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Charlie Wilkins, Thunder Bay

2005

Writer and magazine journalist Charles Wilkins is the author of eleven books, including The Circus at the Edge of the Earth which was shortlisted for the Rogers/Viacom Non-Fiction Prize, the bestselling Paddle to the Amazon and A Wilserness Called Home:Dispatches from the Wild Heart of Canada.

Charles Wilkins was born in Toronto, grew up in a number of Ontario towns and cities, including Deep River and Cornwall, and studied sciences at the University of Toronto. He has lived, among other places, in Israel and the Bahamas, and has been a full-time writer and editor since 1976. He moved with his family from Dundas to Thunder Bay in 1991 to be writer-in-residence at the Thunder Bay Public Library for a year...and is still there, largely because of the attraction of Lake Superior and the wilds of northwestern Ontario. Wilkins has a wife, a son, and two daughters.

Selected Publications

  • Breakfast at the Hoito (selected journalism and personal essays). Toronto: Natural Heritage Press, 1997.
  • Breakaway: Hockey and the Years Beyond Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1995.
  • The Wolf's Eye Thunder Bay, Ontario: Thunder Books, 1992; editor.
  • Old Mrs. Schmatterbung and Other Friends Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1990.
  • Paddle to the Amazon Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1987; co-author Don Starkell.
  • A Wilderness Called Home: Dispatches from the Wild Heart of Canada

Walk to New York is Wilkins' latest book. The eloquent and irreverent story of a 2,200-kilometre journey on foot from the wilds of northwestern Ontario to Manhattan Island.

In the spring of 2002, in a mid-life funk and in search of meaningful experience, writer Charles Wilkins walked east from his home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and did not stop until he reached New York City. This is the compelling, sometimes hilarious account of an adventure that began in snowstorms and gale-level winds on the north shore of the world's largest body of fresh water, and ended in hundred-degree heat amid celebrating Hispanics and bare-breasted lesbians.

Between the land of wolves and moose and the book's climactic scenes on the streets of Harlem and the Bronx, Wilkins meets and introduces a Chaucerian cast of characters-poets, hillbillies, corporate executives gone AWOL from the rat-race, a baronial black African recently released from one of the vilest torture prisons in Africa. He visits wilderness mansions, mountain shacks, a Toronto cemetery where he once raised havoc as a teenaged employee, and the Baseball Hall of Fame. Throughout, he applies his deft, often fanciful, touch as a storyteller and offers graceful musings on walking-its history, its culture, its decline, and perhaps most of all its ability to replenish the senses and reconstitute a world shrunken by cyberspace and jet travel.

"I walked to New York because I felt like it-which is not an explanation people find easy to accept in this age of business plans, mission statements, five-point programs, and endless career or project objectives. I was fifty-three years old, had gotten myself into a rut, and needed a journey, the oldest and still perhaps the best way of resetting one's compass and reintroducing the possibility of surprise.

As to why I went on foot, the idea was not to move as slowly as possible but merely at the pace of a more observant chapter in human history-to slow things down to where noticing becomes not just possible but unavoidable."


- Charles Wilkins, from Walk to New York

Awards

"The few awards I've received hardly bear mentioning. But the rewards of the writing life have been substantial. As have the hazards. I recommend the life to anyone who can stand ongoing chaos and uncertainty"

Purchase Charlie Wilkins Books Online at Amazon.ca (click the book)