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Close-up photo of Brendan Bowles standing against the side of a wooden building
Brendan Bowles. Photo courtesy of Brendan Bowles

A Tale of Two Rodeo Stars

Brendan Bowles explores the nature of friendship in his award-winning story

“I’m into cults recently – I just read an incredible book on Charles Manson,” says writer Brendan Bowles (BA 2009 VIC, MA 2011) when asked about topics that stoke his imagination. Small-town spectacles and subcultures are recurrent thematic interests – including in “Wyatt Thurst,” his story that won the 2016 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. The prize is for writers under age 35 who are unpublished in book form.

“Wyatt Thurst” focuses on the intertwining lives of two Canadian rodeo stars. Bowles traces the story’s origins to a Texas rodeo he visited with his girlfriend. “It was gaudy and beautiful at the same time,” he says. “I thought about the nature of friendship and how competition affects that bond, and I wanted to explore bull riding from a Canadian perspective.”

In fourth year, Bowles took former U of T professor Jeff Parker’s seminar class in creative writing, and calls it “the best, most rewarding class at university.” He also earned a creative writing MA at U of T. Currently completing his MFA at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Bowles is at work on a book-length collection of short stories and a novel. “Wyatt Thurst” can be downloaded for free at

Read the story that won him the Toronto Star‘s short story contest in 2014: “Living Fossils.”

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