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2 Renee Jackson Harper Chaz Greenaway ph

Meet the team

Renee Harper introduces a Selkirk College Creative Writing student at EMLF 2018

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.

Meet the Kootenay Literary Society board of directors:

Antonia Banyard has worked on both sides of the publishing desk as a writer and editor.  She has been published in literary magazines and anthologies in Canada, the US, England, and Australia. She has degrees in writing from the University of Victoria and the University of Queensland. She has published books for children and adults, including the 2007 children’s nonfiction book Dangerous Crossings!, and her 2010 novel Never Going Back.

Anne DeGrace is a librarian (now retired), writer, editor, and incorrigible volunteer. She is the author of four traditionally published novels, several self-published regional books, and also writes for newspapers, magazines, and websites. In 2019 she founded a micro-publishing company, Ceriph Press. Work in community cultural development has been ongoing in various capacities for more than three decades. Among other roles, she was founding president of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society, which turned a defunct movie theatre into a successful social enterprise.

Renée Harper is a faculty member in the department of English and Creative Writing at Selkirk College, where she stokes courage and creativity in her students. Her literary work has appeared in Prism International, CV2, Room, WTF Magazine, The Trinity Review, aired on CBC Radio’s “A Verse to Summer” and on Kootenay Co-op Radio and has been long listed for the 2015 CBC Poetry Prize, short listed for the 2016 Prism International Poetry Prize and long listed for the 2017 Pacific Spirit Poetry Prize. She moonlights as a talented landscape painter.

Samara Nicoll has been EMLF’s contact with the consumer end of our literary world for several years, as manager of Otter Books in Nelson and now through her own brand-new independent bookstore “Notably,” launching this summer. Samara has her finger on the pulse of reader enthusiasm, certainly from her many years of a purveyor of literature and definitely as one of the most avid and prolific readers we know. 

Verna Relkoff 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.

Avi Silberstein is the author of the 2014 novel The Human Solutions (Skyhorse Publishing), which celebrated author Carmen Aguirre described as “gripping, disturbing, darkly funny, and impossible to put down. The writing is taut and spare, creating a sharply etched portrait of 1980s Chile. Triumphant.” He is the Children’s Librarian at the Nelson Public Library, where he tells stories to young folks while continuing to write compelling tales for older readers, with a number of literary projects in development.

As a career nutritionist, Judy Toews penned three non-fiction books about healthy living (Key Porter Books). Now, Judy’s fascination with forensics and training in science come in handy in her second career as a crime fiction writer. Her first novel, Give Out Creek (Mosaic Press, 2018) was shortlisted for the 2016 Arthur Ellis Award by the Crime Writers of Canada. She writes under the pen name J.G. Toews.

Tom Wayman 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.


Robyn Lamb comes to us with a wealth of experience in theatre, music, and working in leadership positions in arts nonprofits. She’s  a born-and-raised Nelsonite, who, like so many, went away to make her mark in the world and returned to her roots to add new spark to Nelson’s arts and cultural sector. When she’s not teaching music she’ll be working to make EMLF shine.

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