To many British Columbians, the name Bill Richardson conjures the image of a sad goat and the sound of his dulcet voice oozing from the radio as he regaled us with stories and songs. He was something of modern minstrel and his departure from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2013 left some listeners grieving. “There was a period of mourning,” says Richardson in an email interview of his own feelings on leaving the CBC. “On the other hand, it was a necessary death.” Other than “missing the cheques,” Richardson has moved on and is writing full time. He’ll be reading at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre on April 7.
Richardson’s writing accomplishments are many, including a Stephen Leacock Award for Humour, a Silver Birch Award, and around 20 titles to his name. “I do, actively, resist being categorized as ‘retired,’” says the 62-year-old. “I work hard, every day.” He won the Leacock Award for The Bachelor Brothers Bed and Breakfast, stories of twin brothers running a B&B on a Gulf Island. “The only book that ever made an impact – by which I mean, made money,” says Richardson in his wry, self-deprecating way. Yet the brothers were popular enough to spawn a sequel, The Pillow Book. He received the Silver Birch for his children’s novel, After Hamelin, the story of a young girl who undertakes a dangerous journey to save the children in her village. “Published almost 20 years ago, I think, despite its flaws, [it’s] a successful book,” says Richardson.
His most recent book for adults is The First Little Bastard to Call Me Gramps, a collection of poems about aging that, along with addressing liver spots, memory lapses, and feelings of invisibility, takes on randy senior sex, written using rhyme and metre, and sounding a lot like nursery rhymes. “To write poems about aging, where the punchline is, inevitably, ‘and then they died,’ seems a perfect way to use the rhythms and rhymes of those childhood poems,” says Richardson. He’s got several writing projects on the go, including a children’s picture book coming out this fall; another in 2019; and collection of “very dark” Christmas stories due in the fall of 2019. “I feel like I’m just entering my prime as a writer,” he says. He does very few readings now, so his appearance on the Coast will be a treat for fans. “I’m just so amazed that anyone remembers who I am,” he says. “And if people take time from their lives to come out to hear someone bag on and on, well, how could you not feel honoured?”
Bill Richardson reads at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre on Saturday, April 7 at 8pm. Admission by donation.