by Grady Mitchell | Headlines have been sounding the death knell on publishing industries worldwide for a long time now. Yet still it seems to be trucking on; people are writing, and other people are reading what they write. And contrary to popular belief, publishing in this province isn’t gasping for life. Rather, it’s thriving, pumping out 800 books a year. Just ask Evelyn Lau, former poet laureate of Vancouver and ambassador for Read Local BC, a month-long campaign in support of British Columbian writers and publishers.
“When you’re younger, you tend to think there’s a bigger life elsewhere,” Evelyn says of her hometown. “In my twenties I always thought California was where everything was at. And now, everywhere I go I come back and I think, actually, there’s so much more here.” Among those things are mountains, whales, and some damn fine writers.
For the first three weeks of April, Read Local BC will launch an all-out, full-scale celebration of British Columbian writers and presses. It’ll involve 23 publishers, 300 authors, 60 speakers, 50 bookstores and 40 libraries in events across the province, including four major ones (all free!) in Vancouver.
As poet laureate, Evelyn has a deep track record of promoting the BC writing community. During her three-year tenure as poet laureate, the Governor General-nominated writer mentored emerging writers and worked to insert poetry into public spaces by mounting ad-sized poems throughout the city. “The more we see it, the more we incorporate it into daily life,” she says, “and the more people will hopefully respond to it.”
Recently the Vancouver Public Library installed placques throughout the city for its Literary Landmarks Campaign. Each spot memorializes a place of special importance to a Canadian writer. Margaret Atwood got one on West 11th near Highbury St., the block where she lived while writing and teaching at UBC in the mid-60s. Evelyn’s placque, overlooking False Creek, is close by her apartment in Yaletown. “If I had the view that my placque has, that would be sweet,” she says with a laugh. “I love to stare at the water and think,” she says of her placque’s spot. “It’s such a luxury these days just to have the time to think.”
Evelyn hopes that projects like Literary Landmarks and Read Local will pump life back into the public’s perception of our vibrant literary community. “I’ve really grown a sense of appreciation for the publishers who have stuck it out here, the small presses,” she says.
For a full list of Read Local BC events, visit their site.