Leesa Dean is one of four local writers to be toasted at Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s 100-Mile Opening Gala. Photo submitted

EMLF opening gala to toast authors

Raise a glass to next month’s Elephant Mountain Literary Festival authors

Anne DeGrace

Festival Tales is a five-part series leading up to the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, which runs July 6 to 9 in Nelson. Full schedule and ticket information can be found at emlfestival.com

“A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou”

They are perhaps the best-known words from 11th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam’s famous collection, borrowed countless times over the centuries. I can’t resist either: they’re perfect for the 100-Mile Opening Gala at Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, where there will be wine, food, verse — and you, I hope.

The 100-Mile Opening Gala on July 7, 7:30 p.m. at the Hume Hotel is the continuation of a festival tradition. It’s where we celebrate our own fabulous wordsmiths and raise a glass — and a glass, and a glass — to good writing, good wine, and each other.

Tradition dictates that local wines be paired with local authors, so we can appreciate the nose of the grape, say, alongside the nose of the writer. We can discuss the crisp palate of a chardonnay alongside a crisp turn of phrase. We can sample wines with words, and we can have a whole lot of fun doing it.

So who are these authors?

There’s Eileen Delehanty Pearkes, whose book A River Captured: the Columbia River Treaty and Catastrophic Change was released last fall. Eileen’s been writing about the land she loves for a long time, including The Geography of Memory: Recovering Stories of a Landscape’s First People, as well as the people she loves: The Glass Seed: the Fragile Beauty of Heart, Mind and Memory, about her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s. She’s passionate and opinionated she’s not afraid to tell you — over a glass of Pinot, if it comes to that.

Emily Nilsen’s first book of poetry, Otolith, was published in spring 2017 by Goose Lane Editions. Described as carrying “the odours of salmon rivers and forests of fir; salal growing in the fog-bound mountain slopes,” a description worth of Omar Khayyam himself, her words should pair beautifully with one of the earthier vintages. Emily’s poems have appeared in PRISM, Lake, and The Goose, in the chapbook Place, No Manual.

Leesa Dean teaches creative writing at Selkirk College, where she inspires students to be the best they can be. She’s been inspiring the rest of us for some time with fiction published in the literary journals Matrix, Lemon Hound, and The Headlight Anthology, among others. She’s been a finalist for awards such as the Irving Layton Award, the Litpop Award, and now for the Trillium Award for her debut short story collection, Waiting for the Cyclone, a truly toastable achievement.

Jane Byers is the author of two poetry collections, Steeling Effects (2014) and Acquired Community (2016), both published by Caitlin Press. She writes about human resilience, lesbian and gay issues, sexism, local geography, and occasionally her kids (when they let her). Her work has been featured in journals and anthologies, including Best Canadian Poetry 2014, which is the year she won the Richard Carver Award for Emerging Writers. This year’s Richard Carver Award will be presented at the opening gala.

So what are these wines?

We feature four fabulous tasters from this neck of the woods: a Baillie-Grohman Pinot Noir, Skimmerhorn Marechal Foch, and from SOAHC Estate Wines in aptly-named Fruitvale, a beautiful Chardonnay and a Reisling replete with white flowers, lime pith and cucumber scents — which leaves our expert wine-pairers with something of a challenge, because every one of these authors is decidedly pithy.

Not a drinker? There’s a non-alcoholic punch as well as some lovely food to go with all those toasty words in an evening that would warm a Persian poet’s heart.

Yours, too.

Anne DeGrace is the adult services co-ordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to nelsonlibrary.ca.