The great thing about writing for Craig Spence from Chemainus is that he can let his imagination run wild.
He’s done that with great success with his recent books, and there are plenty of other ideas as to where that came from.
But Spence also creates magic to bring families together, which will be bolstered by the forthcoming release of a literary classic, Flibber T. Gibbet, An Adventure on the Hermit’s Trail. It is a collaboration of Spence’s writing, with an emphasis on local significance, and Mrs Diana Durrand’s brilliant illustrations.
The title character is an elf, referring to his flirty speeches.
“He likes to play pranks on people,” Spence said. “I read Wind In The Willows as part of my review of it.
“I hope I see adults reading it to their kids as an excuse to read it themselves,” he laughed.
Spence and Durrand recently received great news when Chris Clement of Chris Clement Construction offered to sponsor the book. “Chris’ contribution will help us get the book out of the press and into the hands of readers faster,” said Spence.
Spence is a busy guy working on his masterpieces and volunteering for the Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society and Rainforest Arts. He has embraced the multimedia lifestyle to convey all the necessary messages for the organization and to promote his works.
Spence was born in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba but grew up in Montreal and left for BC at the age of 19
“I used to hitchhike after high school,” he recalls.
Oh, those were the days.
Spence stayed at Wreck Beach in Vancouver for a few months – those were the days again. “I slept under the logs and in sleeping bags when that was possible,” he chuckled.
Spence has always loved the ocean, which lured him to this region to stay. He worked as a reporter in Vancouver and Sechelt before moving to Langley where he became communications manager for the Langley School District.
Spence arrived on the island in Victoria in 2013 and moved to Chemainus seven years ago, prompting a brief return to journalism as editor of the Ladysmith Chronicle.
“I haven’t been on a newsroom in about 15 years,” Spence joked. “The transformation really blew my mind.”
He spent a year and a half at the Chronicle and a total of 15 years as a reporter.
“I’ve really enjoyed my work, but now I can do things that I want to do in terms of my writing,” said Spence, who turns 70 in October. “I’ve always chosen careers related to writing.”
Having the freedom to choose how he wants to spend his time is just too appealing at this point in Spence’s life.
“I like volunteering. It is wonderful. You can contribute any way you want.”
He had technically retired from the school district job, but that wasn’t fully realized until he left the post of Ladysmith editor. Spence has a studio at his home in Chemainus to do writing and video work, while Durrand has her own space for art.
They meet in the middle of the house and everything works well, including collaborating on projects like the Flibber T. Gibbet book.
Durrand also joined the Chemainus Residents Association since they moved to Chemainus and Spence took over after she was forced to resign. Spence has also been associated with CVCAS for more than five years.
“It’s a good organization and it’s really amazing what they’ve achieved,” he said, especially since COVID.
“You directed the Music In The Park series. It was amazing how much they could do given the situation. I think a lot of these organizations helped get through the COVID isolations.”
Craig began his writing connections of local importance with the Mural Gazer, which he began in 2018 and which he describes as a direct web novel.
“I just finished the second revision of this,” he added.
The entire novel is online. “As a method of writing and as a way of writing in the future, I think it’s one that needs to be explored,” Spence argued.
One of the fictional characters in the story, Harry Sanderson, goes into the murals and lives the stories based on his personal memories.
“It should be humorous and challenge our imaginations. The stories touch on the change in social values.
“Of course this is all fiction, but I hope it resonates as serious fiction. It raises many senior issues. The central theme is how people of European descent have to re-evaluate their lives.
“It’s almost like a series of short stories that tie together,” Spence added. “Where the murals come into play, they are stories within the story.”
Flibber T. Gibbet was a great project for Durrand and Spence. It is mainly intended for the 8-12 year old age group.
For her, “it gives the murals an extra reach, an extra dimension,” Spence said. “The imagery and context are all based on the hermit’s path.”
Other books he has written are: The Boy From Under; Josh & The Magic Vial in 2006; Einstein Dog in 2009; and Blowdown in 2013. Einstein Dog was nominated for the BC Teacher Librarian Association’s Chocolate Lily Book Award and Josh & The Magic Vial for the BC Book Prize.
Spence also has numerous ideas and works in the works that will keep readers of all ages waiting for the next release.