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Success of writers' group reflected in second Literary Leanings event

In a town where the milk costs more than champagne does in most other places Lara Bozabalian wanted to be a writer, so she made one of the boldest decisions any young Whistlerite could make - she quit her job.

In a town where the milk costs more than champagne does in most other places Lara Bozabalian wanted to be a writer, so she made one of the boldest decisions any young Whistlerite could make - she quit her job.

Bozabalian had a secure teaching job when it became impossible for her to ignore her passion to write full time.

But the 27-year-old conceded she might still have been trying to write before and after school had it not been for the Whistler Writers' Group and its leader Stella Harvey.

Formed three years ago, the Whistler Writers' Group now has 72 participants and will again be part of this year's Whistler Arts Showcase festival.

The group will host several noted Canadian writers at the second annual Literary Leanings event Sunday, Feb. 22 and Monday, Feb. 23 at Uli's Flipside.

Vancouver writer Kevin Chong will also make a special youth presentation at 5 p.m. on Sunday at Millennium Place.

This will be Bozabalian's first serious attempt at a Literary Leanings event but she's confident there will be a positive outcome.

"I never had plans to be a writer, I'd thought about it, but I'd done the sensible thing and become a teacher," Bozabalian said.

"I guess a lot of people come to Whistler to drop out of their lives and become ski bums but I was sort of the opposite, and now I'm a writing bum."

While Bozabalian is now a regular member of the group she admitted it took her almost a year to find the time to attend a meeting.

"It took me quite a while to work into the group and the way they did things because, for instance, they did everything by e-mail and I didn't even have a computer," she said.

Bozabalian said the strength of the group was that the members were always supportive and open to new ideas.

"I write a lot of poetry and when I joined most of the people in the group didn't read poetry, but they gave it a try anyway."

Group founder Harvey admitted there has been a lot of organizing involved with this year's Literary Leanings but the talent has been easy to book due to the success of last year's readings.

"There's been a lot of excitement from last year's event because the writers all know each other and would have heard about the reception they get up here," Harvey said.

Harvey will read on Sunday at 8 p.m. at Uli's Flipside, together with celebrated Vancouver writers Lee Henderson and Karen X. Tulchinsky.

Local writers Jennifer Cowan, Rebecca Wood Barrett and Sarah Leach are also scheduled to share their works.

The following evening Annabel Lyon from Vancouver and Squamish writer John Moore will be joined at Uli's by local writers Stephen Vogler, Brandi Higgins, Bozabalian and Lisa Richardson.

"All of the writers are either Vancouver based and John Moore is from Squamish, everybody else is Whistler based local writers," Harvey said.

The evening is a celebration of literary works but it is also a testament to the management skills of Harvey and the creativity of fellow writers.

"Two years ago we put an ad in the paper and 20 people responded. Now I have 72 people on my e-mail list," Harvey said.

"I think there was a need in the community for people to come out and share their works and this group gives them something back.

"It's about improving writing but it's also about having relationships with other writers in the community.

"Writing is also something you do by yourself so it's kind of nice to come together and hear that people are often struggling with the same kinds of things you're struggling with."

Literary Leanings; The writers and their works

Sunday: 5 p.m. Youth Reading at Millennium Place

Kevin Chong

: Was born in Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver. His writing has appeared in The National Post, The Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, Geist and Vancouver Magazine.

Sunday: 8 p.m. at Uli's Flipside

Lee Henderson

: Had a collection of stories titled The Broken Record Technique published by Penguin in 2002. He has also written about the arts for newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US and the UK. He's at work on a novel.

Karen X. Tulchinsky

: is the award-winning author of the recently released novel The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, Love Ruins Everything Love and its sequel Love and Other Ruins and In Her Nature, which won the 1996 VanCity Book Prize, B.C.'s largest literary award. Her screenplays have been short-listed in the Praxis Screenwriting competition and the LA-based Chesterfield Film Company Writer's Project.

Stella L. Harvey

: Gave up a career in business to pursue her dream of writing fiction. She is the leader of the Whistler Writers' Group, also known as the Vicious Circle, and has completed a novel and a series of short stories.

Jennifer Cowan

: Came to Whistler on a five-month ski sabbatical in 1999 and never left. She just returned to Toronto to work as the executive story consultant on Show Me Yours, which is a new romantic comedy series about sex researchers.

Rebecca Wood Barrett

: Has adapted her short fiction for screen and her award-winning short story Crush became a NFB-funded short film that played at international festivals.

Sarah Leach

: Writes short fiction and stories for children. She is an elementary school teacher in Whistler.

Monday night: 8 p.m. at Uli's Flipside

Annabel Lyon

: Is a Vancouver fiction writer and a freelancer. Her first book, a collection of short stories entitled Oxygen, was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed and ReLit awards. McClelland and Steward will publish her second book, The Best Thing for You, a collection of novellas, in April.

John Moore

: Has written three fictional novels: The Blue Parrot, Three of a Kind and The Flea Market, all published by Ekstasis Editions, Victoria. For the past 15 years John has also been a regular book reviewer for The Vancouver Sun and an occasional freelance contributor on cultural issues. He is now writing a novel set in Whistler, which he hopes will make it possible for him to afford to live here.

Stephen Vogler

: Has contributed to national magazines as well as various CBC Radio programs including DNTO, Outfront and Ideas. He is the author of Whistler Features and is now working on a film project based on one of his short stories.

Brandi Higgins

: Is a fiction writer based in Whistler who is interested in the currents of people's lives as they interact with their landscape. Her work has appeared in Pique Newsmagazine, Emerge, the SFU Writer's Studio Anthology and on CBC radio.

Lara Bozabalian

: Has written in all forms of prose, but she is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Lisa Richardson

: Is a feature writer with the Pique Newsmagazine and Whistler This Week. She has also written for a variety of other skiing publications. Lisa lives in the Coast Mountains and is working on a collection of non-fiction, Confessions of a Dirtbag.