Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


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DEREK WEILER, 1968 - 2009

Usually on this blog I try to avoid repeating what others have written about on other blogs over the previous week. Not this week. On Easter Sunday, Derek Weiler, who was a friend, colleague and the editor of Quill & Quire, the Canadian book industry's trade rag, died suddenly at his home in Toronto. Derek was only 40.

In my experience as a journalist there are three types of editors: the puzzling type who don't do anything to your work, the horrid ones who make your work worse, and the marvelous few who make your work better. Categorically, Derek was one of the marvels. I have been writing for Quill for almost fifteen years. Derek came onboard in 1999 and worked his way up from staff writer, to review editor, to news editor, to editor in chief. I couldn't begin to calculate the number of words I've written for the magazine that passed across Derek's desk. Many thousands to be sure. What I can say is that despite the fact that Derek's standards always pushed you to do your best work, when he ran his eye over a piece, always what came back was a gracefully focused improvement on what you'd submitted. I became a better writer and journalist because of Derek's influence, and for that I am thankful.

Tributes to Derek have run web-wide throughout the week. Here are just a few:

A Facebook memorial page has been created by Derek's wife Sari Morrison and his close friend Frank Seglenieks. (In the links near the bottom of this page there is an audio file of Jian Ghomeshi's splendid tribute to Derek from "Q".)

The staff of Quill & Quire have posted two pieces:
-The initial notice of Derek's death from last Monday, which generated a flood of heartfelt comments.
-A remembrance of their colleague.

A moving tribute to Derek has been posted by his good friend Gary Butler, editor of Driven magazine.

Derek's Quill co-worker Steven Beattie has also posted on his blog, That Shakespeherian Rag.

Painter Shannon Reynolds, for whom Derek sat, writes about losing a beloved friend.

From the news world:
-Derek's obit from The Kitchener Waterloo Record.
-Vit Wagner's piece in the Toronto Star.
-James Adams' Globe obit and Martin Levin's blog post. (Please note, Derek's tattoo was from Beckett's The Unnamable, not Waiting for Godot.)
, The National Post and Pubisher's Weekly each also paid tribute.

There are many other tributes to Derek to be found on the web. No doubt there will be more to come.

Rest in Peace, Derek Weiler.


Derek's funeral was held yesterday in Kitchener. There will be a memorial evening at Toronto's Gladstone Hotel, April 29, 8pm.


A note about the photo above: Why is it backwards? (Click on the photo to expand it.) Derek took the photo with his webcam at the Quill offices for an interview I did with him last year. Curiously, it was backwards, as shown, when he emailed it to me. I flipped it for the interview, but have left it backwards here because I wonder if there isn't something prophetic about that "TIXE" sign. Derek, many of us learned only after his death, suffered from a congenital heart condition. It was not something he talked about, although once over many drinks he told a mutual friend that he knew he would not live to see 50, and he also blogged about his health. When I first saw the photograph, I was struck by the backwards EXIT sign, perched above his head like a comic-strip thought bubble. I knew nothing of Derek's heart condition, but that sign, and that corner of a doorway, made me think of Sartre’s “No Exit” and, naturally from there, of death. Derek was not the sort of person, not the sort of editor, to miss something so obvious as a backwards photo, especially not one with a large reversed word in it. Death, I suspect, was something he may have pondered much more than the average person. For him, sadly, an Exit sign of sorts was always close at hand. But to wrench it backwards like that? To move it from the logical, language-driven left brain to the creative, image-driven right? To leave it that way when he knew it would be posted to a prominent bookstore website? What was that? A message? An act of defiance? The brain’s way of short-circuiting the truth? Who knows? Maybe there is nothing to it. Maybe he was busy that day and fired it off to me in an uncharacteristic sloppy rush. Maybe he was just having a crappy day at work and couldn't wait to use that door behind him. Though when I look at the photo I can’t help thinking about how the mind often outs itself with photography. Some will say I read too much into it, but the reverse image, the mirror image, is literally how we see ourselves. This is what Derek looked like to Derek, and that is why I could not bring myself to reverse it here.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Shaun Smith

Shaun Smith is a novelist and journalist living in Toronto. His young adult novel Snakes & Ladders was published in January 2009 by the Dundurn Group.

Go to Shaun Smith ’s Author Page