Sid Tafler's life has been driven by his love for words for as long as he can remember.
Throughout his wide and varied career, Sid, 59, has been a journalist with the Canadian Press Wire Service, written for daily and weekly newspapers, been a commentator with the CBC, a freelance writer, a teacher and an editor.
One of the highlights of Sid's career was his time as editor at the popular Vancouver Island publication Monday Magazine.
"I really enjoyed my time at Monday Magazine," says Sid "It's great to be a freelancer, but if you're working in a newsroom, you are all pursuing the same objective. We got to chase down stories we thought were important."
For Sid, inspiration comes from writing about the stories that he feels have significance. The ability to inform and enlighten people with his writing is what Sid considers one of the most important aspects of his chosen career.
"I would say that my biggest achievement [as a writer] was the work I did on forestry and environmental issues in the '80s and '90s to help make people understand the concept of the importance of the environment," says Sid.
Another important facet of his career and a source of inspiration is his teaching. Sharing his expertise at institutions such as the University of Victoria and Camosun College, Sid finds that even after all these years of writing, he still has something to learn.
"I teach," he smiles, "but I also learn because as I learn how to teach people, I am learning new skills."
While he enjoys acquiring skills, Sid finds writing provides him with a learning experience of a different kind. His pen and paper offer a window to discover the world around him.
"[Being a writer] certainly gives you perspective. It helps you understand various elements of your world and the world around you. It helps me understand how things are connected, things that happened 20, 30 years ago and things that happen now."
Looking back to find connections through his writing led Sid to avenues he hadn't planned to follow. What began as a non-fiction book examining the theme of humans as a tribal species soon turned into a memoir that gave Sid a new perspective on his own life.
"I was very fascinated by the theme of us and them," he says. "I wanted to tell the story, as I understood it, of the tribal nature of the human species - to the extreme of seeing everyone else as an outsider. I was trying to see how my life fit that theme."
As Sid noticed the connections between his chosen theme and his own life, his non-fiction book turned into the personal and family memoir entitled Us and Them. The book, in its new form, took Sid four years and several attempts to complete.
"I found it very difficult, to be honest. I had difficulty shaping the book and finding its structure," he says. "There was even a time I kind of gave up."
What kept Sid going was the chance to deeply examine his religious, cultural and family roots.
"There were people around me who had interesting lives that deserved to have their stories told," he says. "I was inspired by the concept of being an ordinary person with great aspirations, there are millions of people out there like that, maybe even billions."
For Sid, the book was not only a way to tell his family's story, but a way to communicate a message to his readers.
"I wanted to show the futility and the backwardness of being intolerant with people because of their background and culture," he says. "We've become much more tolerant as a society. We've come a long, long way in a very short period of time - only a couple of generations. We have to take stock of this and not rest on our accomplishments. Each generation has to be taught, and we need to keep making progress."
Like any profession, the life of a writer has its challenges. Sid's career allowed him to share important life lessons with his readers, while learning some of his own.
"I think, as a writer, you have to try a lot. I think you have to be willing to fail and ready to try and try again."
While he may not always classify his work as fun, Sid certainly has no regrets about his chosen path in life.
"I don't know that I would recommend being a writer," he smiles. "I think it's a tough life. You go down certain paths, but I don't know that I would have done it differently. There can be a lot of frustration and a lot of hours trying to get it right, but I think it beats work."
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