Cowichan Valley author Clayton Johnston has a new book coming out in June, 2021. (Submitted)

Cowichan Valley author Clayton Johnston has a new book coming out in June, 2021. (Submitted)

A&E column: Written word takes centre stage in Cowichan this week; artist opens studio

What’s going on in Cowichan arts and entertainment

The Cowichan Valley is rife with writing talent, and it’s all coming out during this pandemic.

The latest Cowichan author with a book is Brentwood College School director of admissions Clayton Johnston, whose fiction novel 12 Days will be hitting Amazon, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited on June. 11.

12 Days poses the question: what if the very thing you wished for came true? But all is not as it seems and the novel plunges readers into a world of intrigue.

“When small-town schoolteacher Robert Glass is announced as the winner of a nationwide contest designed to launch a civilian alone into space, it appears that his lifelong dream has been realized,” according to the plot synopsis. “By winning the coveted twelve-day voyage, Glass has become the new face of NASA and has captured the imagination of the world.

“It is no secret that the success of the wildly popular Instant Spaceman Contest could salvage the waning re-election bid of the president of the United States. As the countdown to launch begins and interest in the impending event mounts, nefarious adversaries will stop at nothing to sabotage its success.

“With his wife and son at his side, and blissfully unaware that he has become a pawn in a dangerous political game, Glass heads to Florida to begin an intense period of training for the epic 12-day mission. As launch day approaches, and with the world on the edge of its seat, investigative journalist Derek Stevens uncovers a sequence of suspicious events indicating that the mission may have been compromised.

“And…as millions of people cheer as the sleek spaceship effortlessly lifts off from Kennedy Space Center, Stevens races against the clock to uncover the truth before it’s too late.”

Whew! Sounds like a thriller to keep you on the edge of your seat (or beach towel).

Johnston took up writing as he travelled the world in his position with Brentwood. He has self-published two psychological thrillers before this, Figment and Five Little Monkeys.


Remember back in July when we let you know about a book about historic churches on Vancouver Island, including a section about churches in the Cowichan Valley?

Well now Pioneer Churches of Vancovuer Island and the Salish Sea by Liz Bryan has been named a finalist for the Lieutenant Governor’s Historical Writing Competition.



In other competition news, a write from Duncan has made the longlist for the 2021 CBC Short Story Prize.

Angie Ellis of Duncan, with her book Strangers, is in the running.

“Angie Ellis lives on Vancouver Island where she is finishing her first novel,” said the announcement. “Some of her short stories can be found in Grain, The Fiddlehead, Narrative, Juked and The Cincinnati Review. She’s the recent and very grateful recipient of a writing grant from Canada Council for the Arts. Her work has been nominated or listed for Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions and the William Faulkner – William Wisdom competition. Angie attended the Humber School for Writers Summer workshop and did the correspondence program with David Adams Richards and Colin McAdam. This is her second time being long-listed for the CBC Short Story Prize.”

The winner of the prize, who receives $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, a two-week writing residency at Banff Centre of Arts and Creativity and will be published on CBC Books website, will be announced on April 29. Four runners-up will receive $1,000 prizes and will also be published on CBC Books.


And finally we put the written word to bed for this column with the news that the Islands Short Fiction Contest awards event will take place on May 1.

The ceremony will be live streamed on YouTube at 2 p.m. A special feature will see Doretta Lau, author and judge of the adult category, read from her own work.

“The Islands Short Fiction Contest had a very strong response this year in all categories, more than doubling the number of entries from the last time the contest was held in 2019. Judges in all three categories, Junior, Youth and Adult, are now making their deliberations,” said a press release.

To view the event on YouTube, go to


If it’s visual arts you’re looking for, be sure to wander over to Jennifer Lawson’s gallery for her Spring Studio Tour on April 23-25.

Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can “be among the first to see what Jennifer’s working on now”, says a press release for the event.

In her studio in the Cowichan Valley’s oldest historical log home, you can view her water colour paintings of houses, gardens, animals and flowers, and also wander her gardens on the Cowichan River and Cowichan Bay Estuary.

Private viewing appointments are also available, and you can enter to win a framed original painting. COVID protocols will be in place.

The studio is located at 1516 Khenipsen Rd., Duncan. Contact 250-748-2142 for more information, or go to

Arts and EntertainmentColumn


Artist Jennifer Lawson is opening her studio this weekend for people to take a look at her latest work. (Submitted)

Artist Jennifer Lawson is opening her studio this weekend for people to take a look at her latest work. (Submitted)