The theme for the opening reception at the Galiano Literary Festival was “It’s All About The Story”.  Yes, I was in the right place!

A few months ago, my friend and fellow entrepreneur Theo asked me if I wanted to attend a writers festival on Galiano Island. Last year, I invited her to an event at the Vancouver Writers Festival as part of my tradition of introducing new friends to my favorite literary week of the year, and she was paying it forward. We decided to each invite a friend who we thought would be engaged and inspired by both the setting and the conversations taking place. I brought my dear friend Laura, who I believe reads more than I do! Laura’s wisdom and experience translates into an innate ability to add a point of view to every conversation, even if it’s the devil’s advocate. Theo brought her friend Rita, whose experience working in politics and as an entrepreneur gives her insight into our city and how we can best engage with it.

We knew it was going to be a good weekend.

Upon arriving at the Galiano Inn & Spa, I felt a sense of calm knowing that this is exactly where I was meant to be. We arrived on Friday, taking in the island and all that she offered. After several walks, talks and yes, some wine by the outdoor fire, we settled into each other’s company. We awoke the next morning and found our way to the opening reception.

Kevin Chong took the floor and shared with us 9 delicately woven stories relating to “Independence”. His depth and magnitude brought tears to my eyes as he spoke about his father’s brush with death, our city’s declining support of the Arts, and what it means to be independent while also being part of a community. His reading left the room silent, pondering the giant themes he eloquently alluded to. We were then greeted by a panel of four authors: Annabel Lyon, Kevin Chong, Mark Leiren-Young, and one of my favorite mythologists, Robert Bringhurst. Brad Frenette moderated the event that had the striking title “It’s All About the Story” and asked poignant questions such as what stories influenced them as children and if they recalled what their first story was. It seemed fitting that one of the author’s, Annabel I believe, brought up how her ancestral stories shaped her as a young girl.

Robert Bringhurst went on to say that “Stories suffer from not being told – we are weaker without them accompanying us.” This was followed by a reminder that it was once believed that “those who tell stories rule society.”

This got me thinking. We know that stories add value to our lives, and yet we often dismiss them as being childish. In a world where, paradoxically, storytelling is both declining and gaining influence, how can we continue to shift power back toward this ancient form of communication? I, for one, believe that storytelling is the most important tool for social change – by giving not just a voice but a deep rooted connection to a cause, we are able to humanize an experience and tap into that ‘collective unconscious’ we all seem to hold – a place where storytellers reign.

Throughout the rest of the festival, we got to hear authors such as Pauline Holdstock, Bill Gaston, Billie Livingston, and my personal favorite Nancy Richler. The dinner reception held a special treat – not only did I have the pleasure of sitting next to Nancy Richler, whose book The Imposter Bride captivated me right from the get go, we were also graced with the presence of our fearless Green Party leader Elizabeth May. She gave a toast that inspired each of us, and posed with us for a photo op! She reminded us that books hold power, and our continued support of events like this feeds us on so many levels.

Throughout the weekend, we found time to venture into the surrounding nature on hikes through the forest and across the rocky beaches of Galiano, encountering the following wildlife:

Magic. That is what it felt like to have four friends surrounded by nature and literature wherever we looked. And a reminder that while life, and work, presents us with highs and lows, at the end of the day it truly is “all about the story”.

And we are the author of our own story.