HOK #117:Meet Don Butler

A man sits in a chair in a yard in Ottawa holding a book called "A Life of Bliss." There is a wooden fence and tree behind him and it is a sunny day.
Don Butler is a fiction writer living in Kitchissippi. Photo courtesy of Don Butler.

“I always had an ambition from a young age to become a fiction writer. In fact, when I went to journalism school, I did that many years ago because I thought, ‘That’s the thing I can do to improve my writing and further my ambition to write fiction.’  

I spent pretty much my entire working career at the Ottawa Citizen. I got hired right out of journalism school and I worked there for over 40 years. I was a reporter; I wrote editorials; at one point I was the executive editor of the paper; and in the last decade or so I was there, I did a lot of feature writing. 

I wrote my novel ‘A Life of Bliss’ when I was still at the Ottawa Citizen, but I did not really pursue it. When I retired in 2016, that’s where I put my attention and it’s been the major thing I’ve been working on in the last few years. 

I was born in Montreal, and then my family moved to the Toronto area until I was in my mid-teens. When I was about 14 or so, my parents moved to Ottawa and I went to high school and university here. Basically, for the rest of my life I’ve lived here, other than a brief period when I was at a fellowship in Toronto, and another time when I was stationed in Toronto by the Ottawa Citizen to cover provincial politics for two or three years. 

I have lived in the Kitchissippi community for about 40 years, and, for the past 25 or so years, I’ve owned a house in the Byron and Island Park area. 

[It’s] a great community to stimulate your mental juices if you are a writer. It’s got art galleries; restaurants where you can sit and chat with someone over a fine meal; and it’s got some great places to walk. 

We get out daily to have a walk; often we go and walk along the river or other parts of the community, and I find that’s a really great activity just to start thinking about stories. Walking along the river opens your mind. 

I’ve also become quite fond of the fact that Westboro Beach is a relatively short distance from where I live. I can drive there in three minutes and I’ve walked there before too. To have a nice beach so close to where you live is a great privilege. 

During the pandemic, my wife and I quite often have had a Saturday night order from one of the many restaurants in Kitchissippi Ward. It was a real treat for us from the unrelenting staying at home. It’s something we have really looked forward to. 

This summer I have been reading a lot of books written by people like me — people who are trying to make an impression and are trying to make a mark as authors. They don’t have big reputations, but I find those books to be very satisfying. It’s like there is a mutual support system on social media about the books we have been reading and it’s been interesting to discover that whole support network and community out there.”

Story collected by Charlie Senack.

Leave a comment