When Conrad Scott started university, fresh from what was then Kamloops Secondary School (now South Kamloops Secondary), he headed straight into science, specifically, math.
But he graduated from TRU (then University College of the Cariboo) in 2003, with a major in mathematics, and another in English.
Scott went on to graduate school, and recently defended his PhD in English at the University of Alberta, where he currently works as a sessional instructor. He also teaches at Concordia University of Edmonton.
“I had a very circuitous path,” he said, laughing. “Half way through I decided maybe math wasn’t for me. I took more English courses, and that seemed like the right path.”
Scott’s path became clearer after enrolling in a class with associate professor Karen Hofmann, who encouraged him to apply to the Banff Spring Writer’s Retreat where he spent a month during his undergrad “learning what a book needed to be.” When he returned to Kamloops to complete his degree, he applied to the Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP), and received funding to complete his own research project.
That project would form the basis of Waterline Immersion, his first book of poetry, published in September by Frontenac House. This week, Scott is back on campus to launch the book and to reconnect with those who guided him on his journey. And coming back to Kamloops for the launch is intentional, as the region’s geography is richly woven into his book, so much so that his mother and local artist, Marie Scott, provided the cover art.
Waterline Immersion asks the fundamental question of what it means to understand a place, and it offers not only a glimpse into the geography and Scott’s personal history, but delves deeper into cultural stories and geological processes that formed the waterways present today.
Getting to this place — the place where he began his learning journey — took Scott down many roads he wasn’t expecting, but that’s the beauty of research and of writing, he said.
“In research, everyone’s path is going to be different. I took a bit of a break after my first degree. I was working at Starbucks and at a plywood mill at the same time, but I kept writing, and kept practicing, and kept reading and kept talking within my writing community. That’s what really brought me forward.”