You are here: Home Museum Beat Latest Museum News Author Will Ferguson makes a career out of curiosity
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

L.A. Beat

Author Will Ferguson makes a career out of curiosity

E-mail Print

Calgary based writer Will Ferguson has made a career out of curiosity.
Ferguson, who was born in Fort Vermillion in Northern Alberta, has travelled all over the world from hitchhiking around the backwoods of Japan to Moose Jaw.Will Ferguson
“I find both of them equally fascinating,” he said. He is very familiar with Lethbridge and Southern Alberta, having dedicated two chapters to Lethbridge in one of his books.

 For now he is looking forward to coming to Lethbridge, May 27 to visit the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens and to participate in the Queen’s Jubilee celebration at  the Galt Museum.

“My wife is Japanese, so when she gets homesick, she likes to come to the Japanese Gardens because it is so authentic. Even though the plants are Canadian, the design is Japanese. So we’ll come down on the Saturday to see it,” he continued.
 He travelled in Northern Ireland after the troubles just to see the effect on the people and in July  will be going to Rwanda to do the research for a book on the twentieth anniversary of the genocides.

 “I’ll be concentrating on my Canadian travels, seeing the polar bears in Churchill and Moose Jaw,” he said.
“ Travel writing is probably the easiest thing to get into because it’s always your story. If you go to a resort in Guadalajara, then that’s your story and your experience,” he advised to prospective travel writers. The most important thing  is to have  a sense of adventure and curiosity, though enough common sense not to get into dangerous situations.
“Start out in newspapers, because newspapers are always looking for travel stories, then work your way up to magazines and books.”

He started his career as a travel writer while hitch-hiking in Japan, where he spent several years teaching English.
“I was living in Japan, teaching and they have very poor bus service in Japan, so I started hitch-hiking, and nobody hitch-hikes in Japan, so I had people inviting me over for dinner and I thought that was pretty cool. Then I thought I’d pitch the idea of writing about hitch-hiking to a Japanese newspaper. They passed on it, but it planted the bug in me,” he said adding he moved to PEI and decided to write an article about Japanese customs.

He has since released over a dozen books, including humour and lots of non-fiction and travel books and has won numerous awards including a Leacock medal for humour in 2010, an AWG award for creative non-fiction and numerous others including  a Pierre Berton Award For History in 2005.
“I won a Pierre Berton award and that was the biggest thrill because when he wrote about history, he needed it to be lively and energetic,” he said adding Berton inspired him to tell stories of history in a similar way.
“He always wrote very tight and funny,” he said.


 His hitch-hiking days are over though.
“ I had an epiphany a few years ago,”  Ferguson said.
“I was traveling in Europe and staying in youth hostels. So I was in the common room cooking my noodles and trying to make conversation. People were behaving pretty weird,” he said.
“ I heard them laughing outside and I realized I was the creepy old man in the  youth hostel and they’re thinking ‘Why don’t you  have a hotel?’ I’m 47-years old, I want room service,” he laughed adding that used to be his attitude as well when he was younger.

Because he comes from a non-fiction background, he does a lot of research into his  works, a habit which carries over to his fiction.
“It usually takes about a year or three to write a book, so it can get confusing, ” he said adding he usually travels extensively while researching, though he didn’t  actually go to Nigeria for his latest novel, “419”
 It is a harrowing tale of a girl who goes to Nigeria to find out who is  responsible after her father dies as a result of a Nigerian e-mail fraud scam.
“They usually target older, more vulnerable people sitting on their savings so they can lose everything. They  don’t target millionaires. It is a revenge fantasy about this girl who unwisely goes to Nigeria to track them down. It is a little out of the ordinary for me,” he said.
“I didn’t go to Nigeria though because you will wind up floating in the Lagos Lagoon if you go poking around there. I envy writers who can just imagine a story,” he said.

He is going to tour Rwanda in July for his next book about the  revolution there, but isn’t worried about the danger.
“That’s a misconception. For a lot of people time stopped existing in 1994 when the revolution happened. Now it is an actual working republic,” he continued adding he is excited to see how things have changed 20 years after the troubles there.
I’ll be going to Uganda too, but in the mountains there, so it won’t be as sweltering. There are some parts of Africa where you just don’t want to go in July,” he said, adding he just got his shots for the trip.

Will Ferguson will be taking part in the Queen’s Jubilee at 2 p.m. at the Galt Museum, May 27. His talk will be  followed by  varied repertoire of chamber music performed by the Empress Theatre’s Project Muse, a classical music arts program which sees four young, professional musicians visit southern Alberta schools to present educational programs and share the joy of music. Violist Brooke Day of Lethbridge and flutist Sarah Gieck of Calgary return for the second year, and are joined by harpist Olivia Ritchey and clarinetist Erin Fung. Their schedule also includes visits to 14 schools in Pincher Creek, Stavely, Claresholm, Enchant, Lomond, Glenwood, Barnwell, Coaldale and Lethbridge.

— By Richard Amery, L.A Beat Editor
The ONLY Gig Guide that matters


Music Beat

Lights. Camera. Action.
Inside L.A. Inside

CD Reviews


Music Beat News

Art Beat News

Drama Beat News

Museum Beat News