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Emerging writers find voices in Coast anthology

Coastal Voices anthology featuring students released
Scores of young authors gathered at the Rockwood Pavilion to launch the Coastal Voices anthology.

More than 800 works of original writing were created for a published anthology of student literature that was released at a gala reception in Sechelt on June 13. 

Scores of writers, parents and educators gathered at the Rockwood Pavilion to celebrate the publication of the 14th edition of Coastal Voices, an annual joint initiative of School District 46 and the Sunshine Coast Festival Festival of the Written Arts. 

Project coordinator John Lussier worked with a team of four adjudicators to narrow the submissions to a selection of poems, stories and essays from 176 students.  

“And 137 of those weren’t even born when we started Coastal Voices,” said Lussier, who officiated at the release reception. “It is hard to share your creations with people but stories matter. When you read through this year’s Coastal Voices, you’ll find a collection of amazing writing from every school on the Coast, and a huge range of topics.” 

The publication’s abstract cover art was designed by Autumn Lofft, a Grade 10 artist from Chatelech Secondary. 

Jennifer Roberts, the district’s assistant superintendent, noted that readings from Coastal Voices precede every meeting of school trustees. “The voices captured in the anthology offer windows into imagination, presenting moments of joy, sorrow and contemplation,” she said. “They reflect the students who are at the heart of everything we do, and provide us our ‘why.’” 

“Many of us are reading it at the district level, the school level and home, and valuing the words of the authors,” added Bev Craig, a co-founder of the anthology initiative and board member of the writers festival. 

Poppy Mackenzie Arnet, a Grade 10 student at Pender Harbour Secondary, made her inaugural submission to Coastal Voices last year after her classmate Isla Mackay encouraged her to write. “I was much too scared to enter,” said Arnet. “I was afraid of rejection but I did it and got in. It’s a great booster for your writing.” Arnet’s prose work Tears—The Rain of a Human Ecosystem appears on the same page as Mackay’s self-described “patchwork poem” Threads of Trust. 

Mackay’s work was inspired by an evocative video. “I told my teacher I didn’t know where to start,” she recalled. “She said, ‘Just tell me what you feel.’ I started talking and talking, and writing and writing, then it morphed into a paragraph.” 

Several authors read works publicly during the launch, including West Sechelt kindergartener Jasper Williams. Williams delivered the first sentence from his illustrated manuscript (Ancient Egypt at Night) then paused, rattled by the crowd. Lussier quietly prompted the next phrase.  

Williams restarted and completed his allegory with mounting confidence: “Then the zombie and mummy fell in love. The mayor said, ‘You cannot get married / You are in different groups.’ / But they really wanted to get married so the mayor said, ‘Fine.’” Williams beamed as audience members cheered their approval. 

Many compositions are based on distinctive Sunshine Coast features. “Davis Bay is calm and the sun shines down on me,” wrote Phoebe Dore, a Grade 1 student of West Sechelt Elementary. Connor Dixon, a Grade 11 pupil at Elphinstone Secondary, penned a tribute to the Heritage Playhouse: “overwhelmed by sensation / i feel the stage spotlight hit my face once more.” Alex Nicols, who is graduating from Chatelech Secondary, described tubing at Ruby Lake: “My skin stung as I skimmed across the lake, the water hitting me like hail.” 

In January, the school district also collaborated with the writers festival during Family Literary Week: 10 Canadian authors made virtual presentations to Sunshine Coast students. 

Recorded readings by a range of Coastal Voices authors can be heard online by browsing to