The cliché is true: life is what happens while you’re making other plans. I never planned to be a teacher. I was awarded an MFA by accident (because I was simply having too much fun to leave Cal Arts after completing my BFA) and didn’t expect it to be of any consequence. I was offered my first teaching position (part-time Visiting Asst. Professor) in the film department at Simon Fraser University a year after I graduated film school, because people there were really enthusiastic about one of my student films (Criminal Language). That first year of teaching was awarded an unexpected seal of approval when films made by my students swept four of the five top prizes at the Canadian Student Film Festival in Montreal (I only had a total of about eight students). So they kept inviting me back at SFU as a sessional, and when a permanent full-time position opened up they encouraged me to apply. Instead, I quit, mostly because I felt I just hadn’t done enough in the real world to be teaching, and I was worried if I kept teaching I never would.
Eight years later when I applied for a job at York University I had little more to show in terms of completed film work, but I had done a lot of learning, writing, and growing; and, oh yes, had a growing family and badly needed a steady income. In 1995 I was hired to teach screenwriting on a one-year contract at York. It was only during that first year that I realized that teaching is part of my being. The following year I secured a tenure-stream position and since then it’s been my privilege to continue at York. I find that the teacher/student relationship, in a creative field, is a precious, unique, and deeply mysterious thing: at once intimate and impersonal.
For some time I have also been teaching professional workshops as an outgrowth of my story editing work. It’s been inspiring to interact with people from different parts of the world about a subject that inspires all of us: storytelling.