Canada's major literary award this year went to Toronto doctor and writer, Vincent Lam for his collection of short fiction Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures which follows the lives of four medical students. Lam beat four other authors in a field of relative unknowns.
Lam whose family migrated from Vietnam has apparently been mentored by Margaret Atwood, who helped him to find a publisher. And he is at work on his first novel, which is due out next year. His print debut, incidentally, was with a co-authored medical book: The Flu Pandemic and You.
Lam has a very demanding job as an emergency physician, yet finds no conflict between the day job and writing:
I find that I can be exhausted as a writer after having worked a fair bit and still have the energy to go to the hospital. In fact, I’m relieved by the concreteness of medicine. And I can be mentally exhausted as a doctor and I’ve still got writer energy. They’re very different processes. Writing is something that starts from the page and off you go, whereas with medicine, you’re confronted with a situation and then have to deal with it.And I liked his answer in the interview about whether his patients ever recognise him from the fiction:
Very occasionally. Thankfully, a couple of things work against that happening. One is that I do emergency medicine, so people come to me when they have emergencies, so they are primarily concerned with their health problems. Two, I’m a man of average build and figure. I haven’t got movie-star looks, so I can blend into the crowd. But I must say that one of the things that sets me apart from other doctors is that if a patient has a book with them, I’m always curious about what they’re reading.Postscript
Lotus Reads has a couple of interesting posts about the shortlist and Lam's win.