Kootenay Literary Society

The ad hoc committee that became the Kootenay Literary Society began meeting in 2008 with the aim of returning to Nelson a credit post-secondary program in writing, editing and publishing. This mandate was formerly part of the role of the Writing Studio (department) of Nelson’s Kootenay School of the Arts (KSA); the department was eliminated in 2002 as a consequence of provincial government cutbacks. The group’s membership includes the former co-directors of KSA’s Writing department, and KSA’s former executive director.

Also part of the group’s mission is to augment Nelson and area writers’ and readers’ access to Canadian authors and publishers, and to showcase area writers to local audiences.  After some years of functioning as a network and information exchange, the group resolved to undertake the organization of a summer literary festival in Nelson, accompanied by the offering of credit writing-related courses, as a first step toward meeting the group’s goals.  Since February of 2011 the Festival committee has met every two weeks; in August 2011 the group, now named the Kootenay Literary Society, was incorporated and officially registered as a B.C. nonprofit society.

Kootenay Literary Society Members

Co-founding Director Tom Wayman introduces panelists at the 2016 EMLF. (Will Johnson photo)

Leesa Dean

Leesa is a graduate of the University of Guelph’s Creative Writing MFA program and teaches English and Creative Writing for Selkirk College. She’s been a finalist for literary accolades such as the Irving Layton Award, the Litpop Award, Kootenay Mountain Culture’s writing contest and the Quebec Writing Competition. Her first book, Waiting for the Cyclone, was published by Brindle & Glass in October.

Anne DeGrace

Anne is a librarian, writer, incorrigible volunteer. She is the author of four traditionally published novels, several self-published regional books, and also writes for newspapers, magazines, and websites. Work in community cultural development has been ongoing in various capacities for more than three decades. Most recently she was president of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society, which turned a defunct movie theatre into a successful social enterprise.

Shannon Griffin-Merth

Until recently, Shannon worked in the Kootenays as a college instructor of English literature and academic writing. Since 2015 she has been teaching writing at the University of Ottawa, where she is also working on her Ph.D. in contemporary Canadian fiction. She is a founding member of KLS and is excited to continue helping the Society and the Festival grow stronger.

Wendy Kelly

Wendy holds a degree in English & French Literature with a minor in Business Economics. She currently freelances for a performance analytics company, and has recently studied website development, software applications, and DevOps. She has lived and worked in several countries around the world and currently lives in Nelson with her brewmaster husband and four boys.

David Lawson

David is a potter and is Head of the Clay Studio at Kootenay School of the Arts (KSA) here in Nelson, B.C. He was the founding executive director of KSA, bringing the school from an ad hoc committee’s idea to a municipally and provincially funded institution; support that David initiated included a $1 million endowment and $500,000 per year of B.C. post-secondary education ministry funding.

Verna Relkoff

Verna is an author and editor. From 1991 – 2002 she was a director of Kootenay School of the Arts (KSA) Writing Studio, and was a KSA founding board member. She has been a member of organizing committees for (among other literary events) Terrain festival, Nelson, August 1996, and From Eh to Zee, Student Writers’ Weekend, Nelson, March 1998. Most recently she was a principal of Mint Literary Agency.

Tom Wayman

Tom is the author of more than 20 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. His 2012 poetry collection Dirty Snow won the Acorn-Plantos award; his 2015 collection of short fiction, The Shadows We Mistake for Love, won the 2016 Diamond Foundation Prize for Fiction (Western Canada Jewish Book Awards). He formerly taught widely in the B.C. community college system, including Nelson’s Kootenay School of the Arts, and his stints as writer-in-residence include the University of Windsor, University of Alberta, University of Toronto. He taught English and writing at the University of Calgary 2002-2010.

Executive Director Natasha Smith

Natasha is an artist, teacher and arts administrator. She holds a BA hons in Fine Art Printmaking from Duncan of Jordanstone College, University of Dundee, Scotland. She has worked in the non-profit arts sector for nine years as an administrative assistant and project coordinator for the West Kootenay Regional Arts Council and grant advisor and administrator for the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance. She currently coordinates the Oxygen Art Centre’s Education Program, is Executive Director for The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival and continues her fine art practice from her home studio in Krestova.


Volunteer opportunities:

There are plenty of ways to be involved! EMLF can use good heads, good ideas, and good energy in committees such as fundraising, publicity, and education, as well as during the festival itself. Do you have skills and abilities to lend? Contact us.

Wendy Kelly and Verna Relkoff at the door during the 100-Mile Opening Gala in 2015.

Sharmaine Gray and Leesa Dean at the Saturday book tables.

Author and teacher Calvin Wharton (at right, with Tom Wayman) has been helping with the festival weekend since it first began.

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