LITERARY LOCATION: 900 Block West 7th Avenue

Long before Andreas Schroeder led Canada to adopt Public Lending Right and helped found both the League of Canadian Poets and the Writers Union of Canada, the prolific UBC Creative Writing professor was an avant-garde, ex-Mennonite motorcyclist and surrealist who lived in a four-storey, ramshackle, communal house, just east of Oak St. “Since the landlord didn’t mind,” he says, “we painted all the doors black and all the window frames purple. Everyone called it, not terribly imaginatively, The Purple Palace.” Notables who lived there, or were regular found-ins, included J. Michael Yates, Charles “Red” Lillard, John Skapski, Scott Symons, George Payerle, John Newlove, Eric Forrer, Susan Musgrave, George McWhirter, George Amabile, Fred Cawsey, Stanley Cooperman, Hannah Main-van der Camp and Rick Ward. “Typewriters clacked and tickered and dinged away twenty-fours a day,” says Schroeder. The living room was wallpapered with 300 leftover posters for Schroeder’s literary magazine Contemporary Literature in Translation. At least a dozen books were written in that house between 1970 and the early 80’s.


Andreas Schroeder, by his own account, has occasionally suffered attacks of certifiable dementia, during which he invariably committed cultural politics: serving as chair of the The Writers' Union of Canada, 1976-77, and founding chair of Public Lending Rights, 1986-88. Schroeder was the most important guiding force behind the successful institutionalization of Public Lending Rights in Canada, ending his 34-year commitment to working on behalf of PLR in 2008. In 2012, he was consequently made the fourth recipient of the Writers Union of Canada's Graeme Gibson Award at its Annual General Meeting on May 26, 2012. Established by the Union in 1991 for “varied and remarkable contributions to improve the circumstances of writers in Canada,” the award was first given to Graeme Gibson. In 1992 it was given to Pierre Berton and in 2011 to Heather Robertson.

Andreas Schroeder was born into a Mennonite family in Hoheneggelsen, Germany on November 26, 1946. He immigrated to Canada in 1951 when family joined a Mennonite congregation in the Fraser Valley founded by his grandfather. All 62 members were related to Schroeder on his mother's side. He recounts several decades of adaptation to Canadian society and his own subsequent alienation from conservative Mennonite values in three novellas that comprise Renovating Heaven (2008), nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.

Schroeder attended the Universities of British Columbia and Toronto from 1965-71, and obtained his B.A. and M.A. in comparative literature and creative writing. He travelled to North America, Europe, the Middle East, before settling in a mountaintop tower near Mission, B.C. He has been writing full-time since 1971, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, radio drama, journalism, translation, and criticism. "Several decades ago I was frantically writing in every genre invented, producing radio documentaries, directing films (The Late Man, The Pub, Immobile), founding and editing magazines (Contemporary Literature in Translation, Canadian Fiction Magazine, Words from Inside), writing weekly literary columns (The Province), teaching creative writing and hosting a weekly literary television show (Synapse). I raced motorcycles, parachuted out of small airplanes, lived with a Bedouin tribe in the Baalbek (Lebanon) and served as Chairman of the Writers Union of Canada (1976-77)... Now it's just me and my word processor."

His work has been published in about twenty books, more than 40 anthologies and more than 90 magazines. His radio plays include a five-part adaptation of his novel Dustship Glory. In 1931, Tom Sukanen, a poor Prairie farmer, began his Quixotic dream to build an ocean-going freighter. Seven years of grueling toil and makeshift construction later, the hard part started--hauling his vessel some 15 miles to the nearest river. In three years Sukanen pulled his ship four miles with only the aid of a horse and a winch. Schroeder replicated this true story with his own fantastical extrapolations. His trio of books about con artists and trickster made Schroeder a frequent guest on CBC Radio's Basic Black in the 1990s. These were followed by similar collections for younger readers, Thieves! and Scams!. He lives with his family, including writer Sharon Brown, at their home near Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast, and teaches at the Creative Writing Department of the University of British Columbia. He received an Honourary Doctorate of Letters from the University College of the Fraser Valley in 2002.


Robbers! Annick Press, 2012. Young adult, Non-fiction.
Duped! Annick Press, 2011. Young Adult Non-fiction.
Renovating Heaven. Oolichan Books, 2008. Three novellas. $18.95 978-088982-248-1
Thieves! Annick Press, 2005. Young Adult Non-Fiction
Scams! Annick Press, 2004. Young Adult Non-Fiction
Fakes, Frauds & Flimflammery. McClelland & Stewart, 1999. -- non-fiction
Cheats, Charlatans & Chicanery. McClelland & Stewart, 1997. -- non-fiction
Scams, Scandals and Skulduggery. McClelland & Stewart, 1996. -- non-fiction
Carved From Wood, Mission 1861-1992. Mission Foundation, 1991. -- history
The Eleventh Commandment. Thistledown, 1990.
The Mennonites. Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1990. -- history, pictorial
Word for Word: The Business of Writing in Alberta. WGA, 1989. -- non-fiction
Dustship Glory. Doubleday Canada Ltd., 1986. -- novel. Re-issued, with afterword, from University. of Athabasca Press, 2011.
Toccata in 'D'. Oolichan Books, 1984. -- novella
Shaking it Rough. Doubleday, 1976; Lorimer, 1979. -- memoir
The Late Man. Sono Nis, 1972. -- parables
uniVERSE. MassAGE Press, 1971. -- concrete poetry
File of Uncertainties. Sono Nis, 1971. -- poems
The Ozone Minotaur. Sono Nis, 1969. -- poems


Contemporary Poetry of British Columbia (Sono Nis, 1970) -- with J.Michael Yates
Stories from Pacific and Arctic Canada (Macmillan, 1974) -- with Rudy Wiebe
Words from Inside (Prison Arts Foundation, 1976, 1977, 1980)
Volvox: Poetry from the Unofficial Languages of Canada (Sono Nis, 1971) -- with Charles Lillard and J. Michael Yates


Rocky Mountain Book Award, YA Nonfiction, 2007.
Red Maple Award for YA nonfiction. 2006
Red Maple Award, Ontario Library Association, 2005.
Honorary Doctorate of Letters, University College of the Fraser Valley, 2002.
Storytelling World (USA) Award: storytelling collections. 2005
Shortlisted, National Magazine Award, 1991.
Best Investigative Journalism, Canadian Association of Journalists, 1991.
Shortlisted, Seal First Novel Award, for Dustship Glory, 1984.
Shortlisted, Governor General's Literary Award, for Shaking it Rough, 1976.

[Photo by Laura Sawchuk]

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2012] "Mennonite" "Fiction" "Humour" "Classic" "Interview"