Douglas Gibson’s book Stories about Storytellers offers the inside scoop on the writing lives of Canada’s great authors.

Publisher Douglas Gibson tells all

Stories of Alice Munro and more at Elephant Mountain Literary Festival.

For every great book, there are great people behind it. The writer, of course — that goes without saying — but also the people who believe in the book, and want to see it out there inspiring readers. In Canada, the believer behind many of this country’s most celebrated and influential books is Douglas Gibson.

Gibson, whose own book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Others offers an insider’s view of the who’s who of Canlit, takes the stage at the Nelson Civic Theatre on Saturday, July 12 at 2 p.m. as part of the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival.

Gibson’s own storied life began in earnest when he became editorial director of MacMillan Canada, rising to become publisher in 1979. During this time he wrote the painfully funny (and now quite famous) instructional guide for new authors What Happens After My Book is Published?

It’s possible that now-famous authors such as Mavis Gallant received this little guide after Gibson negotiated her first Canadian publishing deal. It was Gibson’s gentle, down-to-earth humour and his dedication that earned him the loyalty and admiration of Gallant and many of Canada’s most highly regarded authors.

Morley Callaghan, W.O. Mitchell, James Houston, and Peter Gzowski are among the authors Gibson published through his time at MacMillan and after he moved to McClelland and Stewart, where he eventually became publisher, then president, and where he managed his own imprint, Douglas Gibson Books.

Some of Canada’s most notable authors broke contract with MacMillan to follow Gibson — including Hugh MacLennan, Guy Vanderhaeghe, and recent Nobel Prize for Literature winner Alice Munro.

Said Munro, in her letter to MacMillan asking to be released from her contract: “He was absolutely the first person in Canadian publishing who made me feel there was no need to apologize for being a short story writer.” Munro writes the introduction to Gibson’s book, and is the 21st writer to come under Gibson’s pen as he describes the personalities that have influenced how Canada sees itself.

Some tales have taken on urban mythic proportions, such as the one in which Gibson ambushed Alistair MacLeod in a train station to wrestle the manuscript bodily from the famous author’s hands.

Did it really happen? The Canlit curious can find out about this and much more by attending Gibson’s entertaining presentation Stories About Storytellers. Tickets are available at

The website is a one-stop-shop for all of the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival events, which include an evening of presentations by mystery writer Gail Bowen and CBC host of Writers and Company Eleanor Wachtel on Saturday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre. Tickets for this are available through the Capitol Theatre box office (all other tickets are available through the Festival website or at the door).

Mystery forms one of the themes for the weekend: a Saturday morning panel with Gail Bowen (author of 20 bestselling mysteries) and Nelson’s own Deryn Collier (Confined Space and Open Secret, published by Simon & Schuster) is set to unravel the mysteries of how whodunit writers do it. That one happens on Saturday morning, 9 to 10:30 at Hart Hall.

In addition, the festival showcase includes an Opening Social on Thursday evening with local and visiting writers and a gala reading Saturday night with authors Sid Marty, Angie Abdou, and Donna Morrissey.

Panels, presentations and workshops on indigenous publishing, self-publishing, and storytelling for youth round out the weekend.

This is the third year for Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, which has been gaining a reputation as one of Canada’s best small festivals of the written word.

Just Posted

Slocan Valley added to communities on flooding evac alert

Kootenay Lake is expected to reach flooding level in Nelson by Friday

UPDATED: Hwy 3 west of Creston remains closed due to mudslide

A detour is available on the Kootenay Lake Ferry, but commuters could see wait times

COLUMN: Making a wildlife smart community

David White writes how property owners can avoid conflict with nature

Police searching for Nelson man

Brent Mickelson hasn’t been heard from since February

Local police recognized for work

Eight officers were honoured for removing impaired drivers

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

UPDATE: Woman dies in ocean accident near Tofino hours before daughter’s wedding

“We are so thankful to everyone who helped our mom.”

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

Martin Mars waterbombers’ firefighting days are done

Wayne Coulson said his company still hopes to find a new home for the vintage aircraft

NHL playoffs weekly roundup

Vegas Golden Knights have done the impossible and have a chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup

Most Read