This is the Life: Creston Valley authors keep putting it in writing

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Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.

I enjoyed the coincidence. On the morning that I was writing a review of Luanne Armstrong’s latest book, Alice Munro had been announced as Canada’s first full-fledged Canadian Nobel Prize for Literature winner.

Their differences are many, but both have been steadfast in their pursuit of putting their ideas to paper, though in different forms.

Munro, that master of writing about people, weaving a remarkably dense literary brocade into as few as 20 pages, found her genre early in a career that began in middle age. She started out to write novels and found her stories never stretched to their expected length.

Armstrong’s desire to write has burned for longer than I have known her — more than three decades — and she has never shown any sign of settling into one form of writing. Poetry, novels and non-fiction have been aimed at readers of all ages, and with impressive success.

Munro left her academic pursuits to marry. Armstrong pushed herself to write throughout her child-raising years, and continued her education, earning her post-graduate degree later in life.

There is no need to pursue this path of comparisons, though. Let’s just agree that each in her own way has inspired countless other young writers to pursue their own dreams.

Armstrong has become something of the grande dame of literature in the Kootenays, even as she has juggled writing, pursuit of a master’s degree and PhD, editing, publishing and teaching, all while maintaining her home base on the Kootenay Lake farm she grew up on. Would she have gained greater public acceptance has she chosen to live in Vancouver or, heaven forbid, Toronto? Probably. But she seems to be admirably committed to keeping her life in balance.

And it isn’t easy to assess her influence on the local literary scene. I often think of Armstrong in the same way I think of other Creston Valley’s artists of 30-40 years ago. They were few and they were determined, and many worked to inspire others, teaching, encouraging and leading by example. Armstrong has taught at Langara College, attended countless literary conferences, sat in on local writers’ groups and finally attained a position of adjunct professor of creative writing for the University of BC, teaching primarily online. She has even taught courses at our local college — no venue is insignificant or too small when she has an opportunity to work with other writers.

Like other areas of the arts in our community, writing seems to have exploded in recent years. Self-publishing has given a public voice to many writers — Dr. Dave Perrin is a notable example — but more and more are grabbing the attention of publishing houses. Shortly after Armstrong dropped off a review copy of Morven and the Horse Clan, I got notice that former Advance gardening columnist Vanessa Farnsworth has had a book on her experience as a Lyme disease victim published and that Creston Valley contractor and big game hunter Rob Shatzko’s book on his outdoor adventures has just been released.

My ever-expanding collection of local authors’ works is one I treasure. I have written stories on most, read them all and have found something to admire in each. While writing is a largely solitary process, successful publications are often the result of collaborations involving family and friends, writers’ groups and editors.

Last week, I had coffee with Jason Smith, who has co-written a new play, soon to be produced here on stage. We talked about the ego-challenging experience of a writer whose work is put out for discussion and critique, in his case by the actors cast in the production. And this only after the play has been endlessly edited and refined by the writers, with input from friends and the play’s director.

Writing for the public is not for the faint of heart, the thin-skinned or those with fragile egos. For those who persist I am, in this post-Thanksgiving week, truly grateful.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.