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Memoir writers open Spring Reading Series

Author Grant Lawrence brings his tale of his rocking past to new Whistler Writing Society evening

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For his third book, Vancouver author and music journalist Grant Lawrence reached way back into his rocking past.

The result is Dirty Windshields: The Best and the Worst of The Smugglers Tour Diaries, a look at his time as vocalist with indie band The Smugglers from 1988 to 2004.

"If I had a brain in my head, this would have been my first book," Lawrence laughs.

"A huge portion of my life was dedicated to that band and those guys in it with me. We were a touring band all over the world and I kept diaries the whole time.

"You could say I already had a book written and all I had to do would be sit down and compile it, but when the band wrapped up there was a slight amount of bitter feelings, with exhaustion and frustrations... We never had a hit single, but we were a successful indie touring band."

The Smugglers was a five-piece band, and Lawrence's four former bandmates read the manuscript, contributing to and correcting some of his recollections.

Dirty Windshields is being launched on May 13 at the Commodore in Vancouver, helped along by the first performance by The Smugglers in 13 years.

Lawrence says they were regulars in Whistler, playing the Boot Pub, which closed a decade ago, along with Buffalo Bills and Garfinkel's "and places like that."

"Back then it was hard to build a club because Whistler wasn't as much of a town, it was more transient. You go one winter and draw a full house and you go back the following winter and wonder where all the people went," he says.

Lawrence's first book was Adventures in Solitude, and the second, The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie — both won the Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award at the BC Book Prizes; the first time one writer had won twice.

"The rock 'n' roll book ended up being No. 3 on the list, and I'm just happy to get it out. I think I needed some separation to appreciate what we achieved," Lawrence says.

"The general message of the book is don't be afraid to follow your dreams. When you do follow your dreams, there might be some nightmares on the way, but some of those dreams are going to work out. Some might not. In the end, you'll have plenty of stories."

One of the interesting points for Lawrence as he worked through the book, is looking at how the music industry changed over those years — from pre- to post-Internet.

Lawrence is reading Dirty Windshields as part of the Spring Reading Series: Open Lives, a new event featuring memoir writers sponsored by the Whistler Writing Society.

It takes place at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on Friday, May 5, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $22 and available from www.whistlerwritersfest.com.

Joining Lawrence is Cea Sunrise Person, Steph Jagger and Paul Shore. Pique columnist Leslie Anthony moderates the evening, with the authors giving a reading, followed by answering questions on their work.

Person will read from her book Nearly Normal: Surviving the Wilderness, Jagger from her book Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery, and Shore from Uncorked: My Year in Provence Studying Petanque, Discovering Chagall, Drinking Pastis and Mangling French.

Organizer Rebecca Wood Barrett says the series continues the job of promoting writers that begun with the Whistler Writers Festival and the Authors in Schools program.

"We had always wanted to test the viability of year-round literary programming, this is a pilot program to see if we can do that," Wood Barrett says.

"I think people really enjoy memoir writing... you're the fly-on-the-wall and get a sneak peek into other people's lives. Personally, I am always amazed by how different other people's lives are."

Along with the May 5 event, there will be a second event for historical writers on June 29 at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre (SLCC).

And a writing competition celebrating Canada 150 will shortly be announced by the writing society — with open, youth, and indigenous categories — which will result in a reading of the finalists on June 30 at the SLCC.

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