Kaslo author Holley Rubinsky has passed away at 72, leaving behind a literary legacy that includes multiple books of award-winning fiction and years of work as an editor, mentor and writing retreat teacher.
“I was raised by the ocean, with grey skies and smog. Moving to the mountains, choosing a place that would hold me in the long run was what I did when I moved to the village of Kaslo,” Rubinsky wrote on her website.
Her most recent book was the collection South of Elfrida from Brindle & Glass.
Some of the memories she holds most dear include performing as Mary Queen of Scots during an amateur play at the Langham and boating on Kootenay Lake. She met her husband in Banff, where she became friends with writers Alistair McLeod, Sandra Birdsell and W.O. Mitchell, and worked as a teacher at Kaslo Elementary School.
“I loved teaching children with learning disabilities, whose minds look at problem-solving differently,” she wrote.
Close friend and fellow author Barney Gilmore said now “a slow and deep sadness has come home to roost, as we knew it would.” Both he and Rubinsky traded time between Toronto and Kaslo, and they acted as sounding boards for one another while working on their manuscripts.
Gilmore said she was hugely helpful while he was writing his book On Retirements.
“She was quite happy to speak her mind. She was quixotic, feisty, and as an editor she was very proud of her slash and burn style. Holley was a delight and she and her husband Yuri became very close friends.”
Fellow Kaslo author Mandy Bath said this has been an emotional time for her, as she’s been a member of Rubinsky’s care team.
“It was an honour and a privilege to accompany her to the threshold and see her out of this world. In her inimitable way she was very clear about what she wanted, and that helped us.”
Bath said Rubinsky’s mentorship was invaluable.
“Holley had an enormous influence on Kootenay writers through her writing retreats and workshops in which she mentored and guided us over many years. Holley helped me craft my book, Disaster in Paradise: the Landslides in Johnson’s Landing. As my editor, her advice was clear, blunt and sometimes hard to take, but always worth following.”
She said Rubinsky will be sorely missed.
“Our collaboration over more than two years marked one of the most fulfilling periods of my life, and I know it meant a great deal to Holley also.”
Rubinsky’s agent Morty Mint said she was a unique client. He spoke to her shortly before she died, and said she realized her fight with cancer was coming to a close. He admired her bravery.
“Holley was definitely a strong-willed woman who did things her own way.”
Mint said she was generous with her support and guidance.
“She was tremendous in terms of helping writers and working with other writers. She could have continued to be published for many years.”
Rubinsky’s publisher Ruth Linka said she was a joy to work with.
“I was honoured to work with Holley at Brindle & Glass, first to publish South of Elfrida and then later when she edited for us. In South of Elfrida Holley wrote about women on the move, physically and emotionally, and even though community and her home were clearly important to her, I will always remember Holley as a person open to others, to new experiences and to travelling in every sense of the word.”
Rubinsky was predeceased by her husband, whom she met in Banff, where she became friends with writers Alistair McLeod, Sandra Birdsell and W.O. Mitchell. She is survived by her artist daughter Robin Ballard.
A memorial service is in the works.
Rubinsky’s website has been updated with a photo retrospective of her life. Visit it at holleyrubinsky.com.