FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Louise Gallagher
March 5, 2013
Meeting up with writer, bon-vivant and woman-about-town Louise Gallagher was a calendar management challenge. Since she left the Calgary Drop-In Centre where she was Director of Public Relations little grass has grown under her feet.
We met up, yesterday, after many re-schedules to explore what this free-lancer, poet, advocate, painter, social-change agent and friend Louise is up to – and I was entertained, enlightened and humbled by the breadth of her grasp of issues, her determination and a level of optimism that is really quite stunning.
Once upon a time a Political Science major, her work and life have been well removed from that field. A writer since childhood, mother of two grown daughters – twice divorced, an aging golden retriever named Ellie – first crossed my path in July/2006 when she invited me to bring my retriever Gusta to an off-leash park for a Saturday morning dog walk and coffee. I was pleased then to meet someone who followed my daily column who was interested in knowing me.
What brought her to Calgary? Who she is, here and now are complex stories that go far beyond a tale of Barrie, Ontario born military kid who was raised and educated in Europe, has made Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary (since 1987) home is far more complex than the stories in her book The Dandelion Spirit, her Ted.x Calgary talk.
Our conversation took longer than these interviews usually do, in part a great visit with a dear friend I don’t see often enough – and because she had so much to say. What, or who, is she – really? Her description - ‘I’m a story teller, I like to tells stories. I believe, if it’s not the truth, it’s a lie. That holds me accountable’.
While I wanted to know how things were going in her free-lance career, and about her role as Senior Communication Consultant for the Calgary Homeless Foundation – I mostly wanted to capture, to explore and to better understand what makes her tick, what drives her and makes her such an enigmatic member of our community who understands the underbelly of Calgary’s social issues so well . . .
Do you recall any breakthrough moments in life, career, that changed you?
… my first story – that I sold – a 2500 word piece I did for the Calgary Herald. I think I made $250, something in that order, which made me a ‘writer’. Running a marathon (4:08:36). Becoming a mother. Yes, motherhood – the biggest change.
Why don’t you run anymore?
… I have a knee … and a back
What characterizes you, your work, your frenetic schedule?
What brought you back to the homelessness cause after you left the Di?
… I was there 6 years. I needed a break, a rest. But I missed it.
Why do you care so much about homelessness?
… working with homelessness has made me a better person. There is no US and THEM. Only US. When someone falls, we all fall. We are all born magnificent, but then we forget.
I asked Louise her observations on the state of homelessness in Calgary, or generally, over the next 90 days?
… the weather. When spring arrives, migration to Calgary grows and the population of homeless grows.
. . . and over the next 5 years?
… we need to build the foundation of affordable housing to get people off the streets and out of shelters. In-migration and a buoyant economy are the biggest issues. Things are good here – and very expensive. People are ill-prepared for the reality of cost and lack of availability of housing. And the problem is the same whether the economy booms or if it dives. People can’t stabilize their lives if they are homeless.
What do you lose sleep over, what keeps you up at night?
… nothing. If I’m not sleeping, I’m writing. Living in the now precludes worry.
Work/life balance – what is at the core of it for you?
. . . now is not forever. I am a creative soul. Willingness to stand in the broken-ness, what we are willing to do. I believe in magic. The world is an amazing place.
What qualities, looking back, have distinguished your preferred suppliers, partners and employees?
. . . that I am remembered. Listeners. People who are willing to take a risk. I am happy to support a business where the people can shine.
What qualities do your clients look for in you, in your writing services, that distinguishes you or sets you apart from your competitors?
. . . reputation, credibility, integrity. I’m very creative. I put my heart into it. I tell stories of their people.
Painting has become a passion for you, how did that happen? Brush or roller?
… I got started because my daughter was painting. It was something I could do with her. I thought .. I can do this. My great lesson was, if you don’t like it, you can paint over it! I have my first art show coming up in May.
. . . I always have a few on the go – currently, The Art Of Possibility by Benjamin Zander, Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath, The Power of Story by Jim Loehr
. . . 2009 Dodge Caliber. I always need a station-wagon type. I have a dog. I love my heated seats. I love my sun roof. Those are my only requirements. Otherwise, it’s just a car. It gets me from A to B.
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