Local author and poet Christine Lowther had a heck of a February.
Lowther, whose most recent work Born out of This was shortlisted for the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize, is still beaming over her experience at the Galiano Literary Festival last month.
“It was the festival I had dreamed of, because Galiano is so beautiful and it had been so long since I was there,” she told the Westerly News.
“Festivals are wonderful things for writers and readers. A book launch can be tough on a hermit-author, whereas at a festival the spotlight is shared. I got to meet loads of other writers much more accomplished than me. I met organizers of other festivals, too. Whether fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, I learned a lot about what is being written in BC and Canada.”
She said she felt intimidated walking into the festival where she had been invited to participate in a panel discussion and read from Born out of This—a memoir dubbed as “a mixture of autobiography, nature writing, humour activism and punk”—but she forced herself out of her creative shell and came away with a valuable experience.
“Any festival can be overwhelming. You have to remember to take walks out of doors,” she said. “I was determined to connect, so I would walk up to people, hold out my hand and introduce myself.”
This strategy helped Lowther seize the opportunity to be surrounded by, and collaborate with, other writers and readers.
“It’s really peaceful, while exciting. One doesn’t feel like an oddball anymore,” she said. “It is so rewarding to be approached by people who read my books and like them. We get into all sorts of conversations that have nothing to do with surfing or affordable housing. It’s important to hear about others’ writing habits and processes.”
The panel she participated in was themed ‘The Writer as Subject’ and moderated by Bill Richardson. Lowther joined archivist Linda M. Morra, Red Star Tattoo author Sonja Larsen, Canada’s first Poet Laureate George Bowering and Missing Sarah author Maggie de Vries.
“The panel turned out to be deeply personal and moving,” she said.
“I talked about how I gathered anecdotes from a few family members for my memoir and how one in particular really added colour in a tragicomic way. I included that piece in the 5-minute presentation. It was about my sister Kathy who passed away suddenly last June. I had read it at her Celebration of Life as well.”
She said she traditionally shies away from invitations to speak on panels because she feels “self-conscious of so much less education than most other panelists,” but enjoyed the experience and plans to participate in more festivals moving forward.
“I don’t talk like a text book,” she said. “But with Galiano, I knew it was just five minutes each and maybe an interlude of less academe is sometimes welcome.”
She said her reading the next day followed up on a presentation by David Boyd about good environmental news.
“Except mine was about feeling the fear regarding what is happening to the world, starting back in the 80s when I was terrified of nuclear war,” she said. “Finding solace while we continue to work for a better future is crucial or the pain of it could make us give up.”
She suggested Tofino could be well suited to join BC’s literary festival circuit, which includes events in Campbell River, Victoria, Vancouver, Surrey, Whistler, Denman Island, Bowen Island, Nelson, and Sechelt.
“The West Coast is an inspiring environment,” she said adding she enjoys participating in Tofino’s ‘Shut Up and Write’ gatherings.
“We get together, at the Legion or a home, shut up and write for 25 minutes, chat for ten, go again for 25, and then there are the options of staying for a third session or calling it a night,” she said. “These sessions force me to put away the distractions and get down to it.”
Two days after returning from Galiano, Lowther was told her application for a writer-in-residence position at Historic Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver had been accepted.
“For three months I can really live the life of a writer, with 60 per cent of the time on my own project, 40 per cent on workshops and readings,” she said.
“I’m thinking Shut Up and Write sessions, feedback, writing prompts and exercises, outreach, local library involvement, and nature walks to inspire poetry and prose.”