How loving and leaving Kitsilano inspired my debut novel

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I’ve moved between Toronto and Victoria six times. The polar extremes of the big-city energy and the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Toronto; the majesty of the Pacific Ocean and the mountains in Victoria; both appeal to me. I just couldn’t have it all—until I found Kitsilano.

In 2007, my husband was promoted to a job in Vancouver. I figured it would be a good change for our careers, though, I never expected to love it. My husband mentioned something about looking for a place in North Burnaby, but I vetoed that one pretty quickly. I had been to Kits a couple of times, and I’d heard Kitsilano was as close to a small-town feel as you could get within a big city. Plus, if we were moving to Vancouver we needed to move to Vancouver, not Burnaby, right?

After signing our rental agreement for a sweet one-bedroom apartment at 2nd and Balsam, we meandered down to Kits Beach. It was a balmy morning in late June, and I gazed around in wonder, baffled by our good fortune. To me, it felt like living a dream, as though we were moving to a resort complete with North America’s largest saltwater pool, stellar shopping, and dining, and the world-class hub of downtown Vancouver just minutes away.

Of course, everything about Kitsilano is exquisite—the people, nature, the streets, and homes. But its beauty isn’t superficial. People are conscientious of the environment, kind and courteous, and neighbours look out for one another. On occasion, I opened our front door to find a pint of hand-picked blueberries or fresh baked goods, and when we welcomed our first baby, we were showered with gifts, cards, and well-wishes from our neighbours. The small-town kindness we experienced in a big city still baffles me to this day.

It’s hard to pinpoint what I love most about Kitsilano, but I would say it’s the touch from individual changing seasons; the serenity of Kits Beach when it’s deserted in winter, the tropical-like delight of swimming in Kits Pool in summer, the enchanting bridal-paths from the cherry blossoms in Spring, and the brilliant red leaves of Autumn that cover the ground in what looks like a million little hearts.

While on maternity leave, I really had a chance to settle in Kitsilano living and became immersed in the community and culture. When I wasn’t frolicking along the endless acres of sandy beach with my little one, I was sipping coffee with fellow parents at Kits House, or chatting with the familiar shop-owners on 4th Ave.

In 2011, I was pregnant with our second baby, and we realized we couldn’t possibly all live in a one-bedroom apartment. Trying to find rental accommodations while pregnant was next to impossible, and we ended up being forced to leave our beloved Kitsilano for North Van.

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On our first day in our new neighbourhood, I wandered around the unfamiliar streets in a melancholic daze. I often indulged in dreaming of Kits and reminiscing of our time, but I eventually adjusted to the life on the North Shore and, at some point, decided I wanted to write a novel—though I didn’t yet have a premise in mind. And then, one day, while letting my mind wander, it came to me: What would happen if a wealthy husband confessed to his wife that he had lost their family fortune? If he was managing the day-to-day finances how would she even know if he was telling the truth, or not? My mind danced with ideas for this story, but I knew no matter what, my heroine, Lane Carson was going to find herself back in Kits. There’s a line in my book: Who would have ever thought I would be thrilled to live in a dusty, shag-carpeted attic? But—oh, Kitsilano, it’s good to be back!

In a time when we are so digitally dependent, disconnecting and letting the mind be free to wander and daydream is crucial for creative inspiration. And, as hard as it was to leave Kits, I wonder if we hadn’t left, maybe I would have never been inspired to write about it in my novel Riches & Rags. So, whether you’re living in Kitsilano long-term, or just passing through—cling to it and cherish it. Being a part of something so special can be magical.

Last modified: January 3, 2017

One Response to " How loving and leaving Kitsilano inspired my debut novel "

  1. Joanne leier says:

    What a wonderful article.
    As a child , my father told us many wonderful stories of life in Kitsilano . It was his stomping ground as he played endless hours with his friends on the waters edge. I can see how Camille was inspired to write Ritches to Rags by such a beautiful place . The book certainly does kitsilano justice , so much so that I feel like I could find my way around. I was one of the lucky recipient of her book before publication. What a creative fun read , I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
    AJ