Janis the Writer
With an academic background in Rhetoric and Composition (theory and pedagogy), Janis Harper taught writing for many years (along with communications, and some editing and literature) at university and college level, mainly at Simon Fraser University and Douglas College in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland. In a late-mid-life career change, she shed academia and became a therapist in private practice: as an expressive arts therapist, she loves to use the writing arts modality (among others) to help clients access their innate creative resources and rediscover their own deep knowledge and vitality. Over the years, she has published journalism and scholarship, worked as a freelance and in-house editor, seen her playwriting produced on stage, and co-founded and edited two local periodicals. Her writing (fiction, creative nonfiction, and some award-winning poetry) has appeared widely in Canadian literary print journals and magazines, including Ars Medica, subTerrain, Reader’s Digest, Room, CV 2, Tessera; the online journals, The Red Wheelbarrow, Litro, The Closed Eye Open; and the anthologies, Lost on Purpose: Women in the City (Avalon/Seal 2005), Body Breakdowns, and Emails From India.
Janis’s most recent book is a philosophical-spiritual novel, Jonas and the Mountain: A Metaphysical Love Story (Sacred Stories 2021). In its first week of release, it reached bestseller status in a few Amazon.ca categories, and continues to be well received and glowingly reviewed. Her first book, an anthology of creative nonfiction, Body Breakdowns: Tales of Illness and Recovery (Anvil 2007), was selected as “Editor’s Choice” in the September 2010 Canadian Reader’s Digest magazine (a 26-page spread of excerpts), and has been used as a text in college and university courses. Her second book, an anthology of travel memoirs, which she also conceived, edited, and wrote six pieces for, is Emails from India: Women Write Home (Seraphim Editions 2013). Her second novel is literary fiction with speculative elements, and is currently looking for a home (working title, The Paisley Papers (An Actio’s Guide to Physical Reality) ), as is her poetry collection, Sounding Socrates. Her essay-poetry hybrid manuscript, When Your Head Cracks Open You Stop: Excursions into Enlightenment (from which three epistolary essays have been published in literary journals), has been moved off the desktop to the back of a drawer. She has presented her work in Canada, the US, and India, and she recently moved from Vancouver to Nanaimo BC, on Vancouver Island.
Janis the Actor
Janis has acted on many stages in Vancouver and across BC over the years, most recently playing Emma Kolowitz in Theatre in the Raw’s 2019 production of “Enter Laughing” (Studio 16). Janis’s mother Lily Harper long ago helped pioneer professional theatre in Vancouver, as well as taught acting for many years, and Janis grew up with an immense respect and enthusiasm for the theatre. She has studied both stage and screen acting with Carousel Theatre School, The Green Thumb Players, The Studio on the Drive, Mark Brandon’s Master Class, and other workshops and courses. And, of course, with her mother.
Some of her projects: “Enter Laughing” (Emma Kolowitz) with Theatre in the Raw; “Twelve Angry Jurors” (Juror #4) with Theatre in the Raw; “A Rainbow of Sins” (Maria/Cassandra/Lilith), with Skystrike Productions at The Cultch: “The Inspector General” (Governor’s Wife) with Theatre in the Raw; “West End Stories” (Daughter/Dyke) co-written with Theatre Positive for the Vancouver Fringe; “She’ll To The Wars” (Lizzie/Singer) with New Play Festival; “Ladies Who Lunch” (Rachel Milchan) with Metro Theatre; “Top Girls” (Patient Griselda/Louise/Mrs. Kidd) with Theatre in the Raw; “The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon” (Annie Brown) with Presentation House Players.
Janis the Singer-Songwriter
Janis Harper is a singer-songwriter in the lyrical folk-roots tradition. Janis has been writing songs and playing guitar since she was 9 years old, and when she was 12, she performed her original songs on the iconic Kitsilano Showboat in Vancouver and for community events. At 19, she was the house musical entertainer at the Sri Galaxy pub in Penang, Malaysia, and later performed on small stages in Sydney, Australia. By this time she had incorporated the Appalachian mountain dulcimer into her repertoire, having been taught by Rick Scott of Pied Pumkin how to play it in his special style. In her late 20s, she performed at Mac bar in Hiroshima, Japan, and some of this music is caught live on her first full-length recording (“Letters From Home,” audio tape, First Avenue Studio, 1990).
Her Vancouver duo, The Beautiful Losers (with the late great Neal Foisy), played small stages in the 2000’s, featuring at Vancouver coffee houses. She has performed solo on stages in Goa, India, including a regular house gig at the upscale H2O Agonda resort, and more recently, on small stages in Vancouver with her duo Janis and Jane (with accordionist/vocalist Jane Kalmakoff). Currently, she is performing occasionally as a solo artist at events and venues in Nanaimo, BC, where she now lives. Although “Better This Way” (Saga Recording, 2015) is her first CD, it is really a retrospective album because it brings together an eclectic selection of songs written and performed over Janis Harper’s long career as a singer-songwriter.