Category Archives: vancouver

Room 35.4 Labours

We at Room are wrapping up our 35th volume with the Labours. We are having an anniversary party and issue launch at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver on December 9, 2012 at 3:00pm. Do check back with the website to r.s.v.p. Here is a sneak preview with the cover and editor’s letter.




Every issue of Room is a labour of love, and for this reason I chose labours as the theme of the final issue in our special thirty-fifth anniversary volume. The volume opened with Journey, followed by Shaping the Spark,

and Duality. Now, Labours, in all its iterations, celebrates the past thirty- five volumes in which Room’s collective members have brought to you the labour of women writers and artists.

In this issue, we present a voice from the past, from the very earliest days of Room—then Room of One’s Own—and a new collective member, a voice from our present and future. It is women just like these who have supported us in our labours, and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

With my own understanding of labour, which includes years of university, my four children (no longer all still children), home renovations projects, my teaching load, and picket-line experiences, I hoped writers and artists would push my understanding of labour even further, and they did. The submissions, in all genres, coalesced around several emergent themes: the labour of writing, conventional and unconventional work, labours of the heart—nurturing, caring, bringing life, and letting go. And in the mix of it all was the messy business of life with all its discomforts.

In researching for this issue, I turned to our archives for inspiration. There I found Eleanor Wachtel, longtime member of the collective in our very early days. We are thrilled that she granted us an opportunity to turn the table and interview her. And given our original name, Dori Luthy-Harrison’s artwork of the same title was a natural fit for the issue.

Many artists and writers, at one time or another, turn to unconventional work to support themselves. Andrea Hoff writes about her work as a nude participant in an artist-driven performance art piece. Amber Dawn, our commissioned writer, presents “Lying is the Work,” in which she turns her astute eye first inward to her experience as a sex worker, and then and then outwards to Room, to the reader, and then to society at large. The work of Bren Simmers, Janette Fecteau, and Anna Maxymiw also focuses on atypical work environments.

Our issue’s cover image, The Other Dress, by Katelyn Di Giulio, with its contrast between an Italian starlet subject and her pattern collage landscape, introduces the tension between work and identity in a shifting landscape. This dynamic is continued in the work of K.V. Skene, Kirsten Donaghey, and Susan Braley. Colleen Young takes us to an elegant and tactile moment of sewing and fitting. Amanda Schoppel continues this thinking around domestic skill and art, in the line knots of her art, in which she brings labouring detail to work that is more than a simple nod to traditional women’s handiwork; it is laborious in itself, refined in its quality, and still loose in its edges. Artist and writer, Monique Motut-Firth tells us about her yearlong art project constructed from her late grandmother’s treasures.

The jobs that women have often expected to take, domestic or service-based, are well represented in our fiction. Debra Martens, who first appeared in Room in 1987, now brings us the plight of a young waitress. Janna Payne highlights the vocal and the silent in a woman worker as she manages work and being true to herself. Vivian Demuth’s poem takes us on a metaphorical vertical wilderness journey.

Stevi Kittleson creates whimsical botanical wonders from discarded irons and pencils. Colleen Gillis takes readers into the workday of a traffic officer, and the work of the heart, caring and nurturing, comes through the fiction and poetry of Eliza Victoria, Marilyn Gear Pilling, Janet Hepburn, and Sadie McCarney.

Liz Laidlaw and Jann Everard both connect to the complexity of bringing about new life, celebrating it, acknowledging its fragility, and also letting go of life all together. The tangle of life is a knot that binds tighter as it is tugged—as there is no easy solution.

Closing this issue are two complementary pieces. Morag Hastings’s photograph The Lioness shows the power and vulnerability in the labouring of an experienced midwife who is a first-time mother. Shannon McFerran’s piece tells her own story of birth, the common miracle that has brought us all here. It is a story that many may know from their own experiences, a story that is not a radical departure, but rather a place that is tangible, real, and a time to reset perspectives on life as she comments on both endings and beginnings.

In this issue, we have a multitude of labours, with one’s hands, hearts, and minds, in typical and unexpected places. I do hope you enjoy the fruits of our collective labours!


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When Vancouver kids Visit Moose Jaw (Saskatchewan)

Twenty years ago I came to Vancouver to go to grad school at UBC.  I never left, Vancouver that is (I did, however, finish my graduate studies). To me, Vancouver was a postcard perfect place, so why would I ever leave? The weather is warm(ish) all year round, so much so that parkas are relegated to skiing or snow-shoeing. Cold is ten below, not thirty … No one has to plug in their car, unless it is electric. So there is no need to dangle an extension cord from house to tree to parking spot to attach one’s block-heater; our cars don’t have block-heaters. There are almost no mosquitoes, not really, not prairie mosquitoes who feast like starving vultures on unsuspecting children. And the wind … well, it’s light, predictable, and infrequent. But what about the rain, people ask … it makes things green, I say, and besides you don’t have to shovel rain.

The first week of our summer vacation, I took my two youngest children aboard a very small and movie-barren flight to Regina where my parents greeted us and drove us all back to Moose Jaw, the city I grew up in. The first night it was thirty-three degrees, the wind shrieked around the trees and lightning lit up the night sky in a blaze of fire-works. It was fantastic. Far more drama than what we are used to at home, and for me, it smelled and felt like my childhood. For the kids it was a great and fantastic show.

All that was familiar to me, is exotic to my children … a giant concrete moose …

… wind that drives the leaves of a tree sideways,

And horizons and sky like no other.

New to them were pocked roads, insect spray, and gopher holes. Finn found three gophers too, but they wouldn’t sick around for a photo. And then they walked my dad’s dog Twinkle.

We took them to the Natatorium where I’d cool off as a child on scorching summer days.

But mostly, being there was about the people, not about the landscape, the weather, or tourist attractions (which they have quite a few). This trip to the ‘Jaw’, was about connecting with our prairie roots, reminding them where some of their people are from.

It is good to be from Moose Jaw, from Saskatchewan; just as it is good to be home here in Vancouver.

(A link to more 2011 Moose Jaw Photos here.)

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Filed under environment, family, kids, lorrie_miller, saskatchewan, vancouver

I am the Mother of an Adult… Happy Birthday Son

Did I ever think about this day, eighteen years ago…. most certainly not.  I saw his tiny toes that were the much more elegant version of my own–his pools of ebony blinking up at me as he took in his new world, his rosebud lips that pursed as he suckled in his sleep.  He was a happy baby, an easy baby, a baby that made me want more.

Eighteen years later, I am the mother of a six year old son, a nine year old daughter, a sixteen year old son and an adult– a legal adult.  He can vote, get a job, leave home, get married, be tried in adult court, make me a grandmother, and and and, I could go on, but I may have heart failure if I do.

I can no longer carry him on my back, nor send him to his room.  His time-outs are of his own choosing.  He will always be my boy, my son, my baby, but he is also so very much his own man. There I said it.  Man.  How can I be the mother of a man? How did this happen?

Akask (15 years old) Mystic Beach

Wolf, Finn and Akask at Mystic Beach

Akask and Dad 2007

Okay a moment of serious joking.  It was funny, but perhaps you had to be there….

Akask in the Hayloft at Grandparents former farm near Moose Jaw

In and under the hayloft…. a place I remembered from my early childhood, a place that seemed like a dream, and now returns to that state.

Homemade sail and raft in 2004.

Akask at Pearl Harbour

Akask skateboarding in Hawaii

Akask skateboarding?

Akask in Spring 2010

The biggest brother, my eldest son!

Akask and Youngest Cousin Sydney 2010

This wasn’t intended as a full photo retrospective, and given his age, most of my photos of his early years are in print in physical photo albums.   It is easy and hard to see your child become an adult. It is a process that is impossible to slow or halt–it is a journey not a race I try to tell them.  But like so many things, I am not sure how much they hear… Ah, love them all.

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Book Prize nomination for Cathleen With

Among the four the finalists for 2010’s Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, is my friend and teaching colleague, Cathleen With for her book: Having Faith in the Polar Girls’ Prison, a moving story about a  fifteen year-old girl, a girl nearly a woman is one of many whose voices are so often silent from an unrelenting cycle of alcoholism, oppression and abuse. 

Cathleen and I share a history of teaching students in remote regions of the far north before making our respective homes in Vancouver.  Yesterday at work she gave me a kindly signed copy of her book.  She warmed my heart with her words of support for my own writing project.   Thanks for that, Cathleen.

Recently, while on a long drive from Big White, my daughter chirped to me from the back seat, “Mommy, when your book is published, will you buy me a copy?”

“Yes, dear,” I said, “I’ll buy you a copy of my book, and I’ll even sign it for you.” (I could barely keep my own chuckles concealed.)

“And can I take it to school for show-and-tell?” she asked.

“Great idea.” I said.

At this point both my husband and I exchanged seriously entertained glances.  She had set a tall order for me

A: finish my novel. B: get it published C: do this all while she is still young enough to have show-and-tell at school.  My daughter is in grade four.  I have some serious work to finish up!!! Still possible–she said that grade seven is the cut-off for show-and-tell.

Cathleen, you are an inspiration to this aspiring writer. Good luck with the prize, the nomination is fantastic and well deserved.  I am pleased to be your fan and friend!

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Filed under book prizes, British Columbia, novel research, vancouver, writing

My oh, so Canadian kids!

Here we are just last night downtown feeling the trill of the last night, the pure pleasure of the success of the games, and of our final win.  The hockey was truly EPIC!

My darling gal was stopped a few times so people could take a photo of her face.  She definitely didn’t mind the attention.  She also had a red cow-bell and a huge flag with her too, as did so many others!

It was a complete drag that the fence was there! But I wanted to show in the photo the way it really was.  This is one of my only complete bafflement of the games.   Odd choice, indeed.  Anyone hear of plexi-fencing?

I was worried that the security would be too opressing, as there has been a tendency around here (BC) for the RCMP to be a bit heavy handed.  But I have to say that it wasn’t bad–and I am not a police fan (just ask my x-husband… he’s one).

From the torch relay, to the building of inukshuks in False Creek, to hockey and curling, and lots of television coverage, my young Olympic fans, helped to keep our enthusiasm bubbling over.


Filed under British Columbia, kids, lorrie_miller, olympic, vancouver

Swimming at the Beach in February

Now most folks have heard of the annual Polar Bear swim on January 1.  Though I have not participated in the swim myself, I have allowed my kids to do the dip.  Today Finn figured he’d have his very own polar bear swim.  In this case, a polar express swim, and he’d wear a shorty rather than go in his birthday suit.

There was no point in telling my very determined child that it’s February and a long way yet from spring and proper swimming season, I said, ‘sure, if you want to go for a swim, go ahead.’  He couldn’t have been happier.  I didn’t need to tell him when he’d be cold; he’s a bright lad and is able to figure that out for himself.

Kids are too often told, ‘NO, you can’t do that,’ whatever that might be.  I believe we owe it to our children to let them take calculated risks, and push their boundaries.  It isn’t as though I him swimming on his own; there was little risk  other getting a little mucky, a lot wet and somewhat cold.

And the smiles that this outing brought was worth it!

Swimming and smiles:

So I challenge other parents to share their, sure you can moments, rather than, no–you’ll get cold, hurt yourself, or get dirty… Dirt is good! Just ask any kid;)

That was our little break from olympic fun… until tomorrow.

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Filed under British Columbia, environment, events, family, kids, lorrie_miller, motherhood, olympic, parenting, social critique, vancouver

Sunshine and Olympic Gold

Sorry for being so bold, but I’m Canadian, Eh… I guess we like to win… who knew?

That being said yet again for the record, I thought I’d post a few more of our fun family times:

I was taken with the use of window film as decoration, as signage, and advertizing.  I think some of the graphics for this Olympics are interesting and tres hip, some are not. I LOVE the blue dragonfly/airplane on the banners.

Here are a few notable building murals.  (only wish other buildings could have more to dress up for the party)

While other’s undressed for the celebrations.  I applaud their spunkiness! Where would we be if we didn’t speak up for our values! Way to go no fur folks! (Chloe asked me, “but why don’t they have their clothes on? What does that have to do with fur?” You know there were a lot of people taking their valentine photos, and maybe they’ll think about the message too…)

Finn on the lion, behind the anti-fur activests.

The streets were filled with people, performers, signs and flags.  It reminded me of the energy I’ve experienced when visiting the Montreal Jazz Festival, but without the great music.  Sure there is music here, but it ‘ain’t no jazz festival.’ There is an energy that is contagious, even if you’re not a sports fan, there is just so much to see and do.  We have yet to see the exhibition at the VAG, or at SFU campus at the Great Northern Way. But we will be taking in The Sask Pavilion to see Library Voices, or rather hear Library Voices, a band I have been meaning to see, but have not yet managed to get to… Yeah Karla!!!

Below are some images of Sunday and Monday…

The lights over English Bay are visible from all over the city, but they are particularly cool when viewed from across the water by the Planetarium.   We stayed there for a while, let the kiddies play in the sand, and try our collective hands at night photography.

The next day we took the Chloe and Finn to the various pavilions to check things out with less of a crowd.

The Sask Pavilion (my roots are buried deep within the ol’ prairie wheat fields). was hospitable, as expected, and not over-the-top, also as expected.

Here my kids learned to fish, and I… skated with them on an open air rink.

Chloe with a teleporting fish…

Finn, with a Fish…

My kids have such great smiles… Mine is genuine, but a little malformed… I’m working on that….

And the photos, thanks Sask, making memories that I never had. But the kids are still young enough I might be able to trick them in a year or two…”What do you mean, I never take you anywhere, that you never have any fun…What about that time we went to Saskatchewan and played hockey on a frozen pond or that summer we spent up north fishing and you caught that record-breaking fish!!!  Here, I have the photos to prove it. (okay, maybe they need a bit more touch-up in Photoshop, but nothing I can’t tweak.)


Tonight we are off to see Women’s hockey, Slovakia vs. Swiss. Haven’t decided who to cheer for yet.  Maybe the Swiss, they have a nice flag. (red and white).

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Filed under British Columbia, events, family, lorrie_miller, olympic, vancouver