Vancouver Public Library and Pacific BookWorld News Society are pleased to announce Betty C. Keller as the 28th recipient of the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia.
Based on the Sunshine Coast, Betty Carol Keller—author, playwright, historian and editor—is the founder of the first annual literary festival in B.C., the ongoing Festival of the Written Arts in Sechelt. Significantly, its mandate from its inception has been to focus on British Columbia’s authors. The Festival is now preparing for its 39th season.
Keller has written seventeen books and served as one of B.C.’s most prolific book editors. For more than 40 years Betty Keller has been a prolific freelance editor, helping to refine and shepherd more than one hundred books into print.
“It’s so great to see Betty recognized with a major award,” said book publisher and awards jurist, Howard White. “She is one of those rare writers who has put more effort into enabling and promoting other writers than into her own cause. Her contribution to letters in BC has been huge, and until now, mostly unsung.” The jury statement commended her contributions to B.C. as a writer, editor, teacher, mentor, arts activist and organizer: “Hundreds of writers have been nourished and encouraged by her dedicated teaching and mentoring. Her greatest legacy is as the indefatigable founder and innovative producer of the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, one of the great literary gatherings in Canada. Betty Keller is a long-respected matriarch of the literary arts in this province.”
Keller is best known for her biographies of Pauline Johnson, Ernest Thompson Seton and Bertrand Sinclair. Her Pauline Johnson biography won the Canadian Biography Medal for 1982 and was optioned for film by Dreamreel Limited in June 1998.
Keller has co-authored a history of the Sunshine Coast and collaborated on many books, credited and otherwise, such as Eileen Williston’s biography of her husband and Social Credit cabinet minister Ray Williston, Forest, Power, and Policy (1997). In 2001, Caitlin Press published her novel, Better the Devil You Know, and she has released a humorous take on the early history of Vancouver, On the Shady Side. She was a co-author for Skookum Tugs, winner of the Bill Duthie Booksellers Choice Award for 2003. Keller is also one of the co-authors of A Stain Upon the Sea: West Coast Salmon Farming, a critique of fish farming practices that received the 2005 Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize.
In 1985, Keller received the Gillian Lowndes Memorial Award for contributions to the cultural life of the Sunshine Coast. She was also honoured with the Talewind Books Award in 1996 and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. In 2015 she was chosen to receive the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence. Betty Keller also received the 1991 Lescarbot Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to regional cultural activities.