Liz Maxwell Forbes in her home office where the work gets done to produce her two published books, with an interested onlooker taking in the scene. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Vancouver Island writer goes with the flow in River Tales

Crofton author documents life on the banks of the Cowichan River

Crofton’s Liz Maxwell Forbes is an accomplished writer and artist, and shows no signs of slowing down after turning 80 in March.

Forbes has a lot of compelling stories to tell from her life and we all know truth is stranger than fiction so she didn’t have to make this stuff up, folks.

Her talents are combined with her second self-published book, River Tales: Stories from My Cowichan Years that follows Growing Up Weird: A memoir of an Oak Bay childhood in 2016. The writing aspect of the book is complemented by her artwork on the front cover.

River Tales documents a 20-year period in Forbes’ life spent at a rural property along the Cowichan River on Riverbottom Road. People always told Forbes she should write about her experiences and that’s what she has done after combing through her journals from the back-to-the-land movement that happened there in the 1970s.

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A recent book launch at Cedrick’s Coffee House in Crofton was a great success and officially unveiled the book to the public.

An original member of the Chemainus Writers, Forbes has also made several contributions to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and is currently working on a collection of Island-hopping adventures.

Forbes’ two book releases made through her Osborne Bay Books label required her to take the book through the writing and extensive editing stages before publication.

Writing a good book, “it would be like running a marathon,” she said in terms of the feeling of accomplishment.

“One thing I discovered about myself recently, a friend asked if I had self-doubts. I realize, I can honestly say, I don’t. At one time, yes, I would have.”

River Tales captures what Forbes describes as “wonderful, wild and wacky years.”

“We had a blended family out there, she added. “I’ve just been reconnecting with all of them and it’s been really nice – lots of memories.”

There are tales of people tubing down the river, setting up tepees and herding peacocks.

The book’s epilogue provides an interesting glimpse into the tales within. Forbes was heading back to the site on Riverbottom Road where her son now resides in 2016 for a swim and a barbecue but first made a stop at the Tansor service station on Cowichan Lake Road to grab some ice. Standing behind the counter when she got there was Sukhchain Singh Kaila, the proprietor, known to everyone as Chan.

This is how Forbes documented the story from there:

“Hey! Good to see you stranger. Where’ve you been hiding yourself? asked Chan in his usual cheerful way.

“Around here and there,” I replied. “I’m just on my way out to my old place on the river. My son owns it now. Thought I’d drop in and say hi to you.”

“Riverbottom Road wasn’t it? Say, was your place anywhere near that nudist colony?” Chan asked.

“Nudist colony?” I said in surprise. “What nudist colony?”

“The one between Stoltz Pool and the dude ranch,” Chan explained. “When I was a teen, a bunch of us used to float down on our inner tubes and there’d be naked people swimming and sunbathing along the river. We’d try to be really quiet until we came around the bend and then surprise them.” Chan grinned at me. “It was fun; when they saw us coming, they’d scramble to get their towels and cover up.”

“You brats!” I said, laughing. “That would have been our place, and it was no nudist colony. Sometimes we just liked to swim au naturel. I can’t believe you guys did that.”

The book is packed with great stories and photos over 315 pages. There was always something happening.

“We had a lot of near-drownings on the river,” Forbes explained. “This inner tubing is just crazy. We rescued a lot of people.”

Forbes’ journals provided the basis for some of the material, but “I have a good memory for details,” she added.

“I spent about a year going through everything and pulling it all together,” Forbes said.

It took another year of editing through the help of Heather Graham from Sointula, who read Forbes’ previous book and spent considerable time with her on the polished final version.

The book is available for $24.95 through Volume One bookstore and Ten Old Books in Duncan, Salamander Books in Ladysmith and Ivy’s Book Shop in Oak Bay as well as Rainforest Arts in Chemainus and through Amazon Kindle.

Forbes previously wrote for Crofton Connector and formerly co-wrote a column for the Chemainus Valley Courier with Jean Ballard. The writing has never stopped and will be continuing with her additional books in the planning stages.

“I’ve got two now I’ve got in mind,” she said. “When I was a child, I wanted to write a book, but it’s a lot of work. I loved writing a column for the paper.”

The River Tales are now part of history, as she gave up the lifestyle on the river for a change of pace with her partner Grant in their Crofton homestead along with a neurotic spaniel and opportunist cat.

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