Lesley Choyce (1951–) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights
Born 1951, in Riverside, NJ; Education: Rutgers University, B.A., 1972; Montclair State College, M.A. (American literature), 1974; City University of New York, M.A. (English literature), 1983. Hobbies and other interests: Surfing, transcendental woodsplitting.
Office—Pottersfield Press, 83 Leslie Rd., East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia B2Z 1PG, Canada.
Writer, publisher, educator, musician, and television host. Referrals Workshop, Denville, NJ, rehabilitation counselor, 1973–74; Bloomfield College, Bloomfield, NJ, coordinator of writing tutorial program, 1974; Montclair State College, Upper Montclair, NJ, instructor in English, 1974–78; Alternate Energy Consultants, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, writer and consultant to Energy, Mines and Resources Canada, 1979–80; Dalhousie University, Halifax, 1981–, began as instructor, became professor of English. Founder of Pottersfield Press. Creative writing instructor, City of Halifax continuing education program, 1978–83; instructor at St. Mary's University, 1978–82, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1981, and Mount St. Vincent University, 1982. Participant in creative writing workshops; public reader and lecturer. Freelance broadcaster, beginning 1972; host of television talk show Choyce Words, beginning 1985; musician/poet performing with Surf Poets. Worked variously as a freight hauler, corn farmer, janitor, journalist, newspaper delivery person, and well digger.
International PEN, Atlantic Publishers Association, Association of Canadian Publishers, Literary Press Group, Canadian Poetry Association, Canadian Writers' Foundation (member of board), Writers' Union of Canada, Writers Federation of Nova Scotia.
Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Award finalist, 1981; recipient, Order of St. John Award of Merit, 1986; Stephen Leacock Medal shortlist, 1987; Dartmouth Book Award, 1990, and 1995, for The Republic of Nothing; Event magazine creative nonfiction winner, 1990; Ann Connor Brimer Award for Children's Literature, 1994, and 2003, for Shoulder the Sky; Manitoba Young Reader's Choice Award finalist, 1994; Authors Award (co-recipient), Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Letters, 1995; Canadian Surfing Championships first place, 1995; Hackmatack Children's Book Award finalist, 2000; Landmark East Literacy Award, 2000; poet laureate, Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf Tournament, 2000; Young Adult Canadian Book Award finalist, 2003, for Shoulder the Sky; White Pine Award finalist, 2004.
FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS
Skateboard Shakedown, Formac Publishing (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1989.
Hungry Lizards, Collier-Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1990.
Wave Watch, Formac Publishing (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1990.
Some Kind of Hero, Maxwell-Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1991.
Wrong Time, Wrong Place, Formac Publishing (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1991.
Clearcut Danger, Formac Publishing (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1992.
Full Tilt, Maxwell-Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993.
Good Idea Gone Bad, Formac Publishing (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1993.
Dark End of Dream Street, Formac Publishing (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1994.
Big Burn, Thistledown, 1995.
Falling through the Cracks, Formac Publishing (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1996.
Go for It, Carrie (chapter book), Formac Publishing (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1997.
Famous at Last, illustrated by Jill Quinn, Pottersfield Press (East Laurencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1998.
Carrie's Crowd (chapter book), illustrated by Mark Thurman, Formac Publishing (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1998.
Roid Rage, Harbour Publishing (Madeira Park, British Columbia, Canada), 1999.
The Summer of Apartment X, Goose Lane Editions (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 1999.
Far Enough Island, illustrated by Jill Quinn, Pottersfield Press (Lawrencetown Beach, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2000.
Carrie's Camping Adventure (chapter book), illustrated by Mark Thurman, Formac Publishing (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2001.
Shoulder the Sky, Dundurn Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Refuge Cove, Orca Book (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2002.
Smoke and Mirrors, Boardwalk Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Thunderbowl, Orca Soundings (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2004.
Sudden Impact, Orca Soundings (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2005.
FICTION; FOR ADULTS
Eastern Sure, Nimbus Publishing, 1981.
Billy Botzweiler's Last Dance (stories), Blewointment Press, 1984.
Downwind, Creative Publishers, 1984.
Conventional Emotions (stories), Creative Publishers, 1985.
Coming up for Air, Creative Publishers, 1988.
The Second Season of Jonas MacPherson, Thistledown Press (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada), 1989.
Magnificent Obsessions (photo-novel), Quarry Press, 1991.
The Ecstasy Conspiracy, Nuage Editions, 1992.
Margin of Error (stories), Borealis Press, 1992.
The Republic of Nothing, Goose Lane Editions (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 1994.
Dance the Rocks Ashore, Goose Lane Editions (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 1997.
World Enough, Goose Lane Editions (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 1998.
Cold Clear Morning, Porcepic Books (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2002.
Sea of Tranquility, Simon & Pierre (Tonawanda, NY), 2003.
Contributor to more than one hundred magazines and anthologies.
The Dream Auditor, Ragweed Press, 1986.
The Trap Door to Heaven, Quarry Press, 1996.
Edible Wild Plants of the Maritimes, Wooden Anchor Press, 1977.
An Avalanche of Ocean (autobiography), Goose Lane Editions (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 1987.
December Six/The Halifax Solution, Pottersfield Press (East Laurencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1988.
Transcendental Anarchy: Confessions of a Metaphysical Tourist (autobiography), Quarry Press, 1993.
Nova Scotia: Shaped by the Sea, Penguin (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
The Coasts of Canada: A History, Goose Lane Editions (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 2002.
Reinventing the Wheel, Fiddle Head Poetry Books, 1980.
Fast Living, Fiddle Head Poetry Books, 1982.
The End of Ice, Fiddle Head Poetry Books, 1982.
The Top of the Heart, Thistledown Press, 1986.
The Man Who Borrowed the Bay of Fundy, Brandon University, 1988.
The Coastline of Forgetting, Pottersfield Press (East Laurencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1995.
Beautiful Sadness, Ekstasis Editions (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1998.
Caution to the Wind, Ekstasis Editions (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2000.
Typographical Eras, Gaspereau Press (Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2003.
Revenge of the Optimist, Ekstasis Editions (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2004.
Contributor of lyrics and music to poetry/music recordings, including Sea Level, Pottersfield Press, 1999; Long Lost Planet, 1999.
The Pottersfield Portfolio, Volumes 1-7, Pottersfield Press (East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1971–85.
Alternating Current: Renewable Energy for Atlantic Canada, Wooden Anchor Press, 1977.
Chezzetocook (fiction and poetry), Wooden Anchor Press, 1977.
(With Phil Thompson) ACCESS, Pottersfield Press (East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1979.
(With John Bell) Visions from the Edge, Pottersfield Press (East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1981.
The Cape Breton Collection, 2 volumes, Pottersfield Press (East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1984–89.
(With Andy Wainwright) Charles Bruce, The Mulgrave Road, Pottersfield Press (East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1985.
Ark of Ice: Canadian Futurefiction, Pottersfield Press (East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1985.
(With Rita Joe) The Mi'kmaq Anthology, Pottersfield Press (East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 1997.
(And contributor) Atlantica: Stories from the Maritimes and Newfoundland, Goose Lane Editions (Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada), 2001.
Pottersfield Nation: East of Canada, Pottersfield Press (East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2004.
Nova Scotia: A Traveller's Companion: Over 300 Years of Travel Writing, Pottersfield Press (East Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2005.
The Republic of Nothing was optioned for film.
American-born Canadian author, educator, publisher, editor, musician, and champion surfer Lesley Choyce has written numerous works of fiction for both adults and young adults, as well as nonfiction, science fiction, and poetry. He works some of his many interests—including nature and the environment, surfing, skateboarding, and music—into his novels for young adults, which include Hungry Lizards, Wrong Time, Wrong Place, Roid Rage, and Smoke and Mirrors. Choyce's teen novels feature high-interest story lines and accessible vocabulary, making them popular among reluctant readers. "Choyce's talent for portraying quirky, if troubled, idealists" as lead characters has also made him popular with teens, according to Resource Links contributor Nadine d'Entremont in a positive review of Smoke and Mirrors.
In Choyce's first book, 1989's Skateboard Shakedown, a skateboarder, his girlfriend, and a group of friends take on a corrupt mayor who wants to turn their favorite skateboard site into a shopping mall. Skateboarding is also the focus of Smoke and Mirrors, which focuses on a sixteen-year-old boy whose skateboarding injury caused the brain damage that he suspects is causing him to see and speak with a strange classmate that seems too good—and too mysterious—to be real. Reviewing Skateboard Shakedown for Quill & Quire, Norene Smiley noted that Choyce's "fast-paced novel marks the entrance of a new and refreshing voice for young readers." A sport of another sort is central to Roid Rage, which focuses on the use of steroids in athletic competition. Ray's use of performance-enhancing drugs is of growing concern to best buddy Craig, who watches Ray's skills on the football field increase as his well-being declines. In Quill & Quire Paul Challen praised the book's "snappy junior-jock dialogue and realistic game-action description," adding that Roid Rage portrays "the kind of teen peer pressure" that causes teen steroid use. Adolescent "pressure to perform above expectations is enormous," added a Resource Links reviewer, "and Choyce develops this theme in fine style."
Rock music takes center stage in several of Choyce's novels, including Hungry Lizards and Thunderbowl. In Hungry Lizards a sixteen-year-old rock band leader finds the advantages of winning a performing contract at a local club outweighed by the realities of the enter-tainment business, the conflicting time demands of school and work, and the temptations of a questionable lifestyle. Thunderbowl finds talented teen guitarist Jeremy winning a band playoff; the prize is a chance to perform at a popular bar called the Dungeon. The opportunity forces the teen to weigh the importance of his obligations to his family and finishing his education over following his dream of being a professional musician, and his ultimate choice is prompted by some harsh lessons about the life he has chosen. Commenting on Hungry Lizards, Kenneth Oppel concluded in Quill & Quire that Choyce's "tempered view of teenage street life and the rock 'n' roll underworld should appeal to young readers." Reviewing Thunderbowl in Resource Links, Maria Forte noted that the voice of Choyce's young protagonist "rings true" and that Jeremy's story "deals with teenage angst without being corny or superficial."
Wrong Time, Wrong Place explores racial tensions and social injustice through the story of Corey, a young man with one parent who is black and one who is white. Corey first becomes aware of the disadvantages of being biracial when he is branded as a troublemaker and rebel and begins to notice how both students and faculty treat lighter-skinned students differently. Through his uncle Larry's positive example and the man's stories of a black community in Halifax called Africville, Corey begins to identify with his black forebears. As Canadian Children's Literature reviewer Heidi Petersen noted, Corey "realises that he must face injustices himself, and embraces a form of social activism which begins by keeping the past, the truth, alive."
Coping with the loss of a parent and the many feelings that result is the subject of Shoulder the Sky, Choyce's award-winning 2002 novel. Seemingly untroubled and thus encouraged by his father to explore his emotions by writing, sixteen-year-old Martin Emerson divides himself into three different personas: the average, everyday, schoolgoing teen; the outgoing, egocentric Emerso, who comes into being on Martin's personal Web site; and the nameless guy who sometimes blacks out and cannot remember things that have just happened. In between the precocious Internet rants of Emerso, Martin details his day-to-day life before and after his mother's death, including his efforts at rebellion, his unrequited love for a classmate, and his friendship with fellow nerd Darrell. Ultimately, a family road trip to Alaska causes the teen to confront his mother's death and begin the process of reworking his fractured self into whole cloth. Praising the colorful secondary characters introduced in the novel, Canadian Review of Materials contributor Dave Jenkinson predicted that Choyce's protagonist will be "quite interesting to the adolescent reader" despite the fact that Martin's character "unfolds slowly." Dubbing Martin "a sweet funny kid," Quill & Quire contributor Teresa Toten added that in Shoulder the Sky the author "expertly infuses his characters with an engaging combination of muscle and poetry" and creates a lead character that young readers will "root for."
In addition to fiction for older readers, Choyce has produced several chapter books for early elementary-graders, many published by his own Pottersfield Press. As part of Pottersfield's illustrated series of readers, Choyce penned Famous at Last, which focuses on a nine year old who turns a role in a local television bean commercial into a chance at superstardom—even though he really hates beans. "When his career path takes him from beans to Brussels sprouts to stewed tomatoes, Fred draws the line," explained Quill & Quire reviewer Maureen Garvie, noting the boy's late-dawning conscience. In Quill & Quire Ann Abel deemed Famous at Last "fast-paced" and "hilarious."
Other beginning readers written by Choyce include several volumes in Formac's "First Novel" series, all of which feature a high-spirited and likeable ten year old named Carrie. In Go for It, Carrie the desire to learn how to roller skate prompts the girl to find a creative way to get skates she can afford and overcome her frustration while working to master the sport, while a camping trip with friends introduces the city girl to more wildlife than she really wants to handle in Carrie's Camping Adventure. In Carrie's Crowd, which a Resource Links reviewer called a "brisk story," Carrie plans her strategy to become part of the popular clique until she realizes that the loss of her old friends will come at too high a cost. In each of the "Carrie" books Choyce highlights the young girl's resourcefulness; as Gillian Richardson noted in a review of Carrie's Camping Adventure for Canadian Review of Materials, elementary-aged girls in particular will likely "enjoy the obvious superiority in competence" of the girls featured in the story.
Describing his growth as a writer, Choyce once told SATA: "As a kid, I had a fairly minute ego; no one within earshot was ready to persuade me that my opinions and insights were of much value in the world I lived in. So later, when I grew into my skin as a writer, I pretended for awhile that what I had to say really was of importance. After a time, I started believing in the myth, and this convinced me to abandon fiction for awhile and get autobiographical.
"Since my life story would be exceedingly boring, I was forced to edit my personal history ruthlessly until there was something left worth sharing. My first fragmented history of the self came out as An Avalanche of Ocean, and I almost thought that I was done with autobiography. What more could I possibly say once I'd written about winter surfing, transcendental wood-splitting, and getting strip-searched for cod tongues in a Labrador airport?
"But then something happened to me that I can't quite explain. Avalanche set off something in me: a kind of manic, magical couple of years where I felt like I was living on the edge of some important breakthrough. It was a time of greater compressed euphoria and despair than I'd ever felt before. Stuff was happening to me, images of the past were flooding through the doors, and I needed to get it all down. Some of it was funny, some of it was not. Dead writers were hovering over my shoulder, saying, 'Dig deep; follow it through. Don't let any of it go.' And I didn't.
"So again I have the audacity to say that these things that happened to me are worth your attention. Like Wordsworth, I am a man 'pleased with my own volitions.' Like Whitman, I find myself saying to readers, 'to you, endless announcements.'
"Write about what makes you feel the most uncomfortable, a voice in my head told me. So I tackled fear and my own male anger and my biggest failures. And, even more dangerous, I tried writing about the most ordinary of things: a morning in Woolco, an unexceptional day, the thread of things that keeps a life together.
"Throughout it all, there is, I hope, a record of a search for love and meaning fraught with failure and recovery. Maybe I've developed a basic mistrust of the rational, logical conclusions. I've only had the briefest glimpses beyond the surface, but I've seen enough to know that sometimes facts are not enough. There are times to make the leap, to get metaphysical, and suppose that we all live larger lives than appearances would suggest."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Books in Canada, October, 1995, pp. 49-50.
Canadian Book Review Annual, 1998, review of Carrie's Crowd, p. 497; 1999, review of World Enough, p. 162, review of Roid Rage, p. 488; 2000, review of The Summer of Apartment X, p. 140.
Canadian Children's Literature (annual), 1991, pp. 86-88; 1994, Heidi Petersen, review of Wrong Time, Wrong Place, pp. 72-76.
Canadian Review of Materials, January, 1991, p. 34; May, 1992, p. 165; October 18, 1996, Jennifer Sullivan, review of Big Burn; January 31, 1997, Irene Gordon, review of Falling through the Cracks; September 19, 1997, Irene Gordon, review of Go for It, Carrie; November 2, 2001, Gillian Richardson, review of Carrie's Camping Adventure; November 29, 2002, Dave Jenkinson, review of Shoulder the Sky.
Kliatt, January, 2003, review of Refuge Cove, p. 18.
Maclean's, August 15, 1994, p. 44.
Publishers Weekly, June 28, 1999, review of World Enough, p. 56.
Quill & Quire, March, 1990, Norene Smiley, review of Skateboard Shakedown, p. 22; August, 1990, Kenneth Oppel, review of The Hungry Lizards, p. 15; April, 1991, p. 18; May, 1993, Patty Lawlor, review of Clearcut Danger, pp. 33-34; March, 1995, Fred Boer, review of Dark End of Dream Street, p. 79; May, 1995, Maureen Garvie, review of Big Burn, pp. 46-47; May, 1998, Maureen Garvie, review of Famous at Last, p. 35; July, 1999, review of The Summer of Apartment X, p. 42; August, 1999, Paul Challen, review of Roid Rage, p. 39; February, 2003, Teresa Toten, review of Shoulder the Sky.
Resource Links, April, 1999, Ann Abel, review of Famous at Last, p. 9; June, 1999, review of Carrie's Crowd, p. 10; October, 1999, review of Roid Rage, p. 25; October, 2001, Mavis Holder, review of Carrie's Camping Adventure, p. 12; June, 2004, Maria Forte, review of Thunderbowl, p. 24; April, 2005, Nadine d'Entremont, review of Smoke and Mirrors, p. 29.
School Library Journal, August, 1999, Cheryl Cufari, review of Carrie's Crowd, p. 124.
Lesley Choyce Home Page, http://www.lesleychoyce.com/ (October 20, 2005).
Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia Web site, http://www.writers.ns.ca/Writers/ (August 15, 2005).
Writers Union of Canada Web site, http://www.writersunion.ca/ (October 20, 2005), "Lesley Choyce."
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