Andrew Reeves’ path to the University of King’s College MFA in Creative Nonfiction program began with a pitch to an old high school friend. It was 2012, and Reeves was thinking about launching a freelance writing career. He knew exactly what he wanted to write about — the invasion of the Asian carp, “one of North America’s most ferociously invasive fish species,” which had been moving inexorably northward from aquaculture farms in Arkansas and was now threatening to reach the Great Lakes. His high school friend, Lauren McKeon, was then the editor of This Magazine, and she commissioned Reeves to write a feature.
The story was published, but Reeves knew there was much more to be written. “I had barely scratched the surface of the issue and was frustrated that I hadn’t had the time or money to travel to where the story truly was: in Illinois, in Indiana, in Arkansas and Louisiana.”
So, in 2014 when McKeon told him she’d decided to apply to the King’s MFA program to write her book (The F-Bomb) and suggested Reeves’ carp feature had the makings of a great book too, “that settled it.”
Overrun, a first-hand journey into the heart of the carp crisis, will be published in spring 2019 by ECW Press.
Reeves says his mentors — primarily science and nature writer Harry Thurston and longtime editor Kim Pittaway — were “a fantastic combination for me to work with. Harry, a very gentle and encouraging mentor, was perfect for the early stage of the process when the book idea and my ability to actually see it through were very fragile. Later, when the book and I felt more secure, Kim’s no-nonsense approach to structure and craft were exactly what I and the book needed. She was a champion for what I was doing right and a useful critic for the writing habits that were holding me back.”
When the proposal was ready, “my agent Shaun Bradley sent the book out, and we had three publishers make an offer. After meeting with ECW and seeing other projects and writers they had worked with, I was confident that they not only understood the book and its potential but had a clear plan in place to see it through and get it in front of the right people.”
His book promotion tour — still in the works — already includes talks in New York, Cleveland, Quebec City, Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Fort Wayne, Indiana.
He’s already at work on a new book project — the fight to halt the Pickering Airport, which was initially approved by Pierre Trudeau in 1971. Forty-eight years later, the issue has still not been resolved. “The result is a community in north Pickering left a virtual ghost town,” Reeves says, “the victim of jet-age, hubristic city planning in the Greater Toronto Area in the late 1960s that we have still haven’t found a way to move on from.
“Research and writing,” he adds, “has already begun.”