Wayne Grady is the award-winning author 14 works of nonfiction, including The Quiet Limit of the World, Bringing Back the Dodo, and The Great Lakes. His first novel, Emancipation Day, was long-listed for the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the 2013 Amazon.ca First Novel Award. With his wife, novelist Merilyn Simonds, he co-authored Breakfast at the Exit Café: Travels Through America. And with David Suzuki he co-wrote the international bestseller Tree: A Life Story.
He has also translated numerous works of fiction from the French, by such authors as Antonine Maillet, Yves Beauchemin, and Danny Laferrière. In 1989, he won the Governor General’s Award for his translation of Maillet’s On the Eighth Day. His most recent translation is of Daniel Poliquin’s novel The Angel’s Jig, published by Goose Lane.
Grady teaches creative writing in the optional-residency MFA program at the University of British Columbia. He and Merilyn Simonds divide their time between Kingston, Ontario, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Less Short Version:
Wayne Grady was born in Windsor, Ontario, in 1948, and graduated with a First-Class Honours BA (English) from Carleton University in 1971.
His writing has appeared in such literary magazines as the Tamarack Review, Quarry, Event and Queen’s Quarterly, as well as in major newsstand magazines, including Saturday Night, Toronto Life, Equinox, Harrowsmith, Natural History, Omni, Canadian Geographic, Smithsonian, Explore, and The United Church Observer. He was editor of Harrowsmith from 1987 to 1990, and from 1998-2001 was Science Editor, and later Editor, of Equinox magazine. For three years he wrote a natural-history column for Explore; the essays were later revised and published in book form as Bringing Back the Dodo (McClelland & Stewart, 2006). He has won or been short-listed for thirteen National Magazine Awards.
He has also written fourteen books, translated fifteen novels from the French, and has edited eleven anthologies of literary fiction and nonfiction. He won the Governor General’s Award for Translation in 1989 for Antonine Maillet’s On the Eighth Day, was nominated for a GG in 1995 for Daniel Poliquin’s Black Squirrel, and again in 2005 for Françine d’Amour’s Return from Africa.
In 1980, he edited the first Penguin Book of Canadian Short Stories, and in 1986, the Penguin Book of Modern Canadian Short Stories. The Windsor Star called his travel anthology, From the Country, “one of the finest anthologies to come out in this country in many years.” And he was the editor of Greystone Books’ Literary Companion series, which included collections of nature writing on such topics as Mountains, Rivers, the Sea, Deserts, Gardens, and the Night.
In 1990, he travelled to the Gobi Desert with a team of Canadian and Chinese paleontologists to hunt for dinosaurs: his account of that expedition, The Dinosaur Project (Macfarlane, Walter & Ross, 1993) was called “a fascinating tale of adventure…a compelling travelogue, and an intriguing look at cultural conflict.” The book has been translated into Chinese, Japanese and (oddly enough) Polish.
In 1994, he took part in a second scientific expedition, this time to the North Pole aboard the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis St. Laurent in search of early evidence of global warming: The Quiet Limit of the World, a blend of travel and science writing, was his book about that voyage: it won the 1997 Science in Society Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Nonfiction.
For his third book of science and travel, The Bone Museum (Penguin Books, 2000), he travelled to Patagonia with a team of Canadian paleontologists from the Tyrrell Museum to investigate the connection between dinosaurs and birds. Smithsonian Magazine noted that the book “is full of unanswerable questions which, along with page-turning reportage and insightful speculation, give it wings.”
Tree: A Life Story (Greystone, 2004), which he co-authored with David Suzuki, has been published in Canada, the United States, Australia, Germany and South Korea, became a national bestseller in Canada, was short-listed for the BC Book Award for Book of the Year, and earned Grady his fourth Science in Society Award.
The Great Lakes: The Natural History of a Changing Region (2007), about the natural wonders and unnatural threats to the largest fresh-water lakes system in the world, won the National Outdoor Book Award in the United States. The Globe & Mail reviewer remarked that “threats to the Lakes’ integrity are increasingly met with resistance. If the written work is still meaningful in advancing this crucial resistance, this challenging book should be sent into battle immediately, and given a place on the front lines.”
Another 2007 book, Technology (Groundwood Books), a history of technology from 5000 BCE until today, was reviewed in the Guelph Mercury as “a short and poignant book by an exceptionally knowledgeable writer.”
His book, Breakfast at the Exit Café (Greystone, 2010), which he co-authored with his wife, Merilyn Simonds, is a travel memoir of their two-month road trip across the United States. It examines America in light of the myths that Canadians have grown with about that country, and the myths Americans tell about themselves. The Globe & Mail called it “a seamless travel collage [that] flows as easily as a new car on an empty highway.”
His most recent book is the novel Emancipation Day, published by Doubleday Canada. The novel was named Best Book of July by Amazon.ca, was Chatelaine magazine’s Book Club pick for September, a Chapters/Indigo “Heather’s Pick” in October, and was long-listed for the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize. It won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award.
He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the National Magazine Award Foundation, the Ottawa Writers’ Festival, and the Pelee Island Bird Observatory. He has served on the Advisory Committee for the Canada Council, the steering committee of the National Reading Campaign, is a member of PEN Canada and an active member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, of which he is a former chair (2009-2010). And he currently serves on the jury for the annual Matt Cohen Award, administered by the Writers’ Trust of Canada.
He also teaches creative nonfiction as a permanent lecturer in the optional-residency MFA program at the University of British Columbia, and has delivered papers at international colloquia in Canada (on the Arctic and the Great Lakes), Norway (on translation) and Mexico (on creative nonfiction). He has conducted writing workshops in Montreal, Kingston, Vancouver and Banff, and was Writer-in-Residence at the Whitehorse Public Library in 2001, in Whistler, BC, in 2008, and in Campbell River, BC, in 2016.
He lives in Kingston, Ontario, with his wife, novelist and creative nonfiction writer Merilyn Simonds.