COLUMN: Edge-of-your-seat panel discussions seek clues to creativity

Festival Tales with Anne DeGrace

There’s a mystery afoot.

Actually, there are several, and the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival aims to unravel them in three Saturday panel discussions on July 14 at the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce in the restored CPR building at 91 Baker Street.

No, it’s not 221B Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes’s famous abode) but perhaps we can pretend when we kick off the day with the Murder at the Festival panel at 9 a.m.

Crime writers Judy Toews, Rachel Greenaway, and Roz Nay of Nelson, along with Dave Butler of Cranbrook, will come together to come clean in a hardboiled panel moderated by Nelson mystery novelist Deryn Collier.

When it comes to whodunits, it’s a mystery to me how they done it—er, do it. That’s a question this panel will tackle, and I’ll wager that if we’re not all muttering “Elementary, my dear Watson” by the end, we’ll have gained new appreciation for the genre and its craft.

You might call it more of a “Cozy” mystery when the Creative Couples panel at 10:45 cracks the case of another conundrum: is it a matter of creative chaos when there are two working artists in the house?

Married couple and award-winning authors Esi Edygan and Steven Price will do their best to untangle the literary marriage knot alongside a local cultural couple, author Antonia Banyard and musician Clinton Swanson.

Writer-in-residence Susan Musgrave will also take part in the discussion. Her husband, convicted bank robber and accomplished writer Stephen Reid, sadly passed away last month in hospital on Haida Gwaii. Susan and Stephen were married in 1986 after he sent her his first manuscript from prison.

The Creative Couples panel is moderated by author Tom Wayman, whose personal experience in these matters remains a mystery.

Risk and Resilience, our final panel at 2pm, offers a window into the financial and logistical cliffhangers that can be synonymous with an artistic life. How to do what you love and keep the hounds (of the Baskervilles or elsewhere) at bay?

For this panel we’ve brought together this year’s Cultural Ambassador for dance Slava Doval, award-winning poet Jordan Mounteer, multi-disciplinary artist and cultural mover-and-shaker Brian Kalbfleisch, and visual artist and Executive Director for the Oxygen Art Centre Genevieve Robertson. Poet Rayya Liebich moderates this ongoing investigation.

At the outset of this column I was mystified as to how to do descriptive justice to our panelists, whose insightful sleuthing is set to reveal all. The only way to really solve that puzzle is at emlfestival.com, where you can read the bios, get the schedule, and buy your tickets. After all, you can’t decide what to attend without all the clues—and yet I have the perfect solution: don’t miss any of it.

The Fest begins with Susan Musgrave’s talk on the writing craft at the Nelson Library on Thursday July 12 at 7pm ($5 donation requested), continues with a Literary Craft Crawl through three local breweries featuring emerging writers on Friday afternoon (free of charge), and lands at the Hume Hotel for NBC beer pairings with local authors at the 100-Mile Opening Gala (tickets at emlfestival.com).

After the Saturday panels you can gather further evidence of brilliance at the Saturday Night Live! event at the Hume with Esi Edyugan, Steven Price, and Susan Musgrave. Globe and Mail Western Arts Correspondent Marsha Lederman will interview them live, on stage, after they read from their work.

Will your EMLF weekend culminate in a new appreciation for the literary craft, leaving you astonished, amazed, and inspired? I like to think that the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival has written the book on just that—chapter and verse.

Festival Tales is a five-part column series. For Festival information and tickets go to www.emlfestival.com.

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