Jan Walter has spent her life around books: selling, acquiring, editing, publishing, promoting. She began as a bookseller at Mel Hurtig’s store in Edmonton, eventually running her own store – Fifth Business Books – for a time.
She worked first as an editor and then in executive positions with several Canadian publishing companies, including Macmillan and McClelland & Stewart. In 1988, together with writer/editors Gary Ross and John Macfarlane, she started Macfarlane, Walter & Ross, which quickly became Canada’s premier publisher of quality nonfiction, publishing over 60 titles including the bestselling Boom, Bust & Echo by David Foot, The Danger Tree by David Macfarlane, On the Take by Stevie Cameron, and The Convict Lover by Merilyn Simonds. MW&R’s select list of authors won international critical acclaim and many awards; the house enjoyed a string of national bestsellers and was known for its promotion of new writing talent in the areas of literary nonfiction and investigative journalism.
A strong supporter of professional development in the publishing industry, Jan has been involved in publishing education at institutions across Canada, teaching at Simon Fraser and at Ryerson University. In 1997, she was honoured with a City of Toronto Arts Award for her contributions to publishing and writing.
Jan moved to Kingston in 2004. A few years later, with Merilyn Simonds, she took the plunge to professionalize Kingston WritersFest into the festival it is today. For the first four years she was Programming Coordinator and is now Chair of the Kingston WritersFest Board.