Leslie Vryenhoek is a Canadian writer whose fiction, poetry and memoir explore the landscape of intimate relationships and what it means to belong to a place, a family, a time. Her writing has been published around the world, and she has won numerous awards. Central to her work are questions of how chance balances choice, and the how the uneven hand of fortune plays in our lives. She lives in St. John's.
The Longer Story
Leslie grew up in the suburban south hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in a Canadian family where dinner napkins were "serviettes" but the opinions expressed at the table were very American. The debates were lively.
As her parents turned right, she turned left and dreamed of living somewhere interesting, of writing books and pursuing lofty notions of do-goodedness. Her parents said, Get a real job. (Turns out that's good advice.)
On summer visits to Manitoba, Leslie fell in love with the prairie. She left behind the manicured lawns and returned to the place her parents had fled. She completed a bachelor of arts at the University of Manitoba, had two daughters, and lived for two decades in Winnipeg. Real jobs included communications and public relations for the University of Winnipeg and the Canadian Red Cross.
In 2005, Leslie relocated to St. John's, Newfoundland (it's a long story, one with a U-Haul and a few sharp corners). There, Leslie leapt into the community. She is the founding director of Piper's Frith: Writing at Kilmory, a past president of the Literary Arts Foundation of NL, and served on the editorial board of Riddle Fence. She was also a director for the St. John's International Women's Film Festival.
Leslie worked for Memorial University and The Rooms in St. John's before joining the team at WIEGO, a global organization that works to secure livelihoods for informal workers (e.g. street vendors, waste pickers and domestic workers) in 2010. That work has taken her to Africa, Asia and Latin America, where she's interviewed women whose lives are complex and hard.
As an editor, Leslie specializes in helping authors hone their words, smartening up (never dumbing down) complex ideas to create clear and compelling pieces.
Leslie is married to journalist and author Russell Wangersky. They have, between them, four children, a grandson, and lively debates over the dinner table.