kind of empathetic response to what they’re reading,” he said. “In some ways, I want the stories to make them think about something.”
For someone who is constantly reading, writing or editing and who largely does not consider the time he spends working as ‘work,’ since it is also his main hobby, Parisien’s next project surprisingly has nothing to do with work. Once back in Toronto from his trip back home to Rockland, Parisien will start working on a sleeve tattoo as a personal way for him to mark his milestone 30th birthday, more so a milestone for him compared to most.
“My 30th birthday was a very big deal to me… the fact that I managed to live until 30, because I didn’t think it would happen,” he said. The entirety of his sleeve tattoo will be comprised of illustrations from a book that changed Parisien’s life, titled Tainaron by Finnish writer Leena Khron.
“It’s a book about metamorphosis and change and embracing the odd and the strange,” he commented. “It was quite transformative for me specifically with my medical condition, and it helped me reframe a lot of it in a more positive light.” Parisien’s tattoo has come to represent his self-awareness and gratefulness at having defied the odds, both in his personal hardships and in the struggles that come with attempting to break through the competitive and elite literary world.