Who is Dennis Lewis?
The Role of a Storyteller in Kitchener – Waterloo Area
Thank you for wanting to find out about me.
I’ve lived quite an interesting life in different countries.
The English Years
Born in London, England, I spent my formative years in Stockwell, Peckham and on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. These places nurtured in me a fascination with history and a passion for writing and literature. I well remember my walks through the streets of the ancient capital, my imagination brimming with the words and imagery of John Milton and William Blake, great Londoners who’d once trod those same streets.
In the school library in Sheerness, Kent, I discovered Roger Lancelyn Green’s King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as well as the Oxford Myths and Legends series. These classics ignited my lifelong curiosity about the forms and content of great storytelling. They also inspired me to invent and start writing my own version of the great myths and legends.
Introduction to a Great Story About Canada
In my late teens, I moved with an aunt to Toronto, Canada, where I attended Parkdale Collegiate. One of the most significant events in my early years in Canada was the day a friend told me the story of the 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series. The story of the struggle between two great ice hockey powers seemed to me almost a kind of national epic.
Education and Early Work Experiences
I completed my BA and MA degrees in English at the University of Toronto. Looking back at the thesis I wrote for my MA – on the travel writing and exotic novels of the British writer Bruce Chatwin – it was obvious I nursed a deep hunger to travel beyond my comfort zone and experience life in countries outside the West.
But in the immediate years after finishing my MA, I worked as an Editorial Assistant at the CBC National Radio Newsroom. I honed my professional writing skills creating newscripts for the hourly radio news broadcasts and for popular news shows like “Canada at 5” and “The World at Six.” Occasionally, I pitched and then researched my own news story ideas. One of my favourite stories was a report I did on the 40th anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. It had everything you’d expect to find in a great story – a young woman and her friends’ desire for freedom, their participation in the heady days of street protests which seemed to promise victory, the implacable enemy’s brutal response, and then finally the flight of the same woman to Canada.
The Years of Wonder and Self-Discovery
In 1997, I accepted a teaching job at a college in Thailand. It was my opportunity to experience life outside the West. For the next six years, I lived in Thailand, helping to build English programs, creating courses in literature and integrated humanities, as well as teaching English language courses at universities in Bangkok, at hospitals, and even on one occasion at the Lopburi base of the Thai Special Forces.
During those years, I took every opportunity I could to travel all across Thailand and to explore other countries in Southeast Asia. It was a remarkable period of learning and self-discovery. There were many moments of challenge and frustration – long teaching days, crowded classrooms, lack of adequate teaching resources or support, and the inevitable culture shock. There was no one to complain to, no where and no time to whine about how tough things were. I simply had to get on with things and find solutions. The pressure was, in fact, quite empowering: I discovered my resourcefulness.
From Thailand, my teaching and learning journey took me to the United Arab Emirates, where I taught at the American University of Sharjah and developed content for courses in writing and mass media. Several years later, I moved on to teach at a Canadian college in Qatar. The Arabian Gulf served as the base for travels to countries in the Middle East, Africa, East Asia, Australia, and Europe.
Creative Writing at Essex
The relative closeness to England allowed me to pursue a PhD in Creative Writing and English at the University of Essex. Why Creative Writing and why Essex? Well, during all my years of teaching, I’d been writing creatively. A degree in Creative Writing and English provided a strong methodological structure for my writing. Additionally, Essex’s program allowed me to work closely with the British-Irish poet Philip Terry as my supervisor and to participate in small workshops with the Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott, who at the time was the university’s Poetry Chair.
Life in Kitchener-Waterloo’s Innovative Hub
In 2016, I returned to Toronto and a tight Canadian job market in higher education. A job offer at the University of Waterloo brought me to the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Having always lived in Toronto during my Canadian years, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity and entrepreneurial energy of the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Teaching communication courses to engineering students those first years, I quickly became aware that I was rubbing shoulders with some of the best and brightest talents from around the world.
I was also charmed by the down-home good manners and relative good neighbourliness of this smaller urban community. It was nice to explore the region’s many nature trails and historic communities. I enjoyed immersing myself in the region’s “foodie” culture of old farmers’ markets, micro breweries, and farm-to-table restaurants.
Initial Awareness of the Need for My Business
It was while I began my second year lecturing at the University of Waterloo that I recognised the need for my specific content writing skills and the opportunity to apply my background in the humanities.
This fast-growing region is the home to many tech startups, innovative businesses, and industrial concerns who could benefit from my content writing skills and passion for storytelling. But it took a while before I realised that there was also a need for my unique voice.
The Birth of My Passion for Voiceover
I had already been taking voice lessons with the well-known Canadian actress and voice coach Nicky Guadagni in Toronto. At the time, I was interested in doing public readings of literature, and I wanted to make sure I did it right. I also started to train in a professional recording studio with Kim Hurdon Casting. Aware that it would take years of disciplined training to get my voice up to professional standard, I made the commitment to continually work on maximising my voice potential.
The Birth of Wise on Words
I created my freelance writing company Wise on Words back in 2019, initially offering editing and proofreading services. However, more businesses approached me requesting my content writing and copywriting services. I also found applying my writing and storytelling skills far more interesting. While doing content writing for an IT company, I discovered I was particularly adept at collaborating with subject matter experts – be they entrepreneurs, engineers, managers, or educators – and translating their ideas into engaging content.
As time has gone by, it became readily apparent that educational content – whether in the form of animated biographies, podcast scripts, interactive quizzes, how-to-guides, webpage biographies, or blog posts – was my forte.
Putting It All Together: Combining a Content Writing and Voiceover Business
One day, while I was writing the script of an educational module for an IT company, one of the managers realised that the module needed a voice to bring it to life. He asked me to record a voiceover, and the penny finally dropped. I realised that there was real value to all the voice training I had done. From that moment, I knew that I had to set up my home recording studio and go fully professional as a voiceover actor. The voiceover side of my business – eLearning, Web videos, explainer videos, commercials, and narration – is the natural complement to my educational content writing.
I’ve really enjoyed fostering my social and business networks in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. My relationship with one of these networks – the Small Business Community Network – led to me being invited to co-host the NextGen Business Podcast with Linda Ockwell-Jenner.
From Kitchener-Waterloo: Reaching Out to the World
For a content writer, voiceover artist, and creative like me, the Kitchener-Waterloo region is an excellent hub of entrepreneurship and creativity. It’s unpretentious, low-key, and local. But it’s also quite cosmopolitan. There are people from all over the world living here. It serves, therefore, as a great base from which to reach out to a global clientele and audience.
I feed off the energy of the Kitchener-Waterloo region’s enterprising and collbaborative spirit. This region took a hit during the Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdown. But there’s a sense of resurgence here that’s palpable. Something exciting, forward-thinking, slightly off-centre, yet constructive is emerging here, and I want to contribute to it.
Information About Dennis LM Lewis’s Professional Associations & Memberships
The Small Business Community Network (SBCN)
The Small Business Community Network (SBCN) is a network of small business entrepreneurs based in the Kitchener-Waterloo region of Ontario, Canada. The SBCN is committed to building strong business communities and connecting the key people within them.
World-Voice Organization (WoVO)
World-Voice Organization (WoVO) is a non-profit, member-driven Industry Association of Professional Voice Talent. Our mission to inform and educate members of the voiceover community and other business professionals about best practices, standards for ethical conduct and professional expertise as it relates to the voiceover industry.
The Canadian Freelance Guild
The Canadian Freelance Guild is a new form of unionism for freelance workers. We’re creating a network where freelance workers can gain access to work opportunities and professional development, and connect with colleagues to transform freelancing into a more collaborative, balanced, sustainable livelihood. Our founding members come from the former Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) and the independent membership of the Freelance Branch of the Canadian Media Guild (CMG Freelance). CMG Freelance now solely represents people who perform freelance contracts for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The CFG is affiliated with CWA-SCA Canada, Canada’s largest all-media union.
The Modern Language Association (MLA)
The Modern Language Association of America or the Modern Language Association (MLA), is the principal professional association in North America for scholars of language and literature. The MLA aims to “strengthen the study and teaching of language and literature”. The organization includes over 25,000 members in 100 countries, primarily academic scholars, professors, and graduate students who study or teach language and literature, including English, other modern languages, and comparative literature. Although founded in the United States, with offices in New York City, the MLA’s membership, concerns, reputation, and influence are international in scope.
The Society of Authors (SOA)
The SoA is the UK trade union for all types of writers, illustrators and literary translators, at all stages of their careers. The SoA has been advising individuals and speaking out for the profession for more than a century.
Members receive unlimited free advice on all aspects of the profession, including confidential clause-by-clause contract vetting, and a wide range of exclusive offers.
The SoA campaigns and lobbies on the issues that affect authors and hold a wide range of events across the UK. The SoA also administers grants and prizes to support and celebrate authors at all stages of their careers.
Additionally, the SoA administers a number of literary estates, the income from which helps towards writers’ work.