Under the Bright Sky

Date of post: June 2021

Much of the frustrating and seemingly endless pandemic period was spent working on a new book project, entitled Under the Bright Sky: A Memoir of Travels Through Asia. This book—a collection of personal essays and travel memoirs set in ten different Asian countries—is a change of direction for me. It was published by Caitlin Press in mid-September 2021. The wonderful cover photo of stilt fishermen at Unawatuna, Sri Lanka, is by Katherine Johnston. This link (click here) will take you to the publisher’s description of the book on the Caitlin Press website. You can also order copies of the book at this site.



The Promise of Paradise received a generous mention in the Winter 2019 issue of British Columbia Magazine. Daniel Wood’s excellent article on utopian projects in BC, “The Pursuit of Paradise,” visited some of the same communities that I’d written about earlier, and described a number of new ones, including the Sombrio Beach Commune on southern Vancouver Island. The story of BC’s utopias, writes Wood, is “about idealism and reality, yearning and deception, resilience and frustration. In these ways, it is an account—all too human—of how time can whittle a great plan down to nothingness.”

British Columbia: A History

Date of post: November 2019



In November I was interviewed for an on-camera role in British Columbia: An Untold History, a landmark four-part documentary series for Knowledge Network that will air in 2021. Created by 1871 Productions Inc, a subsidiary of Vancouver’s Screen Siren Pictures, this entertaining project will cover a wide range of the history of what is now referred to as British Columbia. Dozens of stories will examine both the conflicts and the consolidation that arose from the establishment of Canada’s most westerly province. The film will take a multi-narrative approach that highlights the region’s individuals, families, rebels and dreamers. The series will also feature vivid archival photos and film artifacts, and incredible photography of the BC landscape.

To help bring BC’s dramatic history to life, numerous authors, historians, elders, families and descendants of historical figures were interviewed for the project. My role, based on my book The Promise of Paradise, was to talk about unusual groups such as the Doukhobors, Scandinavians and Vietnam War draft evaders who emigrated to BC and helped form intentional or “utopian” communities there. The film project will also include an interactive online digital media component that will be distributed to museums and institutions, and to secondary and post-secondary schools throughout the province.

Writing by kayak

Date of post: October 2018

Click here to read Trevor Marc Hughes’s profile about about my kayaking career—”Chronicling the BC coast, one paddle-stroke at a time”—in the Fall 2018 issue of Explore magazine.

Recent reviews

Date of post: June 2018

The Promise of Paradise received a positive review in BC Studies, UBC’s well-regarded academic quarterly devoted to the study and understanding of British Columbia.

Click here to read the review, which appeared in the Autumn 2018 edition, No 199 (scroll to pages 188 and 189).

Click here to read my BC Studies review of other recent books about unusual BC communities. It’s in the Spring 2018 edition, No 197 (see pages 184-185).

Amsterdam, Botswana and South Africa

Date of post: November 2017 (amended)

Katherine and I spent a week in early October enjoying Amsterdam, then travelled to Africa, where we visited the wonderful and little-known country of Botswana (photo by Katherine Johnston). We ended up in South Africa, exploring the south coast from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town. To see and read more about our time in Botswana, click here.

Summer reading

Date of post: August 2017 (amended)

The Promise of Paradise made the BC Bestseller List ten times in the summer 0f 2017, and was reprinted in October.

It started out in 13th place (April 16 and June 10), then rose to 8th (June 24), 13th again (July 1), 14th (July 22), 7th (July 29), 9th (August 5), 7th (August 12), 15th (August 19) and 8th (August 26).

Click here to see the current BC Bestseller List.

Click here to read Tom Sandborn’s review of The Promise of Paradise in the Vancouver Sun.

Click here to read Ariane Colenbrander’s review at Vancouverscape.

The tour so far

Date of post: March 2017

PoP cover 3

The new book is out and I’ll be making the following presentations in April 2017

Sunday, April 9, Museum at Campbell River, 1-3 pm, $7 (470 Island Highway, 250-287-3103)

Monday, April 10, Literacy Central (Nanaimo), 5:30-7 pm, free (19 Commercial Street, 250-754-8988)

Tuesday, April 11, Courtenay and District Museum, 7-9 pm, $5 for Historical Society members, $6 for non-members (207 – 4th Street, advance tickets available at 250-334-0686)

Wednesday, April 12, Qualicum Beach Library, 4-6 pm, free (1-660 Primrose Street, 250-752-6121)

Wednesday, April 26, Gibsons & District Public Library, 6-7:30 pm, free (470 South Fletcher Road, 604-886-2130)

Expanded second edition

Date of post: January 2017

PoP cover 3

The new edition of The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in British Columbia is now at the printer and scheduled to hit bookstore shelves in late March 2017. The terrific cover photo, which features a group of 1970s Storm Bay residents heading down Sechelt Inlet to Porpoise Bay, is by Rob Wood; the excellent cover design is by Anna Comfort O’Keeffe.

The book is expanded, revised and completely updated. I explore the successes and failures of the many idealistic intentional communities that have appeared across BC over the past 150 years, from the “model” Christian villages of the missionaries, through the Doukhobors, the Brother XII cult and the counterculture communes, to today’s sophisticated co-housing projects.

Writers speaking

Date of post: December 2016

The Sunshine Coast Arts Council helps bring poets, novelists and non-fiction writers to the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt to read from and talk about their work. Here’s the Spring 2017 list of upcoming speakers:

Dennis Cooley (Fielding, Bloody Jack, The Vernacular Muse, Seeing Red, The Stones, Abecedarium, The Home Place: Essays on Robert Kroetsch’s Poetry, Departures) March 11, 2017

Bill Gaston (The World, Juliette Was a Surprise, Gargoyles, Sointula, Mount Appetite, The Good Body) March 25, 2017

Joan Haggerty (The Dancehall Years; Please, Miss, Can I Play God?; Daughters of the Moon, The Invitation) April 22, 2017

Ujjal Dosanjh (Journey After Midnight: India, Canada and the Road Beyond) May 13, 2017

A welcome week in Kauai

Date of post: November 2016


Katherine and I had a relaxing break on this lovely island, bicycling the coastline, hiking volcanic valleys and exploring the botanical gardens. It was K’s first visit, and decades since I’d last been here. We stayed in Kapa’a, at a small beachfront hotel called the Coral Reef, very friendly and down-home. What we liked most about Kauai was its lack of development compared to the other islands. Only 60,000 people live here, and the larger hotels are mostly sequestered away in tourist enclaves. There are some nice old towns and villages, where historic buildings have been preserved and new structures designed to blend in. Yes, it rains a bit more on Kauai, but just step under a tree for five minutes and the warm sun will return.

Writers speaking

Date of post: September 2016

The Sunshine Coast Arts Council helps bring poets, novelists and non-fiction writers to the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt to read from and talk about their work. Here’s the Fall 2016 list of upcoming speakers:

Brian Payton (Hail Mary Corner, The Ice Passage, The Wind is Not a River) September 24, 2016

Ian Brown (Freewheeling, Overboard, The Boy in the Moon, Sixty) October 15, 2016

Janie Chang (Three Souls) October 29, 2016

Jordan Abel‘s reading is cancelled (was on Nov 12). Instead, please come to the Art Council’s celebratory 50th anniversary Sunshine Coast authors event on Dec 3. This fundraiser (7:30 pm at the Arts Centre) will feature short readings by some of the coast’s best writers, including Jan Degrass, Joe Denham, Christiana Gunnars, Rebecca Hendry, Theresa Kishkan, Rosella Leslie, Cathy MacLean, John Pass, Andreas Schroeder, Susan Telfer and Howard White. Andreas Schroeder will conduct his famous literary quiz. Refreshments will be available. Admission $10. Hope to see you there!

The Promise of Paradise

Date of post: June 2016


Exciting news! Harbour Publishing will reissue my first book, The Promise of Paradise: Utopian Communities in BC, in the Spring of 2017. This will be a complete second edition: updated, revised and expanded. Promise of Paradise originally appeared in 1997, and many people remain intensely interested in the subject. A surprising number of settlements continue to flourish in the province, and there have been many new co-housing developments over the past twenty years. The book is still the most comprehensive work available on intentional or utopian settlements in BC, so it will be great to see it back in print.

Writers speaking

Date of post: December 2015

The Sunshine Coast Arts Council helps bring poets, novelists and non-fiction writers to the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt to read from and talk about their work. Here’s the Spring 2016 list of upcoming speakers:

Lorna Goodison (I am Becoming My Mother, From Harvey River, By Love Possessed) February 6, 2016

Philip Kevin Paul (Taking the Names Down from the Hill, Little Hunger) February 27, 2016

Kathryn Para (Lucky: A Novel) March 19, 2016

Kathy Page (The Story of My Face, Alphabet, Paradise & Elsewhere) April 23, 2016

Intentional communities

Date of post: December 2015


Gary Kent, Ron Skene and I will be giving an ElderCollege course on intentional (or utopian) communities in British Columbia, at Capilano University’s Sechelt campus. The dates are March 7, 14 and 21, and April 4, 2016, 2 to 4 pm.

I’ll be talking about the historical origins of utopian communities, and looking at their evolution in BC from the early “model Christian villages” of the missionaries to the counterculture communes of the 1960s and ’70s. Gary will discuss cohousing, a contemporary approach to intentional communities, with an emphasis on seniors’ cohousing, and Ron will speak about the community formed by the Emissaries of Divine Light at 100 Mile House. The final session will feature a visit to an actual intentional community: Roberts Creek Cohousing.

Writers speaking

Date of post: August 2015

The Sunshine Coast Arts Council helps bring poets, novelists and non-fiction writers to Sechelt’s arts centre to read from and talk about their work. Here’s the Fall 2015 list of upcoming speakers:

Joan Thomas (The Opening Sky, Curiosity, Reading by Lightning) September 9, 2015

Grant Buday (Dragonflies, Rootbound, White Lung, Monday Night Me) September 25, 2015

Barry Gough (The Elusive Mr Pond, Juan de Fuca’s Strait, Fortune’s a River) October 24, 2015

Gillian Wigmore (Grayling, Orient, Dirt of Ages, soft geography) November 14, 2015

Slovenia calling

Date of post: June 2015

Katherine and I had a chance to visit the delightful and little known (to us, that is) country of Slovenia in May and June. What a treat. Slovenians are friendly and sophisticated, with a deep appreciation of their recently won independence. Many speak English. The country is beautiful, its history fascinating. On the coast, for instance, the walled medieval town of Piran, at left, was once ruled by Venice. Not far away are some of Europe’s most spectacular mountains. The ancient capital of Ljubljana—an oasis of civility—has good food, a pedestrian-only city centre and wonderful architecture. Prices are reasonable and tourists in blessedly short supply.

Raincoast Chronicles 23

Date of post: May 2015


Happy to be included in this special issue of Raincoast Chronicles, which celebrates the 40th anniversary of Harbour Publishing. “Naming Rocks the Hard Way”—an excerpt from my Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names—is part of the mix. The anthology is edited by Peter Robson and features work by Stephen Hume, Edith Iglauer, Frank White, Alan Haig-Brown, Eric Nicol, Al Purdy and, of course, Howard White, as well as many others.

Writers speaking

Date of post: January 2015

I’ve recently become a member of the Sunshine Coast Arts Council’s literary committee, which brings poets, novelists and non-fiction writers to Sechelt’s arts centre to read from and talk about their work. Upcoming speakers include:

Nancy Lee (Dead Girls, The Age) February 28, 2015

Madeleine Thien (Simple Recipes, The Chinese Violin, Certainty, Dogs at the Perimeter) March 11, 2015

Eden Robinson (Traplines, Monkey Beach, Blood Sports) April 25, 2015

David O’Meara (Storm Still, The Vicinity, Noble Gas, A Pretty Sight) May 30, 2015

Sunset years

Date of post: August 2014

We’ve moved! Katherine and I are now living in Selma Park, a part of Sechelt about two or three kilometres south of where we were before. We face due west; those are the Trail Islands to the left, with Merry Island lighthouse, Lasqueti Island and Vancouver Island in the distance.

New house

Eastern Europe

Date of post: July 2014

K and I spent almost six weeks travelling around central and eastern Europe in May and June.


If you’d like to follow in our footsteps, click here.

New newsletter

Date of post: April 2014

And now for a bit of a fun. I took on a retirement project recently, the editorship of the BC Postal History Newsletter. This publication has been in existence for 23 years, and its previous editor was ready to pass it on. Postal history is a very specialized field, obviously, but one I’ve been interested in for many years. I look forward to expanding the newsletter and taking it digital.

Issue 91

For more information about the BCPHN and to download recent issues, click here.


Date of post: November 2013

I was supposed to be meeting brother Dave in Europe, then accompanying him on part of the Camino de Santiago, the famed pilgrimage route in northern Spain. But things didn’t work out as planned. David had to rush home to deal with a family emergency (since happily resolved), and I became a lone traveller for the month of October. I could go where I pleased, and I was pleased to go south, in search of sunshine: Seville, Cádiz, Tarifa, Tangier, Gibraltar, Ronda, Granada, Almería, Nerja, Málaga, Córdoba. Heaven. No web page, though, for this journey. Maybe later.

PB070156   PB050069

Divine Seville: an archway into the Courtyard of the Maidens, in the Alcázar; the Plaza de la Alianza in the old Santa Cruz quarter.

Desolation Sound

Date of post: August 2013

Captain Vancouver’s misery was our delight. The great explorer was in a depressed state when he visited this area; he described the sound as “gloomy and dismal . . . truly forlorn.” We, however, spent eight sunny days in July camping in some of the most exquisite spots we’ve had the pleasure to visit. Another couple joined us on this self-guided, self-catered expedition, and some memorable times were had. It got a little windy towards the end, mind you, and we never reached the Rendezvous Islands, as we’d hoped, but we paddled the full length of Waddington Channel (twice!) and swam every day. A freshwater dip at Black Lake near Roscoe Bay was a particular treat.


Culture Shock

Date of post: May 3, 2013

I will be speaking at “Culture Shock: Utopian Dreams, Hard Realities,” a rather interesting conference to be held in Sointula, BC, September 20-22, 2013. Sointula, on Malcolm Island off northeastern Vancouver Island, got its start in the early 1900s as a utopian community for Finnish settlers. In fact, I’ll be opening the conference on September 20 with a talk about utopian settlements in BC over the years, based on my book Promise of Paradise. Other presenters will address the historical background of modern utopianism, the Occupy movement, utopias in Washington State, and what it was like to grow up in a 1970s commune. The keynote speaker, Dr Edward Dutton of Oulu University in Finland, will discuss anthropologist Kalervo Oberg, who coined the term “culture shock” in 1954, and how he was influenced by his childhood experience of growing up in the Sointula commune. Sointula, Dutton contends, is the “cult behind culture shock.” For more on the conference, go to

Culture Shock Program Culture Shock Program2

I’ve helped the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association publish several newsletters over the past year or so, doing some writing and editing, and handling most of the production.

scca22-web scca23-web scca24-web

These newsletter can be downloaded by clicking here for #22 (Spring 2012), here for #23 (Fall 2012) and here for #24 (Spring 2013). PLEASE NOTE: THESE ARE LARGE FILES, EACH APPROXIMATELY 1.3 Mb IN SIZE.

North by Northwest

Date of post: August, 2012

The latest content on the website features a lengthy circumnavigation of northern BC. We headed up the Alaska Highway, made a side trip to Atlin, and returned south via the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, with another side trip, this time to Telegraph Creek. Check it out here.


Scene from a Wedding

Date of post: July 14, 2011

After 15 years of happy co-habitation, Andrew and Katherine got married, on Sunday, July 10. We had a small ceremony in Gibsons, in our generous friends’ beautiful garden, followed by a most enjoyable reception. The weather co-operated. Painting by Jill King, friend (and cousin) in question.


On the work front, I’ve been researching and mulling over possible book projects. I did a short piece on Sechelt for Westworld magazine (Summer 2011 issue) and some fun articles for the PHSC Journal on the early postal history of Haida Gwaii (Winter 2011 issue) and 19th-century mail delivery to BC’s north coast (Summer and Fall 2011 issues). The Haida Gwaii piece was co-winner of the Stan Shantz Award for best article in the PHSC Journal for 2012.


The latest content on the website features our trips to Panama and Turkey.

Fall Presentation at the North Vancouver Museum & Archives

Date of post: September 23, 2010

Andrew Scott will be making a presentation on “Raincoast Place Names Past and Present” at the Community History Centre, 3203 Institute Road, North Vancouver, on Tuesday, October 26, 2010, at 7 pm. His talk will be part of a lecture series on local place names organized by the North Vancouver Museum & Archives. Two other speakers—Glenn Woodsworth and Rudy Reimer—will talk in November on, respectively, mountain names and First Nation names. A modest entrance fee will be charged. For more information, go to

Andrew, apparently, will also be a “living book” at the Sechelt Public Library on Saturday, October 23. For further details on this imaginative fund-raiser, please contact the library at 604-885-3260.

And finally, check out this website’s latest new content under “journalism” and “postcards.”

Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names wins Lieutenant Governor’s Medal and Roderick Haig-Brown Regional BC Book Prize

Date of post: April 25, 2010

On April 6, 2010, the British Columbia Historical Federation announced that the Encyclopedia had received the 2009 Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for historical writing. The award is given annually to the author (or authors) deemed by a panel of judges to have written the year’s best book on BC history.

book awards

At the BC Book Prizes Gala, held on April 24 at Government House in Victoria, the Encyclopedia won the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize, given annually “to the author of the book that contributes most to the enjoyment and understanding of British Columbia.” It was also a finalist for the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award, “presented to the originating publisher and author of the book with the best public appeal, initiative, design, production and content.”

The Book Prize winners are shown above. From left to right, back row: Dean Griffiths, Carrie Mac, Cathleen With. Front row: Fred Wah, Brian Brett, Lieutenant Governor Steven Point, Lorna Crozier, Andrew Scott.

For more details about the BC Historical Federation, click here. For a list of this year’s winners and finalists, click here. For detailed information about all 2010 Book Prize winners and nominees, click here.

Spring 2010 presentations planned for Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names

Date of Post: March 6, 2010

Author Andrew Scott will be giving six talks, readings and slide presentations on his latest book, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names, in the Spring of 2010. Here is the schedule:

  • Tuesday, March 30, 2010. Sunshine Coast Museum, Gibsons. This event is for the Eldercollege Museum School, and registration is required. Contact Capilano University Continuing Education, Sechelt, at 604-885-9310.
  • Wednesday, April 7, 2010. Port Moody Public Library, 100 Newport Drive, Port Moody. 7 pm.
  • Thursday, April 8, 2010. New Westminster Public Library, 716 Sixth Avenue, New Westminster. 7 pm.
  • Friday, April 9, 2010. Sunshine Coast Natural History Society monthly meeting. Sechelt Arts Centre, 5714 Medusa St, Sechelt. 7:30 pm.
  • Saturday, April 17, 2010. A “chorus of coast writers,” including Andrew, will read and talk at a fundraiser for the Sechelt Arts Centre. 5714 Medusa St, Sechelt. 7 pm.
  • Thursday, April 22, 2010. Chapters bookstore, 788 Robson Street, Vancouver. 3 pm.

In other news, Raincoast Place Names was proclaimed the “2009 SeaWaves Magazine Book of the Year.” SeaWaves Magazine is a North Vancouver-based internet publication: “your most complete source for naval news from around the world.” Click here for the SeaWaves website and here for the SeaWaves review of Raincoast Place Names. A brief review also appeared in the April 2010 online edition of Canadian Geographic magazine.

Victoria’s Times Colonist calls Raincoast Place Names “one of the most important books about British Columbia published this century.”

Date of Post: November 9, 2009

Wow, I’m blushing. Dave Obee’s review of The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names appeared in the November 8, 2009, issue of the Times Colonist newspaper. “Scott’s work represents a huge step forward in what we know,” he wrote. “It makes for fascinating reading, and it will be used as a key reference for years to come—if not decades.” Click here for the full text of the review.

Raincoast Place Names hits BC bestseller list

Date of Post: October 15, 2009

The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names first appeared on the BC bestseller list in October 2009 and stayed there, with a couple of exception, until mid-May (25 weeks).

  • October 11 to October 24: #5
  • October 25 to November 7: #7
  • November 22 to December 19: #9
  • December 20 to February 6, 2010: #8
  • February 7 to February 20: #9
  • February 21 to February 27: #10
  • February 28 to March 6: #9
  • March 7 to March 13: #8
  • March 14 to March 27: #4
  • March 28 to April 3: #6
  • April 4 to April 10: #7
  • May 2 to May 8: #7
  • May 9 to May 15: #10

Media coverage of The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names

Date of Post: September 15, 2009

  • Andrew was on CBC Radio One’s “Almanac” show (690 AM) on Friday, September 25. He also appeared on Fanny Kiefer’s “Studio 4” (Shaw TV) on Friday, November 6.
  • Reviews of Raincoast Place Names appeared in October in the Parksville/Qualicum Beach News, Comox Valley Record, Delta Optimist, Tofino Times, Campbell River Mirror, Harbour City Star, Nanaimo Daily News and Nanaimo News Bulletin.
  • Alan Woodland reviewed the book in November in the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Times. November reviews also ran in RV Times and the Sechelt Coast Reporter. Additional coverage appeared in April 2010 in the Tri-City News and the New Westminster Record.
  • A 25-minute interview with Andrew by Joseph Planta can now be heard online at “The Commentary.”
  • Sunshine Coast poet and novelist Theresa Kishkan has reviewed Raincoast Place Names in the November 2009 issue of Pender Harbour’s Harbour Spiel. While the entire issue is downloadable in PDF, it’s rather a large file, so I’ve just linked to the Spiel homepage. The review is on pages 48 and 49.
  • Dave Obee reviewed the book in the November 8, 2009, issue of the Victoria Times Colonist. See above for a link to the review. Stephanie Gould’s Vancouver Sun review appeared in the November 14 issue. Click here for the full Sun review.

Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names publicity campaign

Date of Post: September 15, 2009

Here is the publicity campaign schedule (now completed) for Andrew Scott’s latest book, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names.

  • Wednesday, September 23, 2009. Sechelt book launch at the Sechelt Arts Centre. 7:30-9 pm.
  • Saturday, September 26, 2009. Book signing at Bluewater Books, Madeira Park, Pender Harbour. 1 to 3 pm.
  • Wednesday, October 14. Parksville. Signing at Mulberry Bush Bookstore (102-280 E Island Hwy), 11 am.
  • Thursday, October 15. Nanaimo. Talk, slideshow at Nanaimo Harbourfront Library (90 Commercial St), 6:30 pm.
  • Friday, October 16. Courtenay. Book signing at Blue Heron Books (1775 Comox Ave), 2 pm.
  • Saturday, October 17. Campbell River. Talk & slideshow at Campbell River Museum (470 Island Hwy), 1 pm
  • Sunday, October 18. Victoria. Talk & slideshow at Maritime Museum of BC (28 Bastion Square), 2 pm.
  • Saturday, October 24. Vancouver. Talk & slideshow at Vancouver Maritime Museum (1905 Ogden Ave), 2 pm.

Raincoast Place Names announcement

Date of Post: July 5, 2009

Andrew Scott’s latest book, The Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names: A Complete Reference to Coastal British Columbia, will be published by Harbour in October 2009.


7 x 10, 664 pages, cloth, maps, illustrations, charts, colour photographs  $49.95  October 2009

For more information, visit the Raincoast Place Names page.

The People’s Water now in print

Date of Post: April 1, 2009

Co-authors Andrew Scott and Daniel Bouman are pleased to announce the April 2009 publication of The People’s Water: The Fight for the Sunshine Coast’s Drinking Watersheds.


68 pages, full colour, maps, photographs, bibliography, $20. Published by the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association. All proceeds go to the SCCA.

For more information, visit the People’s Water page.