A Conversation With a Friend:
Jim Johnston

Jim JohnstonUVic creative writing student and Friend of The Malahat, Jim Johnston won the Friends’ draw prize at our Summer launch in September, 2010. Malahat volunteer Jay Morritt sat down with him on a bench outside the McPherson Library to discuss how he's enjoying the spoils of that victory, and to learn something about a fellow student writer.

You bagged some good stuff in this door prize— three Robin Skelton titles, Jay Ruzesky's novel The Wolsenburg Clock, a twenty dollar gift certificate from Renaissance Books—not bad, I'd say.

I used the gift certificate to get a couple Alice Munro books. But I haven't had time to read them yet—I'm too busy working on my writing. I spend sixty hours a week at it.

Wow, that's great. You're really dedicated to your craft. You must be enjoying the UVic writing program, then.

The profs in the department have been really supportive. Lorna Jackson has helped me a lot, Bill Gaston, Steven Price—they always encourage me to keep writing, keep working. I'm dyslexic, so my problem is I'm not organized, but they help me stay on the right track. It's like a second family for me up here.

What are you working on right now?

My newest story is called “When E. T. met Larry:  Two Sides.” E. T. and Larry communicate psychically, over a beam of light, from the planet Stainless (laughs). And the one I'm working on now is titled “Sobering up in ChristianVille.” I never write two things the same, and I like to make people laugh. It makes me happy. I can be serious sometimes, but I'm just having so much fun in my senior years.

I’ve heard you have a little dog, a dachshund that you carry around with you sometimes.

I call him Koko Kokopuff. People ask me sometimes where I get the ideas for my stories, and I tell them I talk to my dog. I think that, to be a writer, you need to have a warped personality.

Ha! Yeah, you're probably right about that. But, warped personality aside, you seem to be a really sweet and sincere guy. When we were emailing each other to set up this interview, you tagged one of your messages with a lovely quote—do you remember it?

“May all your sunrises be bright in front of you, and the shadows of darkness behind you.” One day I was talking with Lorna Crozier, and she said, “My mornings go good, but my afternoons aren't so good.” So I wrote that little saying for her.

Well it's definitely brightened my day to spend a bit of time talking with you, Jim. Thanks for meeting with me, and enjoy all those books you won—if you ever get away from your own writing long enough to read them, that is. Hope to see you around again sometime soon.

Yeah, if they don't lock me up first!