About Us

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)

Antonia Banyard

Antonia Banyard  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.

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.

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.

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.

Judy Toews

As a career nutritionist, Judy 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

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.

Elephant Mountain Literary Festival welcomes new Executive Director

Robyn Lamb is our new Executive Director, and we couldn’t be more pleased. Robyn 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.

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.

2019 EMLF planning committee
Some of the 2019 Festival planning committee: L – R: Marty Sutmoller, Antonia Banyard, Robyn Lamb (ED), Rayya Liebich, Verna Relkoff, Judy Toews. Not pictured: Leesa Dean, Anne DeGrace, Tom Wayman.
Wendy Kelly and Verna Relkoff 2015 EMLF 4839
Wendy Kelly and Verna Relkoff at the door during the 100-Mile Opening Gala in 2015.
Sharmaine Gray & Leesa Dean
Sharmaine Gray and Leesa Dean at the Saturday book tables.
Anne DeGrace and Natasha Smith at EMLF 2018
Anne DeGrace and Natasha Smith at EMLF 2018.
EMLF book table coordinator P’nina Shames
Above, book table coordinator P’nina Shames is one of EMLF’s volunteers extraordinaire!
Marty Sutmoller charms raffle ticket buyers at the 2018 author talk by Susan Musgrave.