I was reading author tips from Elmore Leonard who stated emphatically, “Don’t start a story with weather!” So I won’t. However, it may be of interest to know the day was warm and sunny, early spring blossoms blushing the city like a haiku/tanka festival.
I was meeting with powerhouse writer, publisher, Laureate Emerita Candice James in the literary city of New Westminster – BC’s former capital. Silver Bow Press is the company James runs, having taken over a four volume a year publisher and grown annual production to twenty volumes of poetry and novels. Next year she anticipates bringing thirty select books to print. The list of submissions is extensive, the majority of it exceptional work from established authors.
Crossing town for our visit I felt an odd sense of nostalgia. James and I both made an unlikely professional transition to the arts – music and writing – from a background in finance. I suspect there aren’t many of us. Having done that for twenty-five years I knew Greater Vancouver as well as anyone – certainly better than most cabbies – the result of having conducted countless house calls, office visits and coffee meetings everywhere in the GVRD. My father-in-law was a cartographer. He designed and published street maps. And on multiple occasions relied on me to find new or missing addresses. This was before the existence of the google car with the pointy thing or CSIS and retailers knowing precisely where we are (and what we’re shopping for) at all times.
But having cocooned for the past few years in Vancouver proper, I’d become insulated by readings and performance gigs within walking distance of home. It felt good to break from the downtown chrysalis, remembering the vast veins of creative bullion beyond my trickling creek and personal prospector pan. There is indeed “gold in them there hills” or in this case, the well-treed town down by the river.
Arriving at Silver Bow’s hub of operations I felt I was settling into the best bookstore/coffee shop ever – clean and bright, surrounded by stacks of crisp new volumes – a dizzying array of James’ own work, Silver Bow publications and signed copies of literary classics spanning forty-plus years. It was as much a chance to catch up with Candice as anything, and to learn more about the New West lit scene, where she was Poet Laureate from 2010-2016, being involved with and/or running Poetic Justice and Poetry New West, Royal City Literary Arts Society and Poetry in the Park. Her successful reading series continues to draw a wealth of local talent – Silver Bow partner Ken Ader, Cynthia Sharp, Stephen Karr, Daniela Elza, Herb Bryce, Fran Bourassa, Lilija Valis, and current Poet Laureate Alan Hill to name a few.
I returned for the weekly Sunday offering at the Heritage Grill, where American spoken word artist and activist Francisco Escamillo joined host Warren Dean Fulton (also an established writer/publisher) for a featured set. The fact this LA-based pro, known as the Bus Stop Prophet, wanted to be a part of the New West event indicates the extent of this thriving hub’s exposure and growing influence. I felt fortunate to be part of it, proud for my artist friends and the literary city-within-a-city we can all call our own.
Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Dromomania and Gone Viking. Sales generate donations to numerous charities. His poetry, articles and reviews are published in Canada, the US, UK, Europe and Asia. Bill’s column Poetry Beat is published by the League of Canadian Poets and the Federation of BC Writers.