Favourite local writer

Keeley Braunstein-Black

1. Sheldon Birnie

2. Owen Toews

3. Zoe Mills

With his writing featured in VICE, Briarpatch, Exclaim! and more, one doesn’t have to look far to find the work of Sheldon Birnie. He has covered almost everything from music to sports to politics to fiction and he shows no sign of stopping. He “just enjoys doing it.”

Much of Birnie’s work showcases the people, culture and environment of the Prairies. Despite not growing up in the Prairies, Birnie says he is “a bit of a homer.”

“I grew up in Northern B.C., but my parents are from Manitoba. My family’s all from here, and we spent summers visiting my grandparents and aunts and uncles,” Birnie says. “For whatever reason, I always felt more connected to here than where I grew up.”

Birnie says he always showed an inclination toward writing. He wrote in his youth and worked for punk-rock zines as a young adult, but his career as a journalist didn’t begin until a friend roped him into working at The Manitoban.

“I really enjoyed doing that. I had never thought of journalism as a career before, but I quickly fell in love with it,” Birnie says. “I pursued opportunities as they came up, and here we are.”

Now, Birnie works at the Free Press Community Review, covering community meetings and local events, while working on his own writing. His recent collection, titled Where the Pavement Turns to Sand, features stories he’s written over the past 20 years, blending genre fiction with the backwoods of Prairie Canada.

“Writing about characters and stuff from here, it comes naturally to me. I think it’s important to write those stories down and to share them,” Birnie says. “And if there’s a readership beyond here, that’s great, but if not, then at least there’s some stories for us.”

Published in Volume 78, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 30, 2023)

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