Best of 2021 Q&A: Brandon Wei

Brandon Wei appears on our Best of 2021 list for the piece “Survivor: Salmon Edition.” You can read it at Hakai Magazine.

GCL invited writers on the list to answer a questionnaire to give us further insight into their work. The following are Brandon’s answers:


How did you start working on this story?

I was originally working on a completely different story, and that fell through — an experience I’ve learned is part and parcel of feature writing.

Jude, the editor-in-chief of Hakai Magazine, suggested I investigate some interesting trends happening with Pacific salmon. At first, I was skeptical. I’m a lifelong Vancouverite; what more could I say about Pacific salmon in the Pacific Northwest that hadn’t already been said? 

A lot, it turned out. More than I could fit in 4,600 words.

How long did it take to write this piece?

From pre-pitch research to post-copy-edited final draft, it took about seven months. 

What was the most challenging part of writing it?

Deciding what to include, and what was best left as part of another story.

Do you have a particular writing ritual you follow?

I do my best writing at night. The world is quieter, and my mind has more time and space to be curious.

What did you find different about writing during a global pandemic?

Writing rich imagery was hard. I reported and wrote this story at the height of the lockdowns, and good descriptive writing requires you to go places and meet people — ideally in person.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about your subject (or in the case of a personal essay, yourself) during the process?

Just how much we don’t know about Pacific salmon, even in a region like British Columbia.

What sort of reaction has your piece received from readers?

Hopefully positive! The most common feedback I’ve heard is that I’ve looked at Pacific salmon in a way that hasn’t been done so often before.

For any fellow non-fiction writers reading this, do you have a favourite writing tip to share?

Just start writing. Don’t wait for the “right” time. Don’t wait until you have “something to write about.” Learn to throw shame about your writing out in the window, but always write with humility.

What writing projects are you working on currently?

I’m working on some more personal writing for myself. Other than that, what I write about will be up to whatever 2022 brings!

Find Brandon on Twitter: @Bmwei

This Q&A may have been edited for clarity and length.

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