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Online Blue Pencil Critique Sessions for Writers offered by Nelson Literary Festival

By Contributor
May 27th, 2020

One thing that is a constant in this changed world: writers keep writing, readers keep reading, and Nelson B.C.’s Elephant Mountain Literary Festival continues to celebrate both.

This year the annual summer festival will not go ahead as originally planned. Instead, EMLF takes a new approach, with double the opportunities for professional critique for writers, as well as some outdoor literary events in development.

The Holley Rubinsky Memorial Blue Pencil Sessions, named for the late Kaslo writer and mentor, have been a popular staple of EMLF since 2015. Each year writers can access one-on-one feedback from an experienced author.

This year, writers working in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry can receive valuable critiques from two accomplished writers and editors. One-on-one feedback sessions will be held July 10 – 12 with Alberta author Jenna Butler and Nelson’s Verna Relkoff 

Jenna Butler is an environmentalist, teacher, and the critically-acclaimed author of five books including poetry collections, ecological essays, and a travelogue. Her forthcoming book is a collection of her essays titled Revery: A Year of Bees. Butler teaches Creative Writing at Red Deer College, and her work as a writer-in-residence has taken her from America’s deep south to Ireland, and from Tenerife to the Norwegian Arctic Circle. Her work in its variety of forms frequently explores human interaction with the environment.

Verna Relkoff has been helping writers for more than 25 years. An editor of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, she was a principal of Mint Literary Agency where she worked on Reuben Carter’s memoir Eye of the Hurricane and Cyndi Sand-Eveland’s award-winning youth novel Dear Toni, among other books. A founder of Kootenay School of the Arts (now Selkirk College’s Kootenay Studio Arts) and Chair of its former Writing Studio, she is currently a director of the Kootenay Literary Society, which oversees the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival.

“These Blue Pencil sessions are a great tool for writers,” says Relkoff. “The first ten pages of a manuscript say so much about direction and structure. A good critique can be a game-changer.”

Registration opens June 1 on a first come, first served basis, with 10 spots available each for Butler and Relkoff. Writers may send up to 2,500 words for critique at a cost of $60. Full information and registration is available at under “workshops”.

Meanwhile, planning is underway for a series of readings by local authors to be held out-of-doors in compliance with provincial guidelines. Visit the EMLF website at for up-to-date information or to register for newsletter updates. 


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