Spoken word poet Eija Loponen-Stephenson says her interests include “bread

COLUMN: Star power — right here and everywhere

Anne DeGrace on the delights of the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, coming up soon.

I have a button that says “Read Local.” A friend spied it and laughed, “Well, duh.” Meaning, of course we read local. Why wouldn’t we, given the talent we have here? And why wouldn’t we have such talent, inspired as it is by this gorgeous locality?

Elephant Mountain Literary Festival — your local readers’ and writers’ festival — celebrates the local in a number of ways.

We’ll celebrate local authors, presenters, and storytellers at our 100-Mile Gala on Friday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Adventure Hotel. It’s a perennial festival favourite full of laughter and libations, in which we pair Creston wines with local authors. Who will be the robust, full-bodied merlot with the cherry accents? Who will be the sharp, spicy Pinot Gris with hints of kumquat?

Up for pairing is Rose (do I hear rosé?) Nielsen, a singer/songwriter and recent creative writing MFA grad whose original song Check Him Out (“my baby, he reads books!”) was among the creative wonders that made me fall in love with Nelson back in the day. She’ll read from two poems due to be published this year in a poetry anthology, one more publishing credit to Rose’s growing list.

You’ll know Will Johnson from the pages of this newspaper, where he reports on all things local and writes editorials about the place he now calls home. I was lucky enough to hear him read from his short story when it placed in this year’s Kootenay Literary Competition. Will’s stories have appeared in literary journals across Canada; at the gala, he’ll read from his current manuscript.

Eija Loponen-Stephenson is a star of local poetry slams and a repeat presenter at Tiny Lights Festival in Ymir. This spoken word poet has been described as “bitter and darling, like dollar store glitter and candy floss caught in an electric fan.” She promises “bitter whimsy, some yelling, and lipstick.” Because Eija is underage, we may not be able to pair her with a wine. It’s just possible that Eija’s poetry defies pairing, anyway.

I asked storyteller Ray Stothers for a bio, and he sent me — can you guess? — a story. It began with “once upon a time” and went on: “[Ray] started his training in Economics at the University of British Columbia where he began to discover the difference between a good story and an outright lie.” What sort of stories will Ray tell us? And what shall we pair him with? There’s only one way to find out.

In addition to our four main presenters, during which we’ll raise a glass (and a glass and a glass and a glass), we’ll have the winner of the Richard Carver Award for Emerging Writers, lovely things to nibble on, ample time for schmoozing, and all of it MC’d by the talented, entertaining, mistress-of-the-unexpected Kristene Perron.

Celebrating the local continues with a pre-festival course called Every Where: A Writing Project Workshop led by EMLF’s first Writer-in-Residence, former Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah.

Fred has published more than 20 books of poetry and prose. He’s won the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry and the Howard O’Hagan Award for short fiction for his literary memoir The Diamond Grill, about his Nelson childhood. He’s currently working on a place-based project about the Columbia River, which puts him in the perfect place to mentor others.

Co-sponsored with Oxygen Art Centre, Every Where is for any writer with a landscape-oriented writing project looking for ways to develop it. The workshop runs Monday, July 6 to Thursday, July 9 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For info and registration visit your local festival url: emlfestival.com.

Fred will present his work at the Nelson Library on Thursday, July 2 at 7 p.m. in a free event called “The Lure of the Local.” Which is, really, what the festival — and this column — is all about.

Elephant Mountain Literary Festival runs July 10 to 12 in Nelson. Future columns will cover Saturday panels and profile special guests Kate Pullinger, Bob Bossin, and Marina Endicott. For information and tickets go to emlfestival.com.

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