With a schoolteacher mother who wrote poetry, perhaps Glen Huser was always destined to be a writer. “She read to us every night. We definitely grew up with literature around us.”
The second of four children, Glen grew up in a tiny hamlet in central Alberta, a two-hour drive north of Edmonton. His ambition was to live in a city, which happened when his family moved to Edmonton as he entered twelfth grade.
Soon after, he attended the University of Alberta for teachers’ training, with an art education major. “I was always torn between art and English, and ended up teaching both—at first in junior high, then elementary schools before becoming a teacher-librarian,” he says. “I’ve never illustrated any of my books, but some day I might.”
His masters in English at the U of A in Edmonton led him to write his first book, Grace Lake (NeWest Press), for adults when he had a sabbatical. Though thrilled it was nominated for a First Novel Award in Canada, Glen couldn’t find the time to write more books until he retired from his job as a school board consultant in school libraries. He also wrote children’s book reviews for the Edmonton Journal, as well as movie reviews for small local magazines.
But when he retired in 1996, books began spinning off his plate – ten so far. First came the YA novel Touch of the Clown, nominated for several awards. Then Stitches, published by Groundwood Press, which won the Governor General’s Award (GG).
“It was pretty special flying to Ottawa to receive that, with a tuxedo I had to let out at the waist because I’d gained a few pounds since I’d last worn it,” he says.
In 2004, Glen moved to Vancouver, where he taught children’s literature for the Education Department at UBC, then worked for the Department of Creative Writing as an online teacher. He also became involved with CWILL BC, where he has served as our trusty president going on three years now.
In 2007 he published Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen, nominated for a GG. And the books just kept coming from then on.
“Stitches is my favorite, perhaps because it was the most honored. But Skinnybones sold best, perhaps because of the humour.”
Glen is all about humour. “I would say offbeat humour is my strong point. I also work on characterization. I’d say my work is more character-driven than plot-driven. I’m also interested in style. I know you must not let it take over your book, but you have to build it in. I get a little lyrical in places, although a good editor will at times say that sounds like purple prose and will take a red pencil to it, which is good.”
His most recent interest has been writing lyrics and text for the retelling of Greek stories, for a Montreal music group. Not long ago he was treated to hearing 200 schoolchildren sing his songs in Montreal, accompanied by a small symphony orchestra. He didn’t sing along “because I’m a terrible singer.”
Glen likes to get out of his silent apartment and write in noisy restaurants. He jokes he’s a “writer in restaurants as opposed to a writer in residence. I like the hubbub around me; I like writing there.”
When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, taking in movies and cooking (“anything with pasta”). He never goes anywhere without a book, but when he’s caught up in writing a novel, “I get pretty obsessive about it. Something takes hold of me that makes me tenacious.”
He’s currently writing a novel that may turn out to be YA or adult. His only goal, he said, is to turn 76 next year – and maybe eventually illustrate one of his novels. Lyrically and with offbeat humour, of course.
— Pam Withers has written 17 YA adventure novels.