Wayne Tefs’ roller-coaster of a life feted

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

WIN­NIPEG’S writ­ing com­mu­nity lost one of its most ac­com­plished writ­ers and ed­i­tors, and one of its first builders, when Wayne Tefs died on Sept. 15 at age 66. He had been di­ag­nosed with a rare type of can­cer called car­ci­noid syn­drome in 1994; he chron­i­cled his ex­pe­ri­ences liv­ing and bat­tling with the dis­ease in 2002’s Roller­coaster: A Can­cer Jour­ney, one of 13 of his books pub­lished in his lifetime. Tefs’ legacy in, and im­print on, Man­i­toba’s lit­er­ary com­mu­nity be­gan nearly 40 years ago. In 1976, Tefs co-founded lo­cal lit­er­ary pub­lisher Turn­stone Press, serv­ing as its fic­tion ed­i­tor for many years as well as pub­lish­ing a num­ber of his own nov­els via the pub­lisher. Writ­ers such as Di Brandt, Mar­garet Sweat­man, Miriam Toews and Linda Hole­man all got their start with Turn­stone. Tefs worked closely with writ­ers to help move their manuscripts for­ward. “Writ­ers don’t just ap­pear — there’s al­ways tal­ent, but there’s also a lot of hard work, and hav­ing men­tors around to de­velop your craft is im­por­tant,” says Jamis Paul­son, Turn­stone’s as­so­ciate pub­lisher. “He had a high bar, and he ex­pected him­self and oth­ers to meet it — that was what you ended up see­ing in what Turn­stone pro­duced. We like to think we set a high stan­dard for lit­er­ary pub­lish­ing in Canada, and Wayne was part of that.” Be­tween 1983 and 2012, Tefs’ own out­put in­cluded Fig­ures on a Wharf (1983), 4x4 (2004), Ban­dit (2011) and On the Fly (2012). Ban­dit earned five nom­i­na­tions at the 2012 Man­i­toba Book Awards, while 2007 novel Be Wolf won the McNally Robin­son Book of the Year Award at the 2008 event. “Wayne wrote for the sake of writ­ing,” says for­mer Free Press books ed­i­tor Mor­ley Walker, who en­listed Tefs as a re­viewer. “He didn’t at­tend the Man­i­toba Book Awards when his books were nom­i­nated. In a sense, this was a shame, since he never at­tained the recog­ni­tion he de­served.” Fel­low au­thor and Turn­stone Press co-founder David Arnason laughs as he re­mem­bers his friend. “He didn’t come out to all the launches and awards — he said he didn’t have to be hu­mil­i­ated any more in his lifetime.” In Roller­coaster, Tefs ex­plored ways he could edit his life. “He talked so frankly about how much re­vi­sion he had to do on him­self, and how of­ten he failed at it,” re­mem­bers Char­lene Diehl, di­rec­tor of the Win­nipeg In­ter­na­tional Writ­ers Fes­ti­val. After his di­ag­no­sis in 1994, Tefs took up cy­cling with a pas­sion, go­ing on two-wheeled ad­ven­tures around the world. “I gained a lot of re­spect for Wayne in the way he found bal­ance in life,” says Paul­son. “Some of us in the pub­lish­ing world have a tough time sep­a­rat­ing work from the rest of life. He had bound­aries, and com­mit­ted a lot to his fam­ily and his health. I learned a lot from him.” Tefs’ lat­est novel, Barker, was set to be launched this fall via Turn­stone Press. “In some ways Barker is very dif­fer­ent,” says Paul­son. “It’s like a Prairie Odyssey — his main character is re­flect­ing upon his life, but as he’s re­flect­ing, he’s liv­ing it. There are tinges of re­gret and a bit of a strug­gle to un­der­stand ‘Why am I who I am?’ and com­ing to peace with that.” Arnason edited Barker, which he took as a huge com­pli­ment. “It’s an in­cred­i­bly good book, quite dif­fer­ent from a lot of what he had writ­ten. The edit­ing of it was no huge job be­cause he was such a con­fi­dent ed­i­tor,” he says. Barker will be re­leased at McNally Robin­son Book­sellers at 3 p.m. to­day with a read­ing of pas­sages from the novel by Arnason and Den­nis Coo­ley, as well as re­mem­brances from those close to Tefs. “This will be the chance for the pub­lic to come out and talk about Wayne as a writer, and how he im­pacted their read­ing or writ­ing,” says Paul­son.

PHIL.HOSSACK / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Nov­el­ist Wayne Tefs’ fi­nal book, Barker, will be re­leased posthu­mously to­day.

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