Stephen Reid Reads At Discovery


Billed as his first reading in 16 years, Stephen Reid treated the crowd to a variety of writing including his fiction (his first novel Jackrabbit Parole)  and a poem.He also shared the stage with a number of students from his very popular Camsoun College classes.


Book Launch Interview

Jack Hodgins – New Novel The Master of Happy Endings

Writer Jack Hodgins VM 1

Here’s a few photographs I took of Jack Hodgins last week for an interview that ran in the Oak Bay News. I hadn’t seen Jack in a couple of years so it was great to have a few minutes to chat. His latest novel The Master Of Happy Endings is  just out.

Writer Jack Hodgins VM 2

Writer Jack Hodgins VM 3


Liam Shaw and his Postcard Press subscription email magazine

Liam Shaw is a writer, photographer, stand up comedian and former Edmontonian  living in Ireland. Here’s a couple of selections from his Postcard Press and a short story. If you want more of the Postcard Press stuff email him at:  <>


Hello. Welcome to Postcard Press International, currently based in Galway, Ireland.
I have worked for Graham Ogilvie and Conrad Black.
Inspired by many of my heroes who started Magnum or any other such agency I have started my own. This is is it.
My goal, aside from the complete and utter annihilation of Rupert Murdoch (or the opportunity to meet him face to face and ask him why he needs to ruin everything), is to see stuff and take pictures and play football. Also, I’d like to learn to play cricket. It seems important.
I get easily sidetracked. I am fluffy like a dandelion gone to seed or a heavy-weight after losing a lot of weight. I float like a bumblebee and sting like a moth.
If you like my stuff I’ll keep on posting. I am making a retreat from facebook and other such things. I am working on having a website of my very own to post to. In the meantime I will send out this old-fashioned style mass/spam email to any and all who happen to be in my address book. Anyone who wants out please feel free to email back with fuck off in the subject line. Or be polite. Either way is fine. I’ve been reading Roddy Doyle again and he has such an eloquent way with the word fuck. I love it.
Updates are likely to be sporadic and may be ill-thought out.
I hope you like it.

President and lifetime member,
Liam J. Shaw, n.q.
aka. Liam Leroux

1. Zatoichi the blind photographer (obviously it’s just me with my eyes shut.)
2. Some swans
3. A bird or two, of some kind





Last night I saw the late showing of the Road. A film adaptation of the book by Cormac McCarthy.
Opposite the ticket counter at the Eye cinema there is a bulletin board with reviews and interviews and other press about the films on current release.
An interview with Viggo Mortensen was titled, ‘One for the Road.’
I walked back to the counter and before I could stop myself I asked for….
I cannot repeat this. I am too ashamed.
The film itself is not as terrible as the headline. It is good. Not amazing. Not as good as the director’s previous effort, the Proposition, but good.
It is standard zombie apocalypse fare but intended to be realistic and serious.
The thing is, I simply cannot take the idea of mass cannibalism seriously. I mean, certainly people behave gruesomely towards one another in times of disaster as all previous and current events of mass destruction will attest to but mass cannibalism just doesn’t ring true.
Nevertheless, this is the scenario so the father and son are on a quest to find a safe place to live free of cannibals.
Along the way they encounter continuous danger and hardship and occasional moments of niceness and hope. Like a piano still in tune. Or a wonderfully unsubtle product placement for Coca-Cola brand cola.
And, of course, because this movie is so American it causes me physical discomfort, the relationship between the father and son includes the gun. The central theme of the movie, near as I can tell is, besides faith in each other, we must always have faith in the gun.
I think if you are on the road against a horde of psychotic cannibals you would want a gun. That’s probably true. But how, in America, do you end up with one handgun and only two bullets. Could they not have found at least a rifle somewhere? Handguns are hideously inaccurate at distance making one of the scenes very unlikely and….
oh nevermind, I don’t know anything about guns. I can’t maintain an extended rant about guns.
The Road is good. The music is great. The kid is annoying. American children usually are. Allowing prejudices to surface in a film review seems unprofessional. Molly Parker is hot even when she is worn out looking and covered in apocalypse dust.
There is no photo to accompany this. They made me leave my camera bag behind the ticket counter during the show.

Postcard Press International
crawling across the globe like a rash


The Day My Ex-Girlfriend Decided to Leave Me
by Liam J. Shaw, n.q.

The day my ex-girlfriend decided to leave me was a normal day. A regular, normal day like any other.
It would take her another two or three weeks to tell me. The reason she gave me at the time? I’ll come to that in due course but it was more than that from the start.
I know she didn’t like my drinking or smoking habits but she smoked tobacco and we met over pints of beer so I wasn’t too bothered by this. She also told me she was an alien from the planet Zoltar using a human body to infiltrate society and study human consciousness so…

Of course I believe in aliens, or extra-terrestrial life. I just don’t believe they would bother visiting us. We are primitive and boring and could not possibly have anything anywhere on the planet to interest a visitor from outer-space. Our weapon technology is absurd. Space lasers! Ha! Fucking Ha! The Americans named the airport in their capital city after the joker that came up with that plan. Holy shit! I love them but, well, you know…

Anyways, there were some previous heavy drinking moments that set the bar pretty high but the event on the day in question was my Coupe de Stanley as it were. I sang Karaoke Kylie Minogue at Rosario’s Bar and Grill. They take karaoke very seriously there. I really had no idea. I am 6’3″ (or 191 cm) and weighed just under 14 stone. (After she left me I dropped to 11. This frightened me considerably at the time but I am feeling much better now, thanks for asking.)
For two or three weeks there is silence between us. Not perpetual actual silence of course but only no conversations. Stuff like, “Do we have any milk?” or “Are you watching this?” I assumed it was nothing more serious than the karaoke incident. Because sometimes a man has to be a man, take the first step and apologise even if he doesn’t know what is wrong but can deduce what is wrong through careful and deliberate examination of the previous weeks and make a best educated guess and thus solve the problem. Sometimes. But not this time. I will never apologise for this night, to anyone, ever. I was in fine form. I don’t drink like that anymore but every old pro hangs up their gloves eventually.
The night of the conversation I cooked her spaghetti bolognese. I like to cook and so I often do. It wasn’t an especially special thing but I did light candles and chop fresh parsley and coriander for garnish.
“We need to talk…” she said as I sat down at the table, with plates on place-mats and cutlery organised correctly and candles gently flickering.

This is the worst combination of words in the English language.

When she said “we” she meant “I” as in her. No discussion. No alternatives. She was a fascist, like Thatcher. “THE LADY IS NOT FOR TURNING!” etc. Maybe that’s why I loved her so, I really don’t know.

“Six weeks ago at the Corb Lund show you looked me right in the eye and told me you have no soul. We can’t be together anymore.”

I remember that night. I was trying to watch the band and she was babbling about one of her out of body experiences. Never date a mystic fascist. They are more confused than most. It wasn’t the time or place for discussions on infinite space. And my soul, if I have one, is intrinsically bound together with my organic nature and does not escape the confines of my mind. In my imagination the furthest reaches of the universe are only a periscope view away but in real life I am here on this earth just like her. I love to distinguish between the real and the imaginary. I’m good at it.
I think the night I gave her the proof she wanted, was looking for ever since we started, was the cold November night at Rosario’s Bar and Grill. She loved her karaoke. I’m not a big fan myself but every once in a while I will get up and do a death metal growl version of a popular chart hit just to ruin the night for everyone else and drag them down to my level.
Her favourite was the Janis Joplin version of the Kris Kristofferson classic, Me and Bobby McGee. I hate that song.
So I signed my name on the sheet and wrote down the numerical code for Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head and even planned to play it with a straight bat. I wanted to have one of those beautiful cinematic moments where, as you sing for the whole room you can’t tear your eyes away from the woman you love and everyone can see you are meant for each other like a famous storybook or a painting, to hang for all time in the collective museum of our minds.
So there I stood, in front of the room, not too drunk to stand up but way too drunk to know better. I wore a cheap, ill-fitting suit jacket from a charity shop to cover my slouched and stooping posture and began to sing with only a couple members of the audience paying attention, my girlfriend not being one of them.
A good karaoke singer needs a rudimentary knowledge of the song. You do read the words on the screen but to really sing well you must know the rhythm and the timing of the thing. Rosario’s does competitive Karaoke. They could compete in Tokyo. They ran Saturday night like a live version of the X-Factor where everyone gets to be Simon Cowell and Will Gates.
The problem is, I really only know the chorus and the la la la la bit. I didn’t realise there is more to the song than that. Whole verses of lyrics for Kylie to sing and dance to and when they appeared on the screen I panicked. I didn’t know what to do so I did what I do best, I tore it apart.

“Who the fuck wrote this shit! Where did all these extra words come from? What are all you people staring at me for!? I didn’t write any of this crap. Jesus Christ! This is terrible!!! oh, here’s the good bit again….la la la! la la la la la! la la la! la la la la la! I just can’t get you out of my head…” etc. all the way to the end.
I sat down at the table in triumph. She wouldn’t speak to me and no one else could bear to look at my majesty. So I grabbed my coat and stumbled out the door to do the drunken shuffle home. To attache a physical pain to the mental trauma which was soon to come I slipped and fell on the ice in the middle of the road. Falls like this can KILL old people. Instead it only barely crippled me. I crawled into the snow bank at the side of the road and lay there, quivering, until I could stand again. It was before hypothermia set in. I got home, took a shower and crawled into bed shivering and spinning in time. Only time, not space. I was certain of this as I grabbed the sides of the bed until my knuckles were white and desperately clung on until morning.
We did not have sex that night. In fact we would never have sex again though I had no inclination as to the severity of the situation at the time. I woke up with a normal hangover and she had already gone to work. It is never the best time to have the discussion slash argument while the hangover gnomes are still on the clock. They get more and more industrious as you get older. Mining the backs of your eyeballs for longer, searching deeper and deeper for whatever it is they need to keep driving the pickaxes and hammers. When they pack up tools and go home, that’s when you want to talk about it.
But she didn’t and I wasn’t backing down on this one. I hadn’t come home covered in my own sick or lost my keys and after exhausting a book of matches as an alternative set tried to break into her truck for a place to sleep. I hadn’t even drunkenly hit on her sister as her family looked on in horrified fascination at an out of town wedding.
All I did was an awesome version of a catchy pop hit and do it better than she could ever have managed.
So in the end I learned absolutely nothing. I am a total fucking douchebag when I am drunk. And the earth is always spinning, whether I care to stand up or not.

Obituary Writer

Poet P.K. Page dies, aged 93

Canadian Writer P.K. Page

Renowned Canadian poet, novelist, artist and librettist,  P. K. Page has died aged 93 at her home in Oak Bay, British Columbia.

Just two days ago I’d stopped by the Cadboro Bay Book Store and asked Amber what was new in the store and she pointed out a new chapbook Cullen by P.K. Page, published by Outlaw Editions. I bought a copy and after heading out realized I was passing by the street P.K. lived on so I turned back and drove up the street thinking that if I saw someone at the window or other signs of activity I’d stop by and ask her to sign the book. The house was quiet and dark though so I drove on.

I remember a few years ago during a photo session the conversation turned to aging and facing the end of one’s life and she said (as I remember it) that she was not afraid of dying, what terrified her was not having the chance to finish all the creative ideas she had.



Photos from the 6th Annual Poetry Gabriola Festival

With the title of Malcolm Lowry’s posthumously published novel October Ferry To Gabriola in my head (even though it’s November) I boarded the ferry in Nanaimo to head over an check out the 6th Annual Poetry Gabriola Festival at the Surf Lodge. I had a great time, saw a few familiar faces and met a lot of new people. Artistic Director Hilary Peach and her crew are doing a great job with this island festival. I saw a great group performance, learned a little about haiku, heard an imromptu ukele and voice duet, was read to and listened to an amazing panel discussion.  The only downside was having to leave before Saturday’s evening events including an show featuring Christian Bök, Alexis O’Hara and Paul Dutton which would have been amazing I’m sure.


Artwork  featured on the festival poster and program is by Sheila Norgate


Festival Artistic Director (and performer) Hilary Peach


Hilary Peach and Production Deputy/Publicist Kathy McIntyre contemplate the day ahead


Members of the Easy Writers group practice the finale of their One Sweet Ride show


The lighting director checks out the stage action


Lunch in the Surf pub


Antony Holland in the Surf pub, he was performing Sunday


Christian Bök grabs a few moments of internet time in the Surf pub


Books and Cd’s on sale


Checking out the merchandise


Introducing Winona Baker and Naomi Beth Waken for a presentation on Haiku and Tanka


Hilary with volunteers


An impromtu ukele and voice duet


Festival photographer Victor Anthony shoots a portrait of poet Naomi Beth Wakan


Poet and psychotherapist Drek Daa arrives at the Surf Lodge


(L-R) Alexis o’Hara, Evalyn Parry, Sheila Norgate and Hilary Peach at the Self-Scripted Women event


Poet K. Louise Vincent reads


Vancouver Island poet and novelist Marilyn Bowering reads


Montreal’s Alexis O’Hara sets up for her evening show with Christian Bök and Paul Dutton

Photography Portraits

Timothy Findley – Portrait


Sometimes you don’t need a face for a portrait.

I had photographed the late Timothy Findley for my first book First Chapter and following that photo session he sat down for an interview and lunch with then Calgary Herald books editor, now best selling author in his own right, Ken McGoogan. I joined the pair and Findley’s partner Bill Whitehead and continued to take a few photos but mainly listened in. What I was treated to was an entertaining hour and a half as Findley and Whitehead, the practiced tag team that they were, traded stories, memories, observations while eating, smoking and drinking wine. i think Ken just hung on and tried to get it all down.  It was an incredibly enjoyable lunch and I think this image showing Findley’s hand, glasses and wine remind me more of that encounter than the other, more traditional,  portraits I took that day.

In The Newspapers

Dave Bidini – Interview with Writer/Musician


Photo (from First Chapter ) of Dave Bidini, with Bobby Orr button, Hockey Canada tuque and short lived mustache.

The Toronto Star has a great profile on writer/musician Dave Bidini, check it out here.

Book Launch Signing

Michael Ignatieff – True Patriot Love – Book Signing

Canadian writer Michael Ignatieff, also known in certain circles for being the leader of the federal Liberal party, was on hand for the afternoon book signing of his latest publication True Patriot Love at Victoria’s Munro’s book store. A huge lineup snaked through the store and outside and down the sidewalk as people waited for a chance to have their book signed.


Crowd waits outside Munro’s for their chance to get their books signed


A smile for the camera


Munro’s Books’ Jessica Walker and Jim Munro look on as Michael Ignatieff signs


The line up inside Munro’s


Book Launch

P. K. Page -You are Here – Book Launch

The Grande Dame of Canadian Letters, P.K. (Patricia Kathleen)  Page, launched her latest book ‘You are Here’ , published by Hedgerow Press, with a book reading and signing at the Winchester Galleries Humboldt Street location in Victoria. The 92-year-old Page, who is especially noted for her poetry, has had nearly forty books published in genres including memoirs, fiction, non-fiction, children’s literature, written a libretto and is a noted painter under the name P. K. Irwin. She has two more books coming out in 2009.


P. K. Page waits for the reading to begin


Greeting friends and the press


Publisher Joan Coldwell from Hedgerow Press introduces the author


Reading from You are Here


An attentive crowd listens during the reading




The painting on the easel behind her is one of P.K.’s creations


Relaxing after the reading


Signing books


Aritha van Herk – Interview

LP: Your book Mavericks, An Incorrigible History of Alberta published in 2001, was transformed into a Glenbow Museum online exhibit in
2007. How did that come about?

When I wrote Mavericks, I was almost ambushed by my own interest in Alberta´s history.  Like most Albertans, I don´t think of it as a place with a fascinating back story, but when Penguin asked me to write the popular history, I was utterly intrigued by the stories that I found.  So I immersed myself in the province´s past with much more enthusiasm than I expected.  When the Glenbow came to me and asked if they could use the book to frame their new western history exhibition, I readily agreed, since history is in the public domain–it doesn´t “belong” to anyone.  I expected that they would just go ahead, but then they came back and asked me to get involved with the exhibition, which was both fun and
challenging.  I wrote the text panels, which were excellent challenge for distilled narrative; I had to compress each life (of the 48 mavericks) into 88 words and the sectional descriptions into 111 words.
Once the material exhibition was up, the online exhibit, which is based on the real one, followed.  I didn´t do the online exhibit, but I was completely involved with the real exhibit.  I learned an enormous amount, I loved the writing challenge that was presented by making this information available to the public, and I was more and more immersed in Alberta´s history, which has now become a serious obsession for me. LP: How much input did you have in the transformation process?

I didn´t work on the online exhibit.  I worked on the Glenbow´s concrete exhibit.  While the Glenbow Mavericks used my history of Alberta (entitled Mavericks:  an Incorrigible History of Alberta) as a model, the book, the Glenbow exhibit, and the online exhibit are separate and entirely different entities.  First of all, the exhibit deals with southern Alberta, second of all it chooses a number of characters to tell the story of Alberta; third, the exhibition uses characters that I didn´t even mention in my book.  So it is entirely different, and yet uses some of the tonality of the original book, which was tongue in cheek, humorous, and irreverent.

LP: What do you think the online exhibit has added to your original work?

The online exhibit takes the initiative and the tone of the exhibition, which takes the initiative and the tone of the irreverent history that I wrote.  I wanted to ask questions about Alberta, to show that the whole province is a kind of leap of imagination, a  place that refuses to be what people expect and in the process turns out to be interesting, unusual and very difficult to quantify.
LP: What feedback have you received on this project?

I’ve received endless comments, letters, messages and questions–and I enjoy all of their different perspectives, both positive and negative.  Various people complain that their grandfather was not included; many want to add names to the mavericks that we chose.  Overall, though, people have been generous in their responses; they love my version of Alberta (unorthodox as it is), and they only wish that the rest of Canada would acquaint itself with this crazy province, instead of accepting the cliches that are ascribed to us.  That is an ongoing friction between Alberta and the rest of Canada, and it likely won’t change too soon.

LP: If you were updating the book, are there any new ‘mavericks, you would add?

There are dozens so I don’t want to list just one or two.  I would add the women who did essential work but who got little recognition like the schoolteachers who came out to teach in the one room schools all across the province.  I would add the landladies and the laundresses.  And I would add more members of the settler community, who are overshadowed by the ranching tradition here in the west.

LP: Has this book to internet site metamorphosis made you think about how you might create online representations of any of your other work.

Yes, but I would have to work with people of the same calibre and level who mounted the Glenbow website–and for all that we are so technologically savvy, they aren’t easy to find!

LP: You’re a long time professor at the University of Calgary but are currently on a research leave. Can you talk about what you’re working on during the leave?

I am working on some projects related to history–a happy outcome of all of this background research.  I am horribly superstitious, though, and won’t talk about their content.

LP: You’ve written fiction, non-fiction and criticism, any favourites among your books?

I am fond of Mavericks because it is a book that enabled me to make mistakes and to enjoy mistakes.  Because I am not an historian, I knew that I was in a fraught position trying to write a history of Alberta, but despite that, I found it a challenging way to engage facts with my story-telling ability.
LP:  As a teacher and department head you’ve taught and mentored a great number of young writers. What do you think of your role as a writing influence?

I have never been a department head; that’s a weird myth and incorrect.  Mostly, I’ve stayed away from administration, aside from serving as the Coordinator for the Creative Writing area of English, which is mostly just making sure that those courses and those students at the University of Calgary continue to do well.
What is satisfying is the hundreds of writers I have mentored as a teacher of writing.  Those who have gone on to publish books include Thomas Wharton, Anita Badami, Andrew Wedderburn, Joan Crate, and Jessica Grant–watch for her new novel out soon, entitled “Come, Thou Tortoise.”  I’ve been fortunate to have gifted, talented, and engaged and engaging students, all of whom keep me interested in writing and in words.

LP: Calgary, your home, has experienced tremendous growth and change the past few decades. Your 1998 novel Restlessness incorporated a lot of the city into the narrative. Would a reader today, just a relatively short time after the book was published, have trouble finding some of the places in the book?

Actually, Restlessness is more apropos and germane right now than it was even before the boom–and most of the places that are mentioned in the novel are still there, or findable–I chose landmarks that don’t just vanish.  Calgary changes quickly, but in a strange way, does not change at all, just grows (some would say like a cancer).  But like the grasslands that surround the city, despite the sprawl of suburbs and the fingers of high rise buildings, Calgary is always and eternally itself.  That is almost contradictory as an idea, but there is an element of Calgary’s character that is remarkably resilient and stable.  But that element is the secret Calgary that only Calgarians know, and it is not evident to newcomers or outsiders.  It is an aspect of the city’s character that is hard to quantify but present as a spirit, a breath, and borne only on the back of the chinook.

LP: How has Calgary’s growth affected the literary community?

There are more writers choosing to call this place home, but in a commodity-based town, culture is always crouched under the back porch.  The literary community, the theatre community, the art community in Calgary are hardy and combative.  They have to be.  Calgary’s growth seduced a great number of people to move here, but only the ones who really fall in love with the city stay, although once people move to Calgary, they are intrigued and often do choose to stay.  It’s a seductive place, although no one again can quite quantify why.  The energy is good, and the community spirit strong; that makes all the difference.

LP: You won a lucrative prize for your first novel Judith and, quite famously, used the money to buy yourself a Porsche. If you received an unexpected financial bonus today, what would you buy yourself?

I am not likely to receive any financial windfalls, since I write what I am interested in and without regard for the market.  If I made a pile, I’d think about buying another Porsche–and probably decide not to.  But whatever happens, I work by the creed that artists always give back, and I try to do that, by supporting other artists’ work when I have any spare money.

LP:  What is your next writing project and when can we expect to read it?

I am working on another book that involves history, but that is all I am willing to say.  It could change overnight.

Aritha van Herk