WOODS, Elizabeth Rhett

Author Tags: Fiction, Poetry

"One thing about doing it in the bathtub, it's easy to clean up afterwards." -- from The Yellow Volkswagen

Born in Prince George on January 10, 1940, Elizabeth Rhett Woods received her B.A. from UBC in 1961, followed by post-graduate work in psychology at Queen's University (1961-1962) and UBC (1964-1965). She worked on behalf of writers on copyright issues and freedom of expression issues. Having lived in Ontario and B.C., she returned to live in Victoria in 1984. She self-published an environmental book, If Only Things Were Different (first volume) and her first children's book, Betsy's Dream, about a young girl who feels unnoticed in her grandmother's busy household. To vanquish her loneliness, she dreams of a greenhouse full of animals. Woods has contributed to numerous publications and anthologies, plus had various works broadcast on CBC radio. In 2004 she laid plans to launch the Victoria Literary Times, a publication that would be devoted to serializing novels in a tabloid newspaper format.

Woods' first novel The Yellow Volkswagen is a first person comic narrative by a woman named Tippy Peterson who mentions at the outset of her cross-Canada memoir that her outstanding features are forty inches of bust and a yellow volkswagen. Very much 'of its time', it's an unusually non-prudish, zesty tale that culminates in marriage for the heroine after her amorous but not entirely satisfying adventures. It's noteworthy because it reflects some of the 'on the road' experimentalism of the so-called Free Love generation from a woman's perspective.

Her novel Beyond the Pale concerns a middle-aged woman, Emily Quinn, who becomes involved in smuggling hashish in order to earn enough money to paint. “I lived in Rochdale College [a notorious, if temporary, Toronto haven for runaways and drug dealers in the early ’70s] for a year, not too long before it was closed down. Other inmates of the place who were into dealing drugs on a fairly large scale used to tell me their stories—and the rest I made up,” Woods says. “Beyond the Pale is not about drug smuggling per se; that’s just the setting, just as Vancouver and California are settings. The book is about a person’s relationship to the law, and to other people, and to oneself.” More precisely, it is story that is greatly concerned with sexual attraction as Emily is provoked to explore non-conformist activities by Adam Kincaid, a brilliant, handicapped black man who rejects the conventional notion of love and encourages her to watch pornographic films with him. Pornography, she concludes, "like ginger ale, quickly loses its fizz." She is also involved with Adam's young, muscular assistant, David.

In 1970: A Novel Poem, Elizabeth Rhett Woods uses novel poetic techniques to tell the story of a year in the life of one young woman. Her publicity material states, "It is a year of tremendous change, conflict, challenge, and discovery, unfolding in the close, heady, randy, heated atmosphere of youth, heedlessness, and rebellion, with the Vietnam War constantly in the background. In the outer world, 1970 was the year of the Kent State murders in the U.S. in the spring, and the War Measures Act in Canada, in the fall. In the inner world of the then-thirty-year-old poet, 1970 was the year of her marriage in the spring and her personal revolutionary crisis that October."

Woods also wrote a murder mystery novel, Double Entry Death, that was serialized in the short-lived Victoria Literary Times in 2004. Set in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, it concerns a puzzling, and sometimes frightening, tangle of accounting hi-jinks, questionable witnesses, and unexplained deaths. Freelance writer Cleo Dawson is assigned to do a profile on Jennifer Forbes, rising executive star of Kitsilano Savings Credit Union in Vancouver. But the more she learns about Jennifer, the less Cleo feels she knows her. Who is Jennifer Forbes, really—a financial genius? a bold embezzler? a killer?—or all three? Woods began to offer a serialized version on her personal website in 2008.


The Yellow Volkswagen (Simon & Schuster, 1971) - novel
Gone (Ladysmith Press, 1972) - poetry
Men (Fiddlehead, 1979) - poetry
The Amateur (Paperjacks, 1980) - novel
Betsy's Dream (E.R. Woods Press, 1989) - children
Bird Salad (Moonstone Press, 1990) - poetry
If Only Things Were Different: A Model for Sustainable Society (Woodsworks, 1992) - non-fiction
Family Fictions (Wolsak & Wynn, 2002) - poetry
Absinthe of Desire (Ekstasis, 2004) - poetry
Beyond the Pale (Ekstasis, 2006) - novel
1970 (Ekstasis, 2007) - novel/poetry
Woman Walking: Selected Poems (Ekstasis, 2009)

[BCBW 2009] "Fiction" "Poetry"