Prince George literary heroes
One of the lessons I have learned in my travels through different cultural communities (previously in Winnipeg and Calgary) is that a healthy environment for art and culture takes work behind the scenes. I have learned to appreciate those individuals who, while not in the cultural spotlight, play a huge role in the development of a culture that is conducive to new art and writing.
Two individuals come to mind when I think about behind-the-scenes advocates for the cultural life of Prince George: Jim Brinkman (owner and manager of Books & Co.) and Amy Dawley (Teen and Young Adult Librarian at the Prince George Public Library). In very different ways, these two make our city a richer place.
Amy Dawley came to the PG Public Library in 2009 and has since instituted an exciting and impressive array of programming for young adults. Along with advising teens on their reading choices and dealing with hordes of Hunger Gamers, she also has been instrumental in getting teen writers together to share and improve their work. Dawley was recently recognized for her excellence with the Young Adult and Children’s Service Award at the British Columbia Library Association conference in Richmond, BC.
I have personally run across numerous teens who have benefited from Dawley’s advice and networking, and she has given teen readers and writers a place to call their own at the library. The idea that her activity might produce more and more confident young writers in Prince George gives me great comfort. I wish she was at my public library when I was a teen because sometimes it is agonizing to be the only avid reader/writer in your junior high or high school classes. I know.
Independent bookstores are a rare and beautiful thing in Canada these days and Prince George is lucky to have one of the best in Books & Co. This bookstore is owned and run by Jim Brinkman who has lived in Prince George for 17 years. Not only is he responsible for an alternative to the chain bookstores (Coles, Chapters, Amazon, etc.) that have hobbled the Canadian publishing industry, but he also runs Café Voltaire and Art Space, two important venues for all things art and performance in Prince George. While Brinkman is a businessman, he also has been irrationally generous with his space and time over the years, helping out arts organizations and individual artists alike. Prince George and northern BC should cherish this and other independents.
Their hard work in artistic and literary culture is making spaces for that art to happen. These spaces might take the form of physical places like Books & Co., but also might mean meeting rooms, forums, opportunities, presses, publications, concerts, organizations, collectives—any activity that provides the artist or writer a chance to do what they do.
It is for enabling art activity in this way that I call Amy Dawley and Jim Brinkman heroes, even though their shy natures would have them shudder at this label. Bravo you two! And make sure to acknowledge your behind-the-scenes local cultural heroes wherever you are in northern BC.