Alan Twigg is the author of eighteen books. He was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada in 2015.

He received the 13th annual Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence in 2016. Previously he was the first and only recipient of ABPBC Media Award in 1988; he was named the first recipient of the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contributions to literature and publishing in 2000. In 2007, he became the second person (after Vancouver Sun journalist Douglas Todd) to accept the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellowship in the Humanities at Simon Fraser University "to recognize and support leaders in the humanities who are not necessarily part of the academy." In the same year he was the first Writer in Residence at the George Price Center for Peace in Belize. In 2011 he received the Mayor of Vancouver's annual Literary Arts Award. In 2010, he received the Pandora's Collective Publisher's Award of Merit.


Since 1987, Alan Twigg has written and published B.C. BookWorld, an assertively middle brow publication, distributed by more than 600 outlets in B.C., including BC Ferries, in support of the B.C. writing and publishing community. The educational newspaper has been cited by the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing as the most essential cog in the infrastructure that supports writing and publishing in British Columbia. He chose to retire in order to write more books in 2019.

Since 2001, as an adjunct reference service, he has created, written and managed ABCBookWorld, a public reference service for and about more than 12,000 British Columbia authors. Hosted by Simon Fraser University Library, this service has become the Wikipedia of B.C. literature, attracting more than 4,000 visitors per day. He continues work unpaid to manage this service.

In 2005, he published Aboriginality, the first book to comprehensively identify and describe the literary culture exclusively created by Indigenous authors within one Canadian province. Fifteen years later, this undertaking has yet to be attempted in any other part of Canada. Having written about books for, by and about First Nations in every issue of B.C. BookWorld, he can now identify and discuss works by more than 250 Indigenous authors of B.C.

Since 2014, he has devised, launched and written BCBookLook, an omnibus news hub for B.C. literature. It provides original material such as videos, audio interviews, blogs, bestseller lists, lengthy essays, excerpts, theatre reviews, event information and news stories. More than 1,500 original posts were added during its first two-and-a-half years. He continues work unpaid to manage this service.

In 2015, he created the Literary Map of B.C., a digital platform highlighting the cultural importance of 190 B.C. authors and locations. It contains the equivalent of nine books of original text and photos. He has simultaneously selected, and wrote text for, more than fifty literary landmarks erected in Vancouver for the Vancouver Public Library.

In 2016, with historian Richard Mackie, he created The Ormsby Review designed to double the number of serious book reviews in B.C. For three unfunded years they gathered more than 250 academics and other experts to be contributors; publishing more than 600 reviews and essays, and one book, via the BCBookLook platform, before he sold the enterprise to Richard Mackie for $1.

In 2017, to mark the 30th anniversary of B.C. BookWorld, he raised funds to support a remote, impoverished village in eastern Tanzania, as well as a rehabilitation project nearby to support sufferers of epilepsy. Enough funds were generated to successfully purchase and deliver a new, four-door, heavy-duty pick up truck to support the village of Luhombero. See

In 2019, he created a public service site in appreciation of his friend, Leonard Cohen, at and he produced and hosted a documentary called The Little Prince in Vancouver.

In 2020, he co-led a delegation sponsored by Yosef Wosk to deliver a proclamation on behalf of Vancouver to honour the Canadian city's affinity to the town of Coevorden in Holland, the ancestral home of navigator George Vancouver, in concert with Dutch ceremonies to recognize the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the town from Nazis by Canadian soldiers on April 5, 1945.


Alan Twigg's books include biographies, interviews, a sports memoir, a series on B.C. literary history and histories of Belize and Cuba. Recently, he edited Undaunted, an anthology to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of B.C. BookWorld; he provided the introduction for Peter Sekirin's Memories of Chekhov (2011); and he spent four years producing the biography of the last remaining physician to have worked alongside Albert Schweitzer in Africa, Moon Madness: Dr. Louise Aall, Sixty Years of Healing in Africa (2019).

In 2008, he wrote the first literary book about the beautiful game from a Canadian perspective, Full-Time: A Soccer Story, It's a year-long account of Vancouver soccer players who travel to southern Spain to compete against much younger teams, including European ex-professionals. It was re-released in a Readers Digest version in 2010. Subsequently, in 2013, he returned to Europe and won a gold medal in soccer for Canada at the World Masters Games in Turin, Italy. His undefeated team from Vancouver allowed one goal in seven games to win the world championship for men over age fifty.

In 2009, he wrote Tibetans in Exile: The Dalai Lama & The Woodcocks, a book about the private lives of the prolific anarchist George Woodcock and his Buddhist wife Ingeborg Woodcock who befriended the Dalai Lama in 1961. Their charitable aid work gave rise to two, still operational, non-profit societies, Tibetan Refugee Aid Society and Canada India Village Aid.

In 2010, he published the first critical and comprehensive overview of B.C. literature, The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors, the fourth and largest volume in his series on the literary history of British Columbia that includes First Invaders (2004), Aboriginality (2005) and Thompson's Highway (2006). He has also been a contributor to books about Leonard Cohen, Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, Matt Cohen and the Georgia Straight, as well as assorted anthologies.

His first book of literary history, Vancouver & Its Writers, was shortlisted for the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize in 1987. First Invaders was shortlisted for the same award in 2005, the same year he won First Prize in the Lush Creative Non-Fiction contest, sponsored by subTerrain magazine. His award-winning memoir about the death of his father was re-published in The Utne Reader. The Essentials received an honourable mention from the B.C. Historical Society for its annual Lieutenant Governor's Medal for B.C. history, distinct from the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence.


Alan Twigg has founded or co-founded most of the major literary awards in British Columbia.

He co-founded the B.C. Book Prizes in 1985, serving as an unpaid executive director and chief fundraiser during a rebuilding stage in the 1990s, providing continuous management support until 2001 when he was briefly sideline by a brain tumour. In 1995, he solely founded the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia; he has continuously managing all aspects ever since. In 2004 he co-founded the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness, for which he provides all administrative services on a volunteer basis. In 2012 he co-founded the Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize for outstanding academic book about British Columbia. As well, he founded and coordinated the VanCity Book Prize for best B.C. book pertaining to women's issues, he coordinated the City of Vancouver Book Prize for five years and he has organized various events to honour the province's senior writers, including a series of events for and about British Columbia's foremost man of letters, George Woodcock, in 1994.


Among the various documentary films he has written, produced and hosted are George Woodcock, Anarchist of Cherry Street; Jeannette Armstrong: Knowledge-Keeper; and Spilsbury's Coast which aired nationally on CBC. Other documentary film subjects have included Eric Nicol, Peter Trower, the B.C. Book Prizes and the activist/poet Bud Osborn, for whom he also produced a music CD called Hundred Block Rock.

He has hosted a CBC television series about B.C. authors and he frequently serves as a host for public events. For several years he contributed to Sheryl MacKay's CBC Radio program North by Northwest with an ongoing series about important B.C. books called 'Turning Up the Volumes.'

From 1995 to 1998 he was an editorial page columnist for The Province, a stint that was terminated by the intervention of Conrad Black, the owner, who objected to his opinions. He has contributed to many other publications such as Quill & Quire, BC Historical News, Georgia Straight, Globe & Mail, British Columbia History, Lived Experience, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Maclean's, Vancouver Sun, Step and Pacific Northwest Review of Books.

For approximately three years in the early 1980s, he wrote a weekly theatre column for Georgia Straight, taking over the column from Tom Shandel and participating in the inaugural Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards. He edited one issue of the Georgia Straight newspaper. He later wrote and performed an original musical at the Arts Club Revue Theatre, Where The Songs Come From. In 2013, he resumed providing theatre reviews for The Province and for, a site managed by veteran actor Jerry Wasserman, under the pseudonym Paul Durras.

Alan Twigg was a founding board member of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing and he has taught classes at the Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia, University of Victoria and various high schools. He briefly taught a course on the history of B.C. publishing and literature for Simon Fraser University, a university he had dropped out of in 1971, after one year of study, choosing to instead drive a garbage truck.

He served a two-year term as a Library Trustee on the board of directors for the Vancouver Public Library (2011-2012). He has also served on the City of Vancouver's Public Art Committee and he has hosted countless literary events, including the Simon Fraser University's third annual Symposium on the Novel at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue in 2004 and the 25th annual B.C. Book Prizes gala in 2009.

For five years he collected and sent nursing and medical supplies to Belize, in conjunction with DHL.

In 1999 he coordinated a fundraising campaign for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, an organization he continues to support.

n 2007, he organized and hosted Reckoning 07, a conference on the past and future of British Columbia writing and publishing, held at Simon Fraser University in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of BC BookWorld.

In 2016-2019, he instigated and managed a successful fund raising campaign to purchase a new pickup truck from Europe for the remote village of Luhombero in Tanzania [].

He is a fifth-generation Vancouverite. Relatives of both his mother and father lived in British Columbia in the 1800s. Major-General John Twigge and his brother Samuel Knox Twigge, came to Canada in 1887 and to Vancouver before 1890. Twigg Island at the mouth of the Fraser River was named after their nephew, Conley, who had a dairy farm there. In the 1930s, Harold Despard Twigg, a provincial MLA, tried to organize a political movement to have Vancouver Island secede from British Columbia. A relative on the maternal side, lumber baron William Tait, built the turn-of-the-century Glen Brae mansion in Shaughnessey that became better known as Canuck Place.


Moon Madness: Dr Louise Aall, Sixty Years of Healing in Africa
by Alan Twigg (Ronsdale Press $21.95)

Review by Mark Forsythe (BCBW 2020)

In 1959, as a freshly minted doctor, Louise Aall was working alone in East Africa, testing medicine for amoebic dysentery. She did house calls by canoe, shared rooms with bats and scorpions, and was poked and prodded by curious villagers. She began groundbreaking research into epilepsy and established clinics to treat people suffering from ?moon madness? as the locals called it, or kikafa in Swahili.

Dr. Aall was also one of the last people to work beside Nobel Prize Laureate, Dr. Albert Schweitzer at his jungle clinic in Gabon.

Known as ?Mama Mgango? (Mama Doctor), Dr. Aall fell in love with the African people, and the continent?s wildlife and landscapes. This special relationship endures 60 years later and her Mahenge Epilepsy Clinic continues to provide care for patients and education about the disease for families.

Louise Aall?s story unfolds chronologically?and dramatically ?in Alan Twigg?s biography, Moon Madness: Dr Louise Aall, Sixty Years of Healing in Africa. Her myriad experiences and private thoughts emerge through extensive interviews, diaries and Twigg?s three research trips to Africa.

Louise was born in 1931, one of three children to Norwegian academics. Her father, Anathon headed the Philosophy Department at the University of Oslo and her Austrian-born mother, Lily was a famous ethnologist and author. Great-grandparents included high profile Norwegian politicians; and the family home was just a stone?s throw from the royal palace at Oslo.

Louise was home-schooled and an ardent reader who dreamed of life as a doctor. Her mother issued warnings about romance getting in the way: ?You have to be careful! Once you let a man kiss you, it?s the beginning of going too far into that...and before you know it, you are pregnant.?

The German invasion of Norway in April 1940 changed their lives of privilege. Lily had Jewish friends and had helped some relocate to England so the Aalls sought refuge at their country home in Ospeteig. Louise and brother Cato did chores on nearby farms and were usually paid in food. Their father Anathon was now entering the final stages of Parkinson?s disease, and young Louise became his primary caregiver. By 1943 he was bedridden and delirious. ?If the Germans found out, they would have taken him away and euthanized him, as they did with so many others suffering from mental illness,? says Louise. His dying words to her helped guide her life: ?Be full of love and truthful.?

Louise enrolled in private school after the war. Socially awkward, she lacked self-confidence, and was told by a math teacher to give up on the dream of becoming a doctor. Her marks were not sufficient for the University of Oslo, but eventually she entered a medical training program in Tubingen, Germany?determined to prove the math teacher wrong. She returned to Oslo and was in the audience when Dr. Albert Schweitzer delivered a Nobel Peace Prize lecture about his work in Gabon.

Tropical medicine studies followed in Switzerland where another hero, Henry Dunant, had helped create the Red Cross.

In Zurich, Louise also experienced first love. Tragically, the young man died in her arms of kidney failure. At age 28, Louise left for Africa to conduct research on a drug for amoebic dysentery. ?Soon there would literally be no end to the number of people who wanted her medical attention,? writes Twigg.

Her work began at Ifakara, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) where Louise was also called upon to deliver babies. She learned Swahili (one of 10 languages she has spoken), and became a figure of fascination. ?Children from the nearby school loved to knock on her door just to have a glimpse of her. Whenever she opened the door, they would shriek with delight and run away laughing.? Louise built alliances with local priests and the Archbishop to help open doors in villages. Maasai tribesmen also came to her. ?The Maasai were difficult as patients because the men always demanded to be treated before everyone else. If a Maasai felt insulted or provoked, he would swell like a turkeycock and suddenly tear apart his clothes to expose his male attributes?the Maasai gesture of aggression, especially towards women.?

An encounter with a young boy who lived alone in the bush introduced Louise to ?moon madness.? His swollen features resembled an old man, and this victim of epilepsy was an outcast without benefit of medical treatment. ?Non-scientific or indigenous attempts to counteract epilepsy could sometimes be more harmful than the affliction,? says Louise. ?These included burning the soles of the unconscious convulsing patients, dropping acid in their eyes to ?wake them up? or forcing cow urine down their throats.?

Louise gained the boy?s trust, gave him phenobarbital tablets and two weeks later he reported no more seizures. Louise understood that educating families and communities about the disease was as important as treating it.

Louise established a clinic and offered the boy a job as a helper. She began investigating why epilepsy rates were ten times higher than the global norm?possibly due to infections by the filaria worm. She discovered ?Nodding Syndrome,? a symptom in children who would later go on to develop epilepsy; a finding that was eventually recognized by the World Health Organization many years later.

In 1960, Louise answered an urgent call by the Norwegian Red Cross to co-manage a hospital in the Belgian Congo where civil war was ripping the colony apart. Through gripping detail, we enter chaotic, overcrowded conditions at the hospital in Matadi where decisions included only treating children with the best chance to live. The hatred and violence of civil war includes a surreal life-and-death table tennis match between Louise and a Congolese officer responsible for murderous attacks. For her work in the Congo, Louise was awarded a bravery medal from the Red Cross.

A planned three-day visit in 1961 to Albert Schweitzer?s clinic turned into an unexpected secondment. A measles outbreak was underway, and she could not refuse Schweitzer?s pleas to put her medical skills to work. She remained for almost a year, became friends with the famous doctor, and learned much about the realities of jungle medicine.

Later, Louise undertook psychiatric training in Montreal, pursued anthropology at the University of British Columbia, and with her husband, Dr. Wolfgang Jilek, worked with Indigenous communities in Canada and internationally. Today Louise lives in Tsawwassen and is a rare example of altruism, skill and self-sacrifice in action. Many people she treated over the last 60 years have gone on to lead normal lives. Purchasing a copy of Moon Madness can also help as royalties will assist aid projects in Tanzania.


Mark Forsythe is co-author with Greg Dickson of From the West Coast to the Western Front (Harbour, 2014).



Tolstoy's Words to Live By (Ronsdale 2020). Translated and edited by Peter Sekerin and Alan Twigg.

Moon Madness: Dr. Louise Aall, Sixty Years of Healing in Africa (Ronsdale 2019).

Undaunted: The Best of BC BookWorld (Ronsdale, 2013). 978-1-55380-253-2 242 p.

Memories of Chekhov: Accounts of the Writer from His Family, Friends and Contemporaries (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Press, 2011). Edited and translated by Peter Sekirin; Introduction by Alan Twigg

The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors. (Ronsdale, 2010). 978-1-55380-108-5 320 p.

Tibetans in Exile: The Dalai Lama & The Woodcocks (Ronsdale, 2009). 978-1-55380-079-8 271 p.

Full-Time: A Soccer Story (Douglas Gibson Books, McClelland & Stewart, 2008). 978-0-7710-8645-8 293 p.

Thompson's Highway: British Columbia's Fur Trade, 1800-1850 (Ronsdale, 2006) 978-1-55380-039-2 253 p.

Understanding Belize: A Historical Guide (Harbour 2006). 240 p.

Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2005). 260 p.

First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia (Ronsdale 2004). 229 p.

101 Top Historical Sites of Cuba (Beach Holme 2004). 126 p.

Intensive Care: A Memoir (Anvil Press 2002). 80 p.

Cuba: A Concise History for Travellers (Harbour, 2004; Penguin Books 2002; Bluefield Books 2000). 198 p.

Twigg's Directory of 1001 BC Writers (Crown Publications 1992). 194 p.

Strong Voices: Conversations with 50 Canadian Writers (Harbour 1988). 291 p.

Vander Zalm, From Immigrant to Premier: A Political Biography (Harbour 1986).

Vancouver and Its Writers (Harbour 1986). 165 p.

Hubert Evans: The First Ninety-Three Years (Harbour 1985).

For Openers: Conversations with 24 Canadian Writers (Harbour 1981).


First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 1 (Peking University Press, 2013)

Aboriginality: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 2 (Peking University Press, 2013)

Thompson's Highway: British Columbia's Fur Trade, 1800-1850: The Literary Origins of British Columbia, Vol. 3 (Peking University Press, 2013)


Conversations with Robertson Davies (University Press of Mississippi 1989)

Margaret Atwood, Conversations (Firefly 1990)

Take This Waltz: A Celebration of Leonard Cohen (The Muses Company 1994)

Uncommon Ground: A Celebration of Matt Cohen (Knopf 2002)

Conversations with Allen Ginsberg (University Press of Mississippi 2019). Edited by David Stephen Calonne


George Woodcock: Anarchist of Cherry Street

Eric Nicol: Look Back in Humour

Peter Trower: The Men They Were Then

Jeannette Armstrong: Knowledge-Keeper of the Okanagan

Spilsbury's Coast

The Little Prince in Vancouver

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
The Essentials: 150 Great B.C. Books & Authors
First Invaders: The Literary Origins of British Columbia
Thompson's Highway: British Columbia's Fur Trade, 1800-1850

[Various television interviews about Full-Time are available via YouTube. Also a composer and musician, Alan Twigg performed one of his songs at The Playhouse Theatre during Sam Sullivan's Public Salon in November of 2012 / For more author information, go to]

For further information, go to

[BCBW 2019] "Cuba" "Belize"

[caption id="attachment_21940" align="alignleft" width="640"] For fifty years, Alan Twigg has specialized in writing about British Columbia. Here he stands alongside the hull of The Brico, once used for laying cable along the BC coast, then dragged ashore near Fanny Bay and used for a restaurant in the 1990s at 7366 Island Highway, then left derelict. [photo: Campbell River Museum][/caption] 











In Search of George Vancouver

by John Mackie
Vancouver Sun

You've probably never heard of Coevorden, a town of 35,000 in the Netherlands. But it has a big connection to Vancouver ? it was the ancestral homeland of Capt. George Vancouver, who our city is named after.

In fact, Vancouver?s family name was originally van Coevorden, which means "cow crossing" in Dutch.

This info comes courtesy of philanthropist Yosef Wosk and writer Alan Twigg, who have been delving into George Vancouver's heritage.

"I like the roots of words, the beginnings of words, and for years I wondered (about) Vancouver ? what does that mean?" said Wosk. "It doesn?t sound English. Oh, it's Dutch, he must have had a Dutch family. When did they immigrate from Holland, and why?"

Wosk was so taken with what he found that he decided to mount a "pilgrimage" to Europe to trace Capt. Vancouver's roots, which he planned to film to show at schools.

The 75th anniversary of the liberation of Coevorden during the Second World War is April 5, and the town was liberated by Canadian troops. When Wosk and Twigg found this out, they made plans to be in Coevorden for a celebration of the liberation.

They were to bring along a proclamation by Mayor Kennedy Stewart announcing April 5 will be Coevorden Appreciation Day in Vancouver, and personal messages to Coevorden from B.C. Premier John Horgan and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson.

Unfortunately, the celebration has been postponed after the COVID-19 pandemic, so they're staying home. The trip will be rescheduled, but Wosk felt Capt. Vancouver had such an interesting story that he wanted to share it now.

The pilgrimage was to be called the SS Chuck Davis, after the late and beloved civic historian.

"Chuck Davis dedicated his life to tell us how interesting (Vancouver history is)," said Twigg. "If he was alive he?d been going with us. So he?s going with us in spirit."

Davis often took schoolchildren to see the Capt. Vancouver statue in front of Vancouver City Hall, but they usually didn?t know who it was.

"He'd say, 'Well, I'll give you a hint ? his first name is George,'" said Twigg. "Whereupon all the schoolchildren would answer, 'George Washington!'"

Vancouver's family was once prominent in the Netherlands but their fortunes turned and in the 1600s some van Coevordens moved to England. Some changed their name to Oxford, but at least one branch of the family anglicized their name to Vancouver.

George Vancouver was born June 22, 1757, joined the Royal Navy at 13 and rose up through the ranks. He had a storied career ? he was on two of Capt. James Cook?s three famous voyages to the South Pacific. He was on-board the HMS Discovery in 1778 when it "discovered" the Hawaiian Islands for Europeans.

Cook was killed in Hawaii in 1779, and Vancouver nearly met the same fate: Twigg said, "the day before Cook was killed Vancouver was badly beaten by Hawaiians."

In 1791 Vancouver was placed in charge of two vessels charged with charting the Pacific Coast of North America.

"Part of their surveying was trying to find a connection between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, to try and find if there was a Northwest Passage," said Wosk. "In his expedition in the 1790s they went up (north) as far as any Britishers had ever gone. They conclusively reported back to the Crown that there was no Northwest Passage."

Vancouver and his crew charted the coast from California to Alaska. He sailed into Burrard Inlet in June 1792, the second European to visit today's Vancouver.

Many geographical features on the northwest coast were named after his crew and associates, such as Puget Sound, Mount Baker and Mount Rainier. He named Vancouver Island after himself, although he originally shared the name with Spanish explorer Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra.

"Quadra and Vancouver met on the coast here and became very good friends," said Twigg. "They got along in a gentlemanly way, even though England and Spain were at naval loggerheads. When they were making these maps they decided to call it Quadra and Vancouver Island."

After a record 4 1/2-year surveying voyage, Vancouver returned to England in September 1795. He died May 12, 1798, a month shy of his 42ndbirthday. A three-volume journal of his voyage was completed by his brother John after his death.

In 1885 the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to locate its terminus at the head of Burrard Inlet. The small town of Granville was already there, but the CPR wanted a recognizable name.

"The reason the city got named Vancouver is because people back in England knew sort of where it was (because of Vancouver Island)," said Twigg. "So the name got appropriated from the Island to the town."

Wosk and Twigg?s postponed expedition was to touch down at both Vancouver's birthplace in King?s Lynn, Norfolk, England, and where he is buried at St. Peter?s Church in Petersham, near London, England.

They also planned to visit the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, where Vancouver got his commission, and the British Library, which has handwritten documents by Vancouver.

In Coevorden, they were even hoping to meet with members of his family ? the branch that didn?t change their name.

[Vancouver Sun, March 29, 2020]

[caption id="attachment_22317" align="alignleft" width="800"] Alan Twigg and Yosef Wosk with image of Chuck Davis mimicking George Vancouver statue at City Hall.[/caption]