LITERARY LOCATION: Willliams Lake Tribune, 188 1 Ave North, Williams Lake [52°7'46" N, 122°8'18" W]

In 2009, Mark Leiren-Young won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for his book about working as a 22-year-old rookie reporter for the Tribune, Never Shoot a Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo (Heritage 2008). Other B.C. authors who have won the country's top honour for humour are Arthur Black, Howard White, Bill Richardson and Eric Nicol. Other authors who have written for the venerable Tribune include Sage Birchwater, Veera Bonner, Gerry Bracewell, Eric Collier, Dan Paxton Dunaway, Diana French, Donald J. Hauka, Karen Piffko, Jean E. Speare and Irene Stangoe. Founded in 1930 by William Percy Cotton, The Tribune was sold to rancher George Renner in 1937, who sold it to Irene & Clife Stangoe in 1950. It was sold to corporate interests in 1966.


Mark Leiren-Young won his Leacock Medal for his true-life tall tales about life in rough-'n'-tumble Williams Lake, home to a famous almost-annual rodeo that reputedly started in 1919. On the night he arrived in town for his new job in 1985, Leiren-Young chanced upon the scene of an armed robbery. Later the fish-out-of-water urbanite finds himself in a courtroom just a few feet away from a defendant with a bomb strapped to his chest. Then there was the news story about a plane that crashed without its pilot on board. The book became the basis for a one-man play he wrote, presented by Arts Club.

As a writer, Mark Leiren-Young is as versatile as they come.

In 2014, Leiren-Young was chosen as Vancouver's first Jewish Literary Laureate, a new distinction shepherded into existence by cultural activist Yosef Wosk. In 2015, he served as the 2015 Harvey Southam lecturer at the University of Victoria.

A screenwriter, playwright, critic, performer and freelance journalist, he wrote The Green Chain, a documentary-style drama about a dying B.C. logging town. It premiered in B.C. at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas in Vancouver in March of 2009. It received a major prize at the 15th annual FICMA Film Festival in Barcelona as well as a Gold Remi in Houston. Directed by Andrew Williamson, produced by Scott Renyard, the short comedy stars Lexa Doig and Jonathon Young. It has been touted as "a powerful, funny and thought-provoking film about the conflicts between people who love trees-on both sides of the battle-and are willing to risk anything to protect their personal visions of the forest."; With typical candour and humnour, Leiren-Young adds, "it features my niece Emma as a terrified child."

As a journalist Mark has written for such publications as Time, Maclean's and The Utne Reader, and he's received a National Magazine Award as a columnist. He has been a regular contributor to The Georgia Straight and a humour columnist for The Tyee, where he hosted an environmentally-themed podcast series, The Green Chain, available on iTunes.

His stage plays have been produced throughout Canada and the U.S. and have also been seen in Europe and Australia. His scripts Shylock and Articles of Faith are published by Anvil Press. In 2015, Shylock was translated into French and Czech. The French translation was courtesy of the University of Lyon. The Czech translation was for a production in Prague in the autumn of 2015. His satirical comedy troupe, Local Anxiety, has been featured on CBC and NPR and has played major festivals across Canada. Local Anxiety's TV special Greenpieces received an Earthvision Award for its satirical take on environmental issues. He has released two CDs with Local Anxiety-Forgive Us We're Canadian and Greenpieces. Both feature the troupe's hit song "I'm White, I'm Straight, I'm Sorry.";

He's half of the comedy duo Local Anxiety and has released two CDs-Greenpieces and Forgive Us We're Canadian. He starred inb his 2012 solo stage comedy, Greener Than Thou. His other books include The Green Chain-Nothing Is Ever Clear Cut and This Crazy Time, written with/about Canadian environmentalist, Tzeporah Berman, as well as his candid, often painful, but always amusing memoir of post-pubescent ambitions for fame and love, Free Magic Secrets Revealed (Harbour 2013).

"Just over twenty years ago one of my heroes, Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson, told me the story of Moby Doll - the first killer whale displayed in captivity," says Mark Leiren-Young. "Ever since then I've been chasing this whale's tale like Ahab chased his great white." Leiren-Young's radio documentary for CBC's IDEAS, Moby Doll: The Whale that Changed the World, won a Jack Webster Award for "best radio documentary."; Having re-told the story of Moby Doll in The Walrus magazine, Leiren-Young published a book on the subject in 2016. [SEE FULL-LENGTH REVIEW BELOW]


Orcas Everywhere: The Mystery and History of Killer Whales
by Mark Leiren-Young (Orca $24.95) For ages 9-12

Mark Leiren-Young's screenplay for The Hundred-Year-Old Whale won the 2017 Writer's Guild of Canada Award for best documentary film and his The Killer Whale Who Changed the World won the 2017 Science Writers and Communicators (SWCC) Book Award. Now he has responded to the need to educate young people about whales with Orcas Everywhere: The Mystery and History of Killer Whales (Orca $24.95). The title was inspired by the idea that Orca whales live in every ocean on earth.—Ed.

Everybody knows orcas are awesome and they will steal your heart. They are part of the logo of the Vancouver Canucks and the Royal British Columbia Museum will be launching a major exhibit about orcas in May.

They are so important that I think it's now illegal to create a tourism ad for B.C. (or Washington State) that doesn't feature an orca spy-hopping or soaring above the water in a mind-blowing breach.

The orcas we know best are the "southern residents." These were the first orcas in captivity that humans met... the orcas that the Canadian government once plotted to exterminate so we wouldn't have to share salmon with them...

Orcas used to spend all summer long in the Salish Sea. When I discovered that some people believed that "Granny," the matriarch of the southern residents, might be over a hundred years-old, I set out to make a movie about her.

The southern residents were in the middle of a baby boom. The population wasn't thriving, but it was recovering from the era when we'd wiped them out by shooting them and taken a generation of their children to perform in marine parks.

Granny had just been elected honorary Mayor of Orcas Island. Almost everyone I interviewed was upbeat, hopeful, optimistic. The moment I saw Granny fly through the air—like she was ready for her close-up—the matriarch and her pod owned me.

Those were ancient times. Justin Trudeau was Canada's shiny new Prime Minister. Barack Obama was president of the United States. The iPhone seven had just been released. The year was 2016.

That January, the southern residents lost J55—an orca who died so soon after birth that researchers never confirmed the young whale's gender or mother. Six more southern residents were gone before the end of the year. The Center for Whale Researchers waited until the start of 2017 to announce the death of Granny.

That's when we realized these orcas were in trouble. I wanted to do what I could to inspire people to fight for them. So, I was thrilled when Ruth Linka, the editorial director at Orca Book Publishers asked if I’d be interested in writing about her company's namesake for young readers.

I wanted to share how and why I fell for these whales. I wanted to share stories about how intelligent they are, how they look after each other and what humans can do to help them. I also wanted to write about what humans have done—and are still doing—to destroy them.

I wanted to write a book that would not only surprise and excite readers who were already into whales, but also inspire readers who'd never really thought about them. Equally important, I wanted to let young readers know what they could do to make a difference.

One of the most compelling speakers fighting for the southern resident orcas in Washington State is London Fletcher. For the last few years she’s been battling to breach dams in the U.S. to help save the Chinook salmon—the primary food source for the southern residents.

It’s pretty hard not to dub her the Greta Thunberg of whale conservation. Fletcher is a member of the Society of Marine Mammology and the Acoustical Society of America. She’s twelve and she has told politicians, the media and the public, "We just can’t let them go without a fight."

But she's hardly alone.

Ella Grace from Ontario was eight when she was inspired by eco-warrior Rob Stewart to fight for sharks and the oceans.

Powell River’s Ta'Kaiya Blaney from Sliammon First Nation was eight when she started speaking out -- and singing -- about the dangers of a spill from the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.

I've always enjoyed writing theatre for young audiences because they're engaged. They don't just ask questions, they want and, sometimes demand, answers. So, doing Orcas Everywhere was an offer I couldn't refuse.

In a lot of ways, this book was created as Orcas 101 -- for adults, too -- as an all-purpose introduction to these magnificent beings. I want to inspire readers of all ages to join with leaders like London, Ta'Kaiya and Ella to fight on behalf of another species.

It all starts with love.

Mark Leiren-Young is an accomplished dramatist , performer and critic. He also hosts the Skaana podcast where he interviews experts about orcas, oceans and the environment.


Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Never Shoot a Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo

This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge

Orcas Everywhere: The Mystery and History of Killer Whales (Orca, 2019) $24.95 978-1-4598-1998-6

Big Whales, Small World (Orca, 2020) $10.95 978-1-45982-502-4

Orcas of the Salish Sea (Orca, 2020) $19.95 978-1-45982-505-5

Big Sharks, Small World (Orca, 2022) $10.95 9781459831544

Sharks Forever: The Mystery and History of the Planet’s Perfect Predator (Orca, 2022) $24.95 9781459827561

[BCBW 2022] "Humour" "Theatre" "Cariboo" "Whales"