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Dedi Nyjong interviews Barb Howard


Barb Howard is a short story writer who resides in Calgary, spending her spare time enjoying Alberta’s Rocky Mountains by hiking, biking and skiing. She has been the President’s Writers’ Guild of Alberta and is well known for her short story collection Western Taxidermy. Howard is recognized for her non-fiction and fiction writings that have been published in magazines and journals nationwide.


Q: Based off my research I am aware that you have pursued many jobs such as being a probation officer, a camp counsellor, attending law school and becoming a lawyer and now being a writer. In what ways do you feel your law skills have influenced your writing or weaken it.

A: I think lawyers are often good writers because they should know the importance of each word. Lawyers are often attracted to writing because they are interested in justice. I always wanted to be a writer but went to law school in order to be sure I could make a living. Writing usually involves some sort of justice, being from the family level or international level. The logic learned in law school is beneficial finding gaps in plot lines. The skill analyzing issues from many perspectives also comes handy in writing. And, of course, legal training helps understanding copyright and publishing contracts. The only way legal training weakens writing, in my opinion, is that an actual law career consumes all your time.

Q: I am aware that you run a workshop for immigrant women in hopes of creating stories about their journeys to Canada. Initially what sparked your interest in this workshop and how has your experience with them shaped your views on society today?

A: I was asked to be a story mentor for the Shoe Project by the national director, which was good timing. After 20 years of teaching I was tired of regular writing workshops and this project seemed intriguing. Immigrant women have amazing stories to tell and sometimes don’t have the avenue to share those stories. I help them develop 600 word stories of their journey to Canada. It takes ten sessions and each session is a learning event for me about geography, politics, and the strength and resourcefulness of immigrants.


Q: To what degree did being the President of Writers’ Guild of Alberta and a creative writer motivate you to incorporate your own views on our world today?

A: I feel writing is important for art and almost all aspects of life. I strongly believe in freedom of speech and that writers should be paid for their work so that is what motivated me to support the Writers’ Guild and to take a term as president. I brought my views to the guild and to my writing rather than those things motivating me towards new world views. However, I would say that to be a good creative writer a person has to read and reflect a lot. And reflecting results in world views that naturally come out in my writing. During creative writing I am lucky to come to a new understanding about something in the world. Being president of the Guild has made me more aware of some of the issues involved in the writing profession.


Barb Howard has pursued an eventful life consisted of exploring careers paths and eventually becoming a writer. Writing enables Barb Howard to provide a voice for the unheard. Engaging in her workshops on the lives of immigrant women allow her to do so. She continues to use her gift of writing to tackle issues in our society.


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