Lezlie Lowe has been writing about bathrooms — more specifically the “politics of public bathroom access” — since she wrote her first article on the subject for The Coast, Halifax’s alternative weekly, in 2005. Thirteen years later, the title of that initial feature — “No Place to Go” — has become the main title of Lowe’s first nonfiction book (Coach House Books, September 2018).
“It was a topic I kept returning to over and over in my journalism practice,” recalls Lowe, an award-winning freelance journalist. “There are still, all these years after I first started looking into it, the same groups of people facing compromised access,” including women, the elderly and people with a range of chronic conditions and disabilities. “It seemed that, along with the lack of improvements, there was a real dearth of people talking about public bathrooms.”
In 2014, Lowe decided to raise the level of that conversation. “I always wanted to write a book, but never really understood the process. I figured I could flop around like a fish forever talking about writing a book, or I could apply to the King’s MFA and be forced to get it done.”
She did just that, graduating with her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from the University of King’s College in Halifax in May 2016. “Working with my mentors was wonderful,” she says. “They challenged me and made me a better writer, both on structural and nitty-gritty levels.” Writing a book, she adds, is “a lot of work, but once you think about breaking it down, it’s do-able.”
Coach House itself has been “beyond supportive, from the editing process through the promotion and marketing. I feel grateful to work with such an enthusiastic team of people.”
Now that No Place to Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs has been released, she adds, “I’m literally working on support material the same as the assignments I completed during the MFA” to help promote her book. “All those written pitches and summaries of the book have ended up in catalogues and on promo posters for readings.”
The most satisfying part of having written No Place to Go: “having people come and thank me for writing the book — people with mobility issues, with Crohn’s, women who are sick of waiting in bathroom lines.”
While Lowe says it’s “weird, honestly” to know her book is finally out there after having focused for so long on the subject, she isn’t resting on her laurels. Lowe, who also teaches in the King’s College School of Journalism, is already at work on a new book. The Volunteers: How Halifax’s women provided help, hope, and healing to win the Second World War is due out from Nimbus in fall 2019.