Anyone who has encountered Peace Arch News Zoomer columnist April Lewis in person knows she is an irrepressible, seemingly unstoppable force.
Outspoken, and possessed of opinions in abundance, she also has a warm and dazzling smile capable of sweeping past just about any argument.
She also has another great asset for a columnist; an overwhelming, infectious exuberance and joy in living – and in discovering new things.
All of these qualities are front-and-centre in her first book, Lovingly Arrogant – from Chaos to Contentment, which she will be signing on Saturday, Sept. 24, 1:30-2:30 p.m., at Black Bond Books (15562 24 Ave.)
Indeed, reading her concisely written, sometimes poetic, often funny pages – a collection of past columns, online blogs, real-life stories and musings – is like sitting across a living room or coffee shop table with her.
“I think of myself as a cross between Erma Bombeck and Carrie Bradshaw from Sex In The City,” she enthused at a recent meeting.
Sex is definitely part of the book – as is loss, grieving, family, aging, love and gratitude; and just about anything else pertinent to the 50-year-plus generation, the Boomers-turned-Zoomers who increasingly embrace change and reinvention as an antidote to midlife, and post-midlife, crisis.
It’s a chatty, highly accessible book that ought, perhaps, to be read by younger generations seeking insights into their quirky elders – but will definitely resonate with those, like Lewis, in their Zoomer years (she recently turned 64, as she shares unhesitatingly).
Her own journey from chaos to contentment is shared in a subtext narrative that begins on a bleak New Year’s Eve spent alone and concludes with another happier New Year’s Eve, only a few years after, but one that seems light years different in tone.
Along the way, she chronicles episodes from her life and her self re-invention as a columnist and B.C. representative for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.
In this, she was inspired by a meeting in Toronto with ZoomerMedia president Moses Znaimer – a meeting which, she confesses in the book, she engineered.
“I said, ‘hello Mr. Znaimer, I wanted to meet the man who is capitalizing on our fear of aging.’
“He said, ‘tell me your story.’ I told him, ‘my story is an old one, I’m here to create a new one – I want a job’.”
Lewis said she knows her book may upset some people – that it might be a case of love it or loathe it.
“Too bad, so sad,” she said.
Lewis acknowledges that it’s not her story alone, but the story of a generation, gleaned not only from her own experiences but those of friends and neighbours.
But she also knows that what set her new career as a writer in motion was her own personal low-point, in 2010 when she came home after losing her job to be told by her real-estate agent that her house had sold – put on the market at the end of her 32-year marriage.
“The only thing that makes my story unique is that all these things happened to me at the same time,” she said.
By year end, PAN launched her monthly Zoomer column (page 16).
The former CBC Television researcher and owner of her own communications and public-speaking company had raised two daughters, Devon and Julia, during an extended stint as a social worker in emergency, ICU and palliative care at Richmond Hospital – while also gaining a masters degree in social work from UBC.
She spent six years as manager of primary health care and addictions for Vancouver Coastal Health’s Richmond Health Services.
When that “six-figure” job was terminated due to budget cuts, the ending was sudden and “brutal,” Lewis said.
“I felt lost, completely lost,” she admitted.
“I had no job, no home, no purpose – who was I?”
Lewis went through the grief process that she knew, as a counsellor, was necessary (“you have to feel and experience the journey of grief and embrace it,” she said).
But in her despair were the seeds of a new beginning, she acknowledged.
As part of her severance package, after being laid off, she was given a series of counselling sessions.
“Somewhere along the line my counsellor called me ‘lovingly arrogant’,” she remembered.
“I said to her, ‘that will be the name of my book’.”
For more information on Lovingly Arrogant – and how to buy a copy – visit www.lovinglyarrogant.com