Born in Hamilton, Ontario on November, 23, 1965, Billie Livingston grew up in Toronto and Vancouver, where she arrived in 1965. She has since lived in Tokyo, Hamburg, Munich and London, England. Billie Livingston's first employment was filling the dairy coolers in a Macs Milk. She went on to work varying lengths of time as a file clerk, receptionist, cocktail waitress, model, actor, chocolate sampler, and boothhost at a plumber's convention. She has sold diamonds for a jeweler, done PR work for a beer company, dressed up as "Garfield" for a kitty litter company and as "Bingo the Banana Split" for a Teletoons promotion. She now lives in Vancouver, working on film sets when she's not writing.

"I grew up here and there between Toronto and Vancouver. Went to more than a dozen schools -- counted sixteen once. Always moving. An aunt of mine remarked once that my mother, my sisters and I were all terribly dramatic. It was a relief to know that I came by it naturally. I guess I'd say that natural over-the-topped-ness coupled with being raised on perpetual movement have most likely contributed to my flibberty-gibbet lifestyle. I am 'Queen of the Moonlighters.' For most of my adult life, I've kept at least three jobs at a time.

"When I graduated high school, I was scouted by a stripper who thought I should be a fashion model. My mother, as part of her AA program, was 'twelve stepping' this stripper who wanted to get sobriety. She saw my picture on our mantle, took it to an agent she knew and two months later I had a contract to model in Tokyo. I hated high school and was loathe to continue on to university so I decided to give modelling a shot. Turned out the agent was a sleazy little tyrant who told me on my arrival in Tokyo that I was thousands of dollars in debt and not to even think about leaving or I'd be sued. I stayed for three months. I got through by writing a lot of bad poetry and angry, homesick letters. Writing incessantly kept me sane.

"When I came home to Vancouver, I turned eighteen, got some fake ID and started as a cocktail waitress in a pub downtown. Once in a while, during the day, I modelled for The Bay, Fields, Woolworth and glamorous places like that, but mostly I was an office temp. As an office temp I was fired a couple times -- once because my mind kept wandering, causing me to destroy their filing system, the other time because my skirt was too short and I'd been sighted using office stationary to write on during my lunch break."


Only about 20 feature films based on fiction published by B.C. writers have been made, so the model-and-movie-extra turned novelist Billie Livingston has joined a select group.

The 2014 drama Sitting on the Edge of Marlene-based on Livingston's novella, 'The Trouble with Marlene'-showcases an intimate and volatile mother-and-daughter tandem. As with much of Livingston's fiction, chronic dysfunction and addiction weirdly blend with love and loyalty.

The Canadian-made movie had its premiere in October of 2014 and its public screening at the Vancity Theatre in late February of 2015. It emanates from the same psychological territory that Livingston explored in her darkly comic first novel, Going Down Swinging, in which a pill-popping, alcohol-dependent mother in the 1970s and her eight-year-old daughter are united by their mutual fear of the Child Protection Agency.

Much of the appeal of Livingston's writing is derived from her lively dialogue, so director Ana Valine was making a smart choice when she wrote a screenplay adaptation for Sitting on the Edge of Marlene, her first feature. The film was nominated for seven Leo Awards and Valine received the BC Emerging filmmaker award sponsored by UBCP/ACTRA.

Here is the promotional summary for the film:

"While waiting for her father to get out of prison, clean-living (but experienced) 14-year-old Sammie (Paloma Kwiatkowski) helps make ends meet by joining her pill-popping mother, Marlene (Suzanne Clément), in the family con business. Callum Keith Rennie is featured as Fast Freddy, Marlene's cohort in pulling off lucrative grifts. As the story progresses over two years, Sammie takes much more control of her life and her relationship with her mother, whose emotional maturity is stymied by her substance abuse. Sammie has little choice but to grow into the role of responsible adult but her morbid obsession with death, particularly her own, casts a dark shadow over her self-discovery."

Livingston's second novel, Cease to Blush, also concerns a daughter's relationship with her mother. An attractive woman who dabbles in a Vancouver acting career discovers her late mother, renowned as a crusading feminist and lecturer, had an extensive and diverse sexual history in Las Vegas during the Sixties as a stripper, gangster's moll and singing impressionist named Celia Dare. According to internet sites, Celia Dare is rumoured to have been a bedmate of the Kennedy brothers and Marilyn Monroe. The title arises from a quote from one of the female characters in the writing of the Marquis de Sade that the protagonist's mother once used to introduce her first formal university lecture: "Women without principles are never more dangerous than at the age when they have ceased to blush." In Cease to Blush, Livingston, according to her publisher, "drives the bumpy road from the burlesque stages of Rat Pack Vegas to the bedroom internet porn scenes of today, exploring just how far women have really come.";

After having just won the Danuta Gleed Award for best first collection of Canadian short fiction with Greedy Little Eyes, Livingston profiled the struggle of 16-year-old Sammie Bell not to replicate the scams of two con-artists parents in One Good Hustle (Random House 2012). Horrified to realize she occasionally wishes her alcoholic mother was dead, Sammie takes a summer-long with a 'normal' family who provide the "weird, spearmint-fresh feeling"; of life in the straight world. While longing for the approval of her con-man Dad, Sammie worries she could be genetically prone to shysterism.

Livingston's poetry collection The Chick at the Back of the Church was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award.


Long-listed for 2012 Giller Prize (One Good Hustle)
Winner, Danuta Gleed Award for short fiction, 2011 [for Greedy Little Eyes]
Shortlisted for Pat Lowther 2002, shortlisted for Journey Prize 2001, 1st place This Magazine, Short Fiction, 2000, 1st place Other Voices Short Fiction 1998, 1st place sub-Terrain Short Fiction, 1996.



Going Down Swinging (Random House 2000). Novel. 0-679-31000-2
The Chick At the Back of the Church (Nightwood Editions, 2001). Poetry.
Cease to Blush (Random House, 2006). Novel. $34.95 0-679-31322-2
Greedy Little Eyes (Random House, 2010). Short stories.
One Good Hustle (Random House 2012)
The Crooked Heart of Mercy (Penguin Random House 2016)

[BCBW 2016] "Movie"