Cranbrook-raised writer Leesa Dean is interested in creating supportive literary communities, and as the newest addition to Selkirk College’s creative writing faculty she hopes to do exactly that.
“I’ve been following the Nelson writing scene for a while now, watching it grow with the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, and there are so many established and working writers in that area,” said Dean, whose award-winning work will be published in the collection Waiting for the Cyclone by Brindle & Glass in 2016.
“There are so many exciting literary things happening right now, which is why it’s great I get to come in at this juncture. What I’m concerned about is creating a community with these students. I want them to be hanging outside class, supporting each other, realizing they’re writers and treating each other that way.”
Dean’s appointment comes on the heels of news that the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) will be offering university level creative writing courses in Nelson.
Dean will teach first and second-year creative writing transfer courses starting in the fall semester.
Dean said her work is often geography-based, and is informed by her local upbringing.
“Something that’s been integrated into my writing is non-conformism. I grew up around people who were not like regular people living regular lives. They had chutzpah, they made decisions that weren’t conventional. And that’s the way I live.”
And though she’s lived in Montreal and Toronto for many years, it’s the Kootenays she keeps coming back to her in her fiction.
For instance, her story “Centre of the Universe” follows two young Cranbrook youths trying to escape their surroundings.
“They want to change their town and they don’t know how. They start this radical group, protesting against Walmart, and it follows them through to their twenties when they lose track of each other.”
Dean’s writing has been compared to that of Elisabeth Di Mariaffi, author of How To Get Along With Women. She is currently at work on a novel set in Dawson City and Tianducheng, a Chinese ghost city modelled after Paris.
In a press release, Selkirk’s Almeda Glenn Miller praised Dean.
“We believe that Leesa’s community-building spirit and enthusiasm will continue to build on what Selkirk College offers in the Nelson area,” she said.
“I worked with Leesa at the Sage Hill Writing Experience at the Saskatchewan Writers Guild several years ago and have never forgotten her prose and her poise.”
Selkirk College’s creative writing courses are transferable to a number of B.C. institutions, including UBCO, Thompson Rivers, the University of Victoria and UBC.
“With Dean’s arrival, Selkirk College is able to further build foundations in the first- and second-year Creative Writing classes that will enable students to carry on their educational pathways into third-year programs across the country,” reads the press release.