The 2019 EMLF Planning Committee, from left: Marty Sutmoller, Toni Banyard, Robyn Lamb, Rayya Liebich, Verna Relkoff, Judy Toews. Not pictured: Leesa Dean, Anne DeGrace, Tom Wayman. Photo submitted

COLUMN: Let the Festival begin!

The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival runs this weekend, July 11 to 14

by Anne DeGrace

For every event, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival (this weekend, July 11 – 14!) is no exception.

On the EMLF planning committee, a dedicated group of volunteers and a ridiculously busy, part-time, new Executive Director have, for nearly a year, galloped through an evolution of great ideas and rethinks, plans and counterplans, light bulb moments, full stops, about-faces, some occasional tooth-gnashing, quite a bit of laughter, and a vast amount of goodwill. Phew! And now, here we are.

Here is what “here” looks like:

Five talented and accomplished writers will be in with us for four days to wow us with their words on stage, offer their insights on panel discussions and public talks, and impart some of their creative skills and secrets to students of the craft.

These literary luminaries are: our 2019 writer-in-residence, novelist, essayist and poet Marilyn Bowering; novelist and screenwriter Ian Weir; and mystery and crime-writers J.G. (Judy) Toews, Iona Whishaw, and William Deverell. Between them they have racked up more than a dozen prestigious awards and written a combined total of 51 books that have enthralled thousands and thousands of readers.

“Here” is also the introduction of music to the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, with two gifted, award-winning musicians. Local R&B/soul artist Holly Hyatt performs at Wine & Crime, and internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Stephen Fearing is one of our three headliners at our Saturday Night Live! event, joining Marilyn Bowering and Ian Weir.

We’ve introduced new learning opportunities with two special workshops: Ian Weir’s “Write for the Screen”, and Stephen Fearing’s two-part session on the art of crafting lyrics, a new aspect of wordsmithing we’re excited to explore at EMLF. These join the popular Holley Rubinsky Memorial Blue Pencil Sessions, this year featuring one-on-one consultations with Marilyn Bowering.

We peopled our Saturday panels with artists and educators from all artistic disciplines along with our invited guests, ensuring great dialogue and new ideas to take home. We included not one but two author talks, one by Marilyn Bowering on Thursday evening and one by William Deverell on Saturday afternoon.

At the time of writing there were still some tickets left for Friday and Saturday night events and the Saturday panel discussions. There are also three non-ticketed events: the Marilyn Bowering talk tonight (July 11) at the Library at 7:30, the Stephen Fearing workshop students’ performance at Finley’s on Saturday at 4pm, and the no-host brunch at Marzano on Sunday at noon.

After the never-a-dull-moment process of putting all that together, it’s pretty darned nice to be “here”, and we’re excited to welcome these talented individuals to our town. The wine has been ordered, ready to be paired with our crime-writing trio; panel moderators have their questions ready to go; and around the Kootenays, workshop and Blue Pencil participants are warming up their minds and their laptops. Although there’s always a last-minute something-or-other, we’re ready to roll!

We’ve had wonderful support from the community, local and provincial governments, and sponsors who share the love. You can read about them on our web page, and we’ll tell you about them at Festival events so you can join us in offering a round of applause.

I feel fortunate to have spent the last several months with this group of idea-generators, problem-solvers, and belly-laughers, and with our Executive Director, Robyn Lamb, who has done a stellar job of navigating through it all. You’ll meet us at the festival, of course, where you’ll also meet our fabulous on-site volunteers, every one essential to the weekend we are all about to enjoy.

And so we are here—which means we’ll see you there. We hope you have an unforgettable time at the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival.

Festival Tales is a five-part series leading up to the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, which runs July 11 – 14 in Nelson. Full schedule and ticket information can be found at

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