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A Heady Glimpse into the Soul of BC

Why The Tyee’s new book, ‘Points of Interest,’ is an ideal travel companion this season. A Q&A with the editors.

Jackie Wong 22 Apr 2024The Tyee

Jackie Wong is a senior editor at The Tyee.

It’s been a gorgeous stretch of weeks on the south coast of B.C. In Vancouver, the cherry blossom trees are in full flower, casting showers of pink petals onto the sidewalks. This season — of new shoots and new beginnings — is a fitting time to launch Points of Interest, The Tyee’s new book of 30 standout pieces of writing that offer distinct perspectives from across British Columbia.

As a Tyee editor and a daily reader of the publication, I was happy to open Points of Interest and be surprised by how it fresh it feels, even though I remember some of the stories from their early drafts. Reading the collection conjures my favourite memories of travel — embracing the adventure of finding myself somewhere new while bolstered by the company of friendly people lighting the way.

In Points of Interest, Tyee authors take us to various corners of the province, many of which are under-sung or not always properly understood. The book is a bright, soulful collection of writing that helps us understand one another better. In addition to the selected Tyee piece from the past, every chapter offers other ways to connect — a pen-and-ink sketch and fun facts about each place.

We’re celebrating the launch of the book with a party in Vancouver tomorrow, April 23, and we’re in the midst of planning other book events across B.C. this season, including one in Victoria on May 22.

Look for Points of Interest in your favourite local bookstore this spring. Or aboard BC Ferries on the way to your favourite vacation spot.

“I think I’ll feel like I’ve arrived when I see our book on the ferry, next to Grant Lawrence wearing some kind of plaid flannel or woollen sweater,” says Tyee senior editor andrea bennett. They co-edited Points of Interest with Tyee founding editor David Beers.

Asked where he hopes to see the book, Beers replied, “Tucked into packages with birthday cards and under Christmas trees!”

On the eve of the launch party, I sat down with both editors to learn more about what brought Points of Interest to life.

The Tyee: How did the idea for this book come about?

David Beers: Our publisher, Jeanette Ageson, and I saw to our amazement that Year 20 of The Tyee was approaching and asked ourselves what we might do to mark the occasion. We knew we wanted to pay respects to this realm we call British Columbia and the great variety of places, people and stories it contains.

From its beginning The Tyee has published personal essays and profiles of fascinating figures that stand the test of time. And we realized that a lot of these pieces sort of acted as that person at the diner or bar you run into when you are visiting a new place. The new friend who has a great yarn to share — which really enriches your sense of where you are and what’s gone on there.

What was your favourite part of the process of making the book?

andrea bennett: We wanted to make sure the book was diverse in a variety of ways, from contributor background to geographic location to subject matter to tone and vibe, and more. This was a bit of a double-edged sword: it was really fun to drum up ideas from The Tyee’s past as potential essays to include, and also fun to think about what pieces we could assign to flesh things out a bit, but also so heartbreaking to cut pieces we really loved but that didn’t quite work in the context of the book — no offence to our home city, but we didn’t need 20 essays about Vancouver.

My favourite part of this process was placing the stories as geographic push-pins on an actual map of the province. We’d always envisioned the book as an eclectic literary road trip. Once we had those push-pins in place, we could envision it as a potential in-real-life road trip, too.

Beers: The recipes I like to cook have a range of ingredients that vibrate in surprisingly delicious ways. The variety of these stories works like that. So you might read the harrowing memories of a young woman who lived through a brutal storm on Saturna while visiting her father and feel how the experience changed her, and then you might read an inspiring historical account of the life and times of Charan Gill, who helped organize farmworkers in the Fraser Valley. I loved “cooking” up this mix with andrea, who is a really fun creative partner.

And of course it offered me a tremendous rush of memories of fantastic writers who have contributed to The Tyee over the years. It was like rummaging in the back of a drawer to rediscover a bunch of gems stashed away.

I sometimes receive questions from people asking when The Tyee “went online,” because they assume it started as a print magazine, though we’ve been digital since 2003. What does it mean to publish a physical Tyee book in this age of AI, Bill C-18 and other forces that challenge the future of the digital media landscape?

Beers: Points of Interest is a construct that, like a musical playlist, benefits from the shifts of mood and tone. This really lends itself to a book. You can physically feel yourself travelling as you move from one essay to the next.

Each stop on the journey, each chapter, includes a heading that orients you to the place and subject, an illustration, and then, with a flip of the page, you find yourself down the road somewhere new. It has that retro feel of a travelogue — only a book can become your well-thumbed travelling companion with pages marked up and dog-eared.

bennett: It’s so exciting to be publishing an anthology! I think it offers us a moment to reflect. I love that it will appear in bookstores and libraries. I love that it will appear on my bookshelf and stay there in perpetuity. I think of it as a little container that features a sprinkling of what we’ve been able to accomplish on the site in our two decades of existence.

It also gives us an opportunity to celebrate — in Vancouver, and hopefully in other spots across the province. (Invite us places, readers!) It allows us to step out of the daily wave of stories and bask a wee bit. It also highlights the amount of care we put into our work.

It’s this care and intention that is so often first on the chopping block when it comes to the incursion of AI and other forces challenging the future of worthwhile journalism, forces that prioritize volumes of “content” over the multi-step processes it takes to actually do good work that stands up long-term.

What do you hope readers will take from the book?

bennett: I hope they’re invited into some places and perspectives that were previously unfamiliar to them. And I hope some folks flip the script and tell us some of their engaging, place-based stories.

Beers: I hope they appreciate that we are blessed with so many talented, insightful voices in this province. I mean, looking back at the thousands of pieces The Tyee has run over two decades, we could easily have made this a multi-volume set!

I hope that people who live in B.C. will send this book to friends and relatives who live elsewhere to help them understand what is special about this part of the world.

And I hope those who travel with the book enjoy the special access it provides to wherever they find themselves. Other guides will tell you the best spots to eat or stay when you hit town. Points of Interest, I hope, will offer a glimpse of each place’s soul.  [Tyee]

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