Beds, Books and Beaches: A Vancouver Lit Trip

Sometimes, you just want to curl up with a good book. Sometimes, you want to write one. Either way, you’ll want peace, quiet and a room with a view.

A Vancouve Lit HolidaySounds like time for a lit trip — a holiday for book lovers. A lit trip can, like literature itself, be anything you want it to be. It can be as inspiring as a literary festival, as life changing as a writers’ retreat, or as simple as a paperback in your overnight bag.

The place? Try Vancouver, British Columbia. There’s scenery (but you knew that), solitude (if you want it), and a calendar full of writers’ events, workshops and retreats.

And you’ll be in good company: many of Canada’s best-known writers – from George Bowering and Margaret Laurence to Carol Shields, Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro –have spent at least part of their careers here. Current writers in residence include science fiction luminary William Gibson and Generation X author Douglas Coupland.

It’s also comforting to know that writers’ accommodations have improved in the 50 years since Malcolm Lowry wrote Under the Volcano in a North Vancouver shack. These days, a writer’s (or reader’s) retreat can be a city centre hotel replete with art, jazz, and books; a spa resort, a serene seaside retreat centre, or any number of little cabins in the woods.

The Listel Hotel on Robson Street, for example, is Vancouver’s artiest and most literary hotel. In 2005, the hotel joined forces with Raincoast Books to publish The Vancouver Stories, a collection of 15 tales about the city by some of Canada’s best-known writers. A copy of the book is found in every one of the hotel’s art-filled rooms, and a take-home copy is offered as part of the Listel Hotel’s Books, Bed & Breakfast package.

Next spring, the Listel will once again join forces with local literary magazine Geist to offer The Art of Writing Your Life, a workshop for women held at the hotel. Aspiring or experienced writers can book just the workshop, or they can treat themselves to the Women’s Writing Weekend package, which includes a night in one of the Listel’s Gallery Floor rooms as well as a Geist subscription, a half bottle of wine, a pen and notebook, breakfast, and a copy of The Vancouver Stories.

For meeting, greeting and reading – without the writing assignments – check out one of Vancouver’s many writers’ and readers’ festivals. The season kicks off this autumn with a host of literary events in Vancouver. The Word on the Street is a one-day book and magazine festival held simultaneously in four cities across Canada each September (Toronto, Kitchener and Halifax round this out). Vancouver’s version, held at Library Square downtown, attracts an estimated 35,000 visitors for readings, panel discussions, music, contests and more.

In October, the Vancouver International Writers’ and Readers’ Festival, one of North America’s leading literary events, brings some of the world’s best-known writers to the city with 69 events over six days and close to 100 acclaimed authors and 14,000 readers. Intimate, interactive and informal, the festival has, over the past two decades, given readers a chance to meet such luminaries as Martin Amis, John Irving, P.D. James, J.K. Rowling, and Salman Rushdie.

Summer 2009 will also see the sixth annual Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Plans include spoken word performances and a story slam competition, as well as dancers, musicians, panel discussions, open mics and a children’s area.

With the area’s host of literary fests, one must wonder if writers will find inspiration for their next works here? Possibly. But you certainly can. Bring a laptop, a pen, or just an autograph book. We have the setting; you provide the plot.

For more information on other British Columbia destinations and travel information, call 1-800 HELLO BC or visit


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