Shawn Syms has written about sexuality, politics and culture for over 25 years in more than 50 publications. He’s the author of the short-story collection Nothing Looks Familiar, and he edited the first book of literary fiction about social media, Friend. Follow. Text.
Born in 1970, Shawn was raised in Niagara Falls, “the honeymoon capital of the world.” It could be a surreal place to grow up, at times. Shawn had his first taste of publication with a letter to the editor in the Niagara Falls Review in 1987, and began writing regularly for print media a year later. Since then, he has garnered significant experience as a fiction writer and arts critic as well as an advocacy journalist.
He was one of the publishers and editors of the internationally respected LGBT magazine Rites for four years, publisher of Pink Triangle Press’s Canadian Male, and for many years co-wrote Carnal Queeries, one of the earliest advice columns about gay sexuality and relationships. Much later, he authored a monthly column on issues related to sex work, drug use, sexual health and harm reduction called Free Agent.
Shawn’s relationship to the academy, while a bit spotty, has included a certificate with honours from the Creative Writing program at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. He’s also an alumnus of the Humber School for Writers and the Summer Writers Colony of The New School in New York City. He was the inaugural recipient of the Bill 7 academic award and also engaged in undergrad studies in sociology and women’s studies, and later studied in the esteemed Ryerson publishing and journalism programs.
Shawn pays the bills working with a great group of folks at a Toronto advertising agency. He counts among his work experiences time as a manual labourer at an oil refinery, a souvenir-store cashier, the only guy working the salad bar at a Ponderosa Steak House, an on-air radio personality, a model in an adult magazine, a database administrator, a customer-service representative for a telephone-dating service and a bookstore clerk, among many other pursuits (including receiving welfare and unemployment insurance).