Wayne Johnston (writer)

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Wayne Johnston
Born (1958-05-22) 22 May 1958 (age 59)
Goulds, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Occupation Novelist
Nationality Canadian
Genre Fiction, Non-Fiction
Notable works Novels: The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, The Divine Ryans

Wayne Johnston (born 1958[1]) is a Canadian novelist. His fiction deals primarily with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, often in a historical setting. He has been called "this continent's best writer" by Kirkus Review.[2]


Johnston was born in Goulds, Newfoundland, and graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1978 with a degree in English literature. He then worked for three years as a newspaper reporter with the St. John's Daily News. In 1981, he moved to Ottawa, and pursued writing full-time. He graduated with an MA in English from the University of New Brunswick in 1984. His first novel, The Story of Bobby O'Malley—which was written while he was a graduate student—won him early critical notice, and the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award in 1985. The novel was adapted for the stage in 2006 by J. M. Sullivan. His second novel, The Time of Their Lives, won the Air Canada/Canadian Authors Association Award for Most Promising Young Canadian Writer in 1988.[3] His novel The Divine Ryans won the 1991 Thomas Head Raddall Award,[4] and was subsequently adapted to the screen. Academy Award nominated actor Pete Postlethwaite starred in the 1999 movie version of The Divine Ryans - Johnston wrote the screenplay, won best screenplay in the Atlantic Film Festival and was nominated for an Actra Award.

Johnston's breakthrough novel, 1998's The Colony of Unrequited Dreams - shortlisted for both the Giller Prize and the Governor General's Award for fiction - was acclaimed for its historical portrayal of legendary Newfoundland politician Joey Smallwood. It was featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review when it was released in the United States, and was an international best seller. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams won or was nominated for sixteen national and international awards including the Commonwealth Prize and the Dublin Impac Prize. It won the New York Public Libraries Prize for Best Novel and was chosen by the Los Angeles Times as one of the Ten Best Books of the year in 1999. It is currently being adapted for the screen in an American-Australian-Canadian production. The novel was chosen for the 2003 edition of CBC Radio's Canada Reads competition, where it was championed by notable politician Justin Trudeau, and won the People's Choice Award. The Custodian of Paradise, published in 2006 told the story of Sheilagh Fielding, a character originally introduced in Colony of Unrequited Dreams.

Baltimore's Mansion, published in 1999, in which Johnston tells the story of his grandfather and father, won the inaugural Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction.

In 2002, Johnston published The Navigator of New York, which was shortlisted for both the Giller Prize and the Governor General's Award for fiction. A World Elsewhere, published in 2011 was a number 1 Canadian best seller. Johnston was awarded the Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award in recognition of his contribution to Canadian Literature in 2011.

Several of Johnston's books have been published in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and China.

For the spring of 2002 Johnston was the Writer-in-Residence at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.[5] He returned to Hollins University in 2004 to fill a Distinguished Chair in Creative Writing, which he held till 2009. Johnston received a Doctor of Letters from the University of New Brunswick in 2003, and from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2006. A convocation address to the University of Alberta was subsequently published as The Old Lost Land of Newfoundland: Family, Memory, Fiction and Myth in the Henry Kreisel Lecture Series. Johnston has delivered a number of other prominent lectures including the John Adams lecture in Amsterdam.

On April 9, 2014, Johnston was placed on the shortlist for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in Canadian Literature for his novel, The Son of a Certain Woman.[6]



Wayne Johnston talkst about A World Elsewhere on Bookbits radio.


  • Baltimore's Mansion (1999 Winner of The Charles Taylor Prize)

Short Stories[edit]

  • Catechism (2005)
  • The Montreal Canadiens (1996)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Johnston, Wayne: The Canadian Encyclopedia
  2. ^ [2] Wayne Johnston Quill & Quire Author Profile
  3. ^ [3] Author Biography
  4. ^ [4] Book Description - The Divine Ryans
  5. ^ [5] Writers-in-Residence - Hollins University
  6. ^ "Wayne Johnston, Red Green on Leacock Medal Shortlist". 
  7. ^ "DeWitt, Edugyan, Ondaatje and Vanderhaege among 17 on Giller long list". The Globe and Mail, September 6, 2011.