Head and Heart: Read Local BC

Read Local BC begins tonight! Don't miss out on this brilliant and inclusive festival featuring some of Vancouver's most treasured literary figures. Below, find an interview by Megan Jones with the acclaimed author Elee Kraljii Gardiner, a Read Local BC star.

Read Local BC is back again this year—and if you haven’t yet heard about this initiative spearheaded by the Association of Book Publishers of BC—then clear your calendar from now 'til November 7th. For the next seven days, you can discover local books and meet authors in your community through Read Local BC’s free activities in bookstores and libraries across the province. In Vancouver, four events celebrate this weeklong literary love-fest, featuring lauded authors such as Aaron Chapman, Betsy Warland, and Evelyn Lau.

To learn more about Read Local BC—and writing and publishing in Vancouver—we sat down with Elee Kraljii Gardiner, a poet, author, and founder of the incredible Thursdays Writing Collective, who will read at Pulpfiction Books on Tuesday, November 1st with Evelyn Lau, Fred Wah, and Julie Emerson.

Megan Jones: Tell us about your new collection, serpentine loop.

Elee Kraljii Gardiner: It’s my first book of poems (going into second printing!) and it’s about ice, both in terms of rivers and skating rinks. I use the language of ice to write about the way we cut edges to include and exclude people, how we freeze emotionally and smooth over dangerous dynamics. A glossary in the back defines the figure skating terms that are a push off point to move off ice and discuss ideas of gender and social justice. A figure I drew illustrates the name of the book and develops as the reader progresses through the poems.

MJ: serpentine loop was published by Anvil Press, a small, independent publisher from East Vancouver.  What’s it like working with Karen and Brian, and the rest of the Anvil team? 

EKG: Working with a local press is extremely convenient, for one thing. We’re in the same time zone, at the same events, sometimes even bumping into each other at coffee shops. I can’t imagine the anxiety of the only-online relationship. I like being able to pop into the office and see (and thank) Anastasia and Natasha who do so much to support the books. And Karen and Brian, who I have known for a few years personally, have been extremely patient with my first time excitement. They field a billion questions and pragmatic queries from me. It’s been a very immediate, friendly process and I’m sure eased the path to the next two books of mine they are publishing (a book of poems, Tunica Intima, and an anthology). Anvil is such a mainstay of the Vancouver literary community that it feels like an act of solidarity to publish with them. I like the idea of contributing to the creative eco-system I live in. Plus, they have been great about getting my book into the US.

MJ: Was it important for you to publish with a local press?

EKG: My other publishing experience is with Arsenal Pulp Press, who brought out V6A: Writing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in 2012. That, too, reaped big rewards for me—knowing everyone from the interns to the owners helps the author-publisher relationship immensely. You can crisscross with people in different situations. I remember poet Jordan Abel helping me with a poster for the Postal Code reading series when he worked there—now he and I are collaborating on a poetry project.

MJ: As a writer, it must be challenging to live and work in Vancouver, where the cost of rent alone is enough to drive creative workers away. What keeps you here?

EKG: Vancouver is not a city I ever intended to live in. I’m from Boston and came here twenty years ago because of my partner. I sometimes say the city anesthetizes us with its beauty. It’s a hard place to leave for that reason, but it would also be agonizing to leave because the writing community here is one of the most solid, dynamic and friendly ones I know.

MJ: Finally, what local book are you reading currently? 

EKG: I’m reading Scree, the collected earlier poems 1962-1991 by Fred Wah (Talonbooks, 2015), which I bought at his launch. I’m reading with him (and Evelyn Lau and Julie Emerson) for the first time tonight, which is a very big deal for me. Fred is a national figure and also a neighbourhood friend who has been a part of Thursdays Writing Collective, the DTES writing program I founded now led by Amber Dawn.

MJ: Bonus question: Why is it important for Vancouverites to read more BC-published books?

EKG: My god, I could write a dissertation on this. I’ll go short: we need to recognize each other so we can more deeply connect.

To learn more about Read Local BC, please visit www.books.bc.ca or www.facebook.com/ReadLocalBC.

Make sure to check out Read Local BC’s free events:

An Evening with Vancouver Poets

with Evelyn Lau, Elee Kraljii Gardiner, Fred Wah, Julie Emerson
Tuesday, November 1st, 7pm
Pulpfiction Books

Writing the Body

with Michael Pond, Maureen Palmer, Betsy Warland
Wednesday, November 2nd, 7pm
Book Warehouse – Main Street

Vancouver’s Greatest Histories & Mysteries

with Eve Lazarus, Aaron Chapman, Caroline Adderson
Thursday, November 3rd, 7pm
Book Warehouse – Main Street


Children’s Storytelling Afternoon
Featuring various local children’s authors

Thursday, November 3rd, 1:15pm
Mount Pleasant Library

All ages welcome