John Pringle

September 2023

There’s a lot more to John Pringle than a captivating smile. He has seen the world, read many a book, and draws you in with his wisdom and thoughtfulness only seconds after saying hello. I had the chance to ask John some questions about his writing and developed a deep appreciation for the man behind the words.

Why do you like writing short stories?

William Faulkner once said that next to poetry, short fiction was the most demanding form. I remember my father, an English teacher, saying the same; that it was the most difficult form of literature to write well, that it required careful editing, and one had to say the most with the least amount of words.

I think writing them is challenging and fulfilling. A good short story conveys universal themes and emotions in a powerful way. Although I read and enjoy novels, I feel many could be better expressed as a concise short story.

So the form fits my preferences, both as a writer, an editor and a reader.

What other authors could you compare your writing to? Why? What makes your stories unique?

The first two collections of stories that really impressed me were J.D Salinger’s Nine Stories and Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkeyhouse. After that, reading Hemingway’s short stories was ground breaking. Dipping into Kafka, Flannery O’Connor, Richard Brautigan, Joy Williams, Raymond Carver, Charles Bukowski, and Haruki Murakami all had lasting effects. There is a collection of tales by Tim Winton entitled The Turning that is brilliant. I consider many of Bob Dylan’s earlier songs to be short stories because of their imagery and emotion. Can I compare my writing to any of these? Not really, but they were certainly influential.

Perhaps one thing that might make my writing unique is that I write in many genres, but try to address universal themes such as childhood, loneliness, kindness, love, humour, alienation, and coming of age. My books sometimes have stories and characters that are interconnected, but often they are stand-alone tales, mostly character-driven.
I will set them in Northwestern Ontario, but also in unnamed urban landscapes.

I like being all over the map.

Tell us about your latest book, “The Song in the Spruce”. This book was written during the Covid 19 pandemic. It’s been a strange time with lockdowns, sickness and some really deplorable behaviour. My family was directly affected by the illness, and it brought up personal memories of barely surviving viral pneumonia when I was fourteen. Combined with that, we now have the full effects of climate change manifesting in extreme weather events. So I wrote a story of a massive snow storm, a man versus nature story, where nature wins rather handily.

I added a couple of fantastic stories with themes of environmental catastrophe and took a poke at the deniers of both climate change and the pandemic. There are some linked stories in this one. There are also stories of kindness, faith, hope, humour and magic… just to keep the content fresh and diversified.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Inspiration comes from becoming quiet and not thinking too much about what I’m writing about. To simply let ideas flow and let the characters talk. It’s often experimental at first, and it certainly isn’t all planned out. More of a trusting that I will write something today and it might be only a sentence or two. And then ideas will pop into my head when I’m driving or reading or watching television. What’s important is to pay attention to these little gifts and write them down. I think ideas are always there, but you have to notice when they arrive and it might not always be at a convenient time. Inspiration may show its hand while working on second, third, fourth drafts, so it is important to be willing to be open to changes. The wonder of life itself is inspirational.

What do you hope your stories will give your readers? I hope they will find them interesting. I hope that they will feel something when they read them, that they will be entertained and engaged, or perhaps experience a sense of connection to the characters.

You’ve written many stories, but do you have a favourite or two you could tell us, and why they are your favourites? I have my favourites from each collection. If I had to choose one story it might be “Northern Mallards” from the book Spirals. I wrote it in memory of my father who was such a formative influence. He took his children out on the land and the lakes from the time we could walk and taught us so much about the wonder of the natural world. I tried to capture some of that in the story.

From my latest book, my favourites are the title story “The Song in the Spruce”, the zany second story “Anybody Got a Match?” and finally “Invasion of the Slime Baboons,” because of its energy and imaginative qualities. A few readers have shared their favourites and they don’t always match mine. What makes me happiest is when someone actually takes the time to read my work. What better payoff for a writer than that?

John’s short stories have won many prizes from Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW) and from the Canadian Authors Association, Niagara Branch. He received the Elizabeth Kouhi award in 2014 for his outstanding contributions to the literature of Northwestern Ontario. His collection “Spirals” was nominated for the Whistler Independent Book award in 2017.

His collections of short stories include: The Truth Ratio, (2013), Spirals, (2016), Dandelions, (2017), Raven Dance, (2020), Heart Blood, (2021), and The Song in the Spruce, (2023) He lives in Atikokan, Ontario.

You can find John’s books at The Bookshelf, Thunder Bay, and various craft fairs including Vanderwees and the Craft Revival.

Mailed copies can be requested at

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at

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