Summer Literary Seminars (SLS) is the world’s foremost, entirely one-of-a-kind international literary study and cultural organization, founded in 1998 and currently operating on three continents: North America (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), Europe (Vilnius, Lithuania), and Africa (Nairobi-Lamu, Kenya). After ten years (1998-2008) of running its groundbreaking series of seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia, SLS has established its flagship program in Montreal – its home base. Over the years, SLS has played, and continues to play, a pivotal role in bringing together the North American and international literary and cultural communities, fostering the artistic cooperation between the two and serving to increase mutual understanding across the cultural and geographic divides. SLS sees it as the crucial part of its mission to increase the literary and cultural visibility of every locale of its presence.

This, in particular, is true with regards to the SLS-Montreal program, which is quickly establishing itself as one of the most important and cultural events in this beautiful, free-wheeling, idiosyncratic, benign, endlessly fascinating and unique city. Each summer, in June, SLS brings the most prominent writers from North America, Europe and Africa and emerging writers from all walks of life together with their local counterparts for a richly variegated array of literary and cultural offerings. Past faculty members of the SLS programs include Poet Laureates of the US, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award — such luminaries as, for instance:

Aimee Bender     Christian Bok     Amy Bloom     George Elliot Clarke     Billy Collins     Robert Coover     Robert Creeley

Toi Derricotte     Stephen Dobyns     Cornelius Eady     Dave Eggers     Stephen Elliot     Tibor Fisher     Mary Gaitskill

Vivian Gornick     Saskia Hamilton     Robert Hass     Steve Heighton     Brenda Hillman     Edward Hirsch     Tony Hoagland

Fanny Howe     Denis Johnson     Wayne Johnston     Joe Kertes     Sam Lipsyte     Phillip Lopate     Glyn Maxwell

William Meredith     Erin Moure     Padgett Powell     Francine Prose     Claudia Rankine     Dawn Raffel     George Saunders

Lynne Shareon Schwartz     Rebecca Seiferle     Gary Shteyngart     Johanna Skibsrud     Christopher Sorrentino

Anthony Swofford     Lynne Tillman     William T. Vollman     Binyavanga Wainaina     Mac Wellman     C.K. Williams

SLS programs draw participants from every corner of the US and Canada – 120 people in all in 2011. Over its history, SLS has brought well over 1200 emerging writers to Russia, Kenya, Lithuania, and Montreal. Since SLS is not rigidly affiliated with any university and is the largest independent international literary program in the world – although it enjoys strong cooperative ties with Concordia University in Montreal, which serves as the program’s academic base of operations — it draws a much wider range of participants than other conferences do.

The median age of its participants is 35, and SLS always recruits a significant number of writers over the age of 50. 70% of SLS participants are women. SLS also always brings together a number of the most talented young local writers from Canada, Kenya, and Lithuania, to work with their peers from abroad, as well as the internationally renowned authors working in a language other than English.

There are many uniquely distinct features to SLS. SLS enjoys its place as the foremost, most innovative program of its kind, because it profoundly affects everyone who participates. Many of its participants over the years have cited the SLS programs as a life-chance experience, and different from any other of its kind. As Ann Giesken-Kel said:

“I have attended several writing conferences, and they were all very interesting and helpful. Yet, SLS was so much more than that. Most conferences pride themselves on having approachable faculty, but yours act as mentors and friends. How pleasant it was to have lunch with an accomplished writer. Even more commendable was that SLS faculty were present and politely attentive for hours of student readings. I have not experienced anything close to this level of involvement at other conferences.”

And Casey Kait, a 2007 SLS-Russia alum, explained:

“The time I spent in Russia gave me an invaluably fresh perspective on what it is I’m trying to do with my work, as well as with my life. I’d like to thank you for creating this incredible program. I could never have anticipated the impact it would have on me.”

Or as Francisco Fermin Cantolan, another alum, put it:

“I truly will remember SLS as one of the greatest moments in my life.”