Quillblog was deeply saddened to learn last week of the passing of Wayne Tefs, author, critic, and co-founder of the Winnipeg publishing house Turnstone Press.
Reports in the media indicate only that Tefs, 67, died following a “lengthy illness,” though the Winnipeg Free Press points out in 1994 the author was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called carcinoid syndrome; his experience with the disease resulted in the 2002 memoir Rollercoaster: A Cancer Journey.
Among his works of fiction, Tefs’ debut, Figures on a Wharf, was nominated for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and Moon Lake won the 2000 Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction. The novel Be Wolf won the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award in 2007, and Tefs was shortlisted for the same award in 2012 for his novel Bandit: A Portrait of Ken Leishman.
Tefs co-founded Turnstone in 1976, and served as the publisher’s longtime fiction editor. The house was responsible for publishing early work by Lawrence Hill, Pauline Holdstock, Todd Babiak, Linda Holeman, and John Gould, whose book Kilter: 55 Short Fictions was nominated for the 2003 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
Winnipeg native Linda Holeman, author of the best-selling historical fiction novels The Lost Souls of Angelkov and The Devil on Her Tongue, published a book of stories, Flying to Yellow, with Turnstone, and calls Tefs a mentor and “one of the first champions of [her] writing.” The two worked on the Turnstone advisory board together, and frequently met for coffee “to talk about life and writing.”
Michelle Berry, who worked with Tefs on her 2011 story collection I Still Don’t Even Know You, says that he was always “witty and charming.” As an editor, “Wayne was particular about what stories of mine he liked and he always knew precisely why he liked them,” Berry says.
The two also connected over the subject of hockey. Tefs, who had played for more than half a century, was seemingly amused by the fact that Berry decided to take up the sport at the age of 42.
In 2012, Tefs published On the Fly: A Hockey Fan’s View from the ’Peg, about the return of the Winnipeg Jets to the city after a 14-year hiatus. In the pages of Q&Q, Tefs recalled the impetus behind the book: “This seemed like a really interesting project: following the team in its first season back in the city, inquiring into the phenomenon of fandom. Learning that the crowd comes to the arena to feel their team transform initial apprehension about losing into the joy of victory: not just winning the game, but coming from behind, turning dread to ecstasy. A kind of redemption.”