For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council revisits previously featured writer Andreas Oertel. Born in Germany, Oertel spent most of his life in Manitoba. For the past sixteen years, he’s lived in the Lac du Bonnet area. By day, he works for the Manitoba Government. In spare hours, he finds time to follow his passion – writing action-adventure novels for middle grade readers (grades 4 to 7).
Oertel went to the University of Winnipeg and British Columbia Institute of Technology but he doesn’t think those classes really helped him with his fiction projects. He said, “In fact, if I could travel back in time, I’d go for a degree in English or diploma in journalism.”
Instead, he taught himself to write through trial and error – lots and lots of errors. He wrote, submitted to publishers, and was rejected over and over. With each rejection letter, he became more determined to learn the craft. He continued to write, revise and re-submit, and eventually his stories began getting published.
When asked what inspires him, he said, “I like to think that a young, reluctant reader somewhere might finish one of my books and think – Hey, that was a pretty cool story!’
Not surprising, given his motivation to inspire kids to love books, he makes lots of visits to schools and libraries, including the ones in the area.
Although he’s never taught a formal writing class, he’s had six books professionally published and they have been nominated for several awards (Silver Birch Award, Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award, and the McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award). In 2017, he won The Very Best Award! (Young Adult Category) for Prisoner of Warren.
This spring has been especially exciting for Oertel. In April, In Too Deep – the fifth book in The Shenanigans Series – was officially launched in Winnipeg at McNally Robinson Bookstore. In May, the 2018 TD Canada Book Tour, Canada’s single largest book event for young people, offered him a spot on their national circuit. Selected authors spread out across Canada, doing presentations and readings. Oertel’s assignment: tour southern Ontario and speak to over 800 middle graders. He said, “I was thrilled to be one of 30 authors. It was an exhausting week, but a lot of fun.”
His advice for writers, young or old: “If you have a desire to write, don’t give up. Also, your goal shouldn’t be to be a writer, your goal should be to write great stories. You’ll know you’re a writer when other people call you a writer.”