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Brett was born in Vancouver. He studied literature at Simon Fraser University. For a number of years he lived in White Rock and became involved in civic politics in addition to his literary and publishing work. In the late 1980's, he moved to Salt Spring Island and settled there. He began writing at the age of 17 and has since published poetry, novels and short stories. In the early 1970's, he co-founded the Blackfish Press with Allan Safarik. This press brought out trade and limited edition art production books. Since leaving Blackfish Press in 1978, Brett continued this work in his own White Rhino Press. In addition, he has worked as a journalist/columnist and impresario, organizing poetry readings and events from White Rock and later Salt Spring Island, as well as working in the Writers in Electronic Residence (WIER) program. He has also been active in writer's politics and involved in controversy as a member of PEN, the Federation of B.C. Writers, the League of Canadian Poets and the Writers' Union of Canada (TWUC). His correspondence is full of drafts of his own and his correspondents' writing. During his career as a writer he has collaborated and interacted with other writers, many of whom became close friends. Most recently, Margaret Atwood has been helping Brett to edit a 400 page novel about an environmental terrorist.