Dawn Pemberton gives a workshop on storytelling through song at this year’s Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, and then performs on stage at the Capitol Theatre. Photo: Submitted

Dawn Pemberton gives a workshop on storytelling through song at this year’s Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, and then performs on stage at the Capitol Theatre. Photo: Submitted

FESTIVAL TALES: Cure for a bloody business (yes: there’s a workshop for that)

Elephant Mountain Literary Festival has a workshop for every writer

by Anne DeGrace

Writers don’t emerge fully formed from the womb. As Ernest Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Sure, you might be born with a propensity to observe and record; you might have good eye-hand co-ordination or a lovely singing voice. But anyone who takes a creative idea to fruition knows that work is involved — and that a little guidance goes a long way.

Enter Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s workshop series. The festival, which runs June 23 to 26 in Nelson, sees artistic development as key to nurturing the next batch of writers and others to beguile us down the road. Besides, it’s a bloody business, this art thing: we need all the help we can get.

Three small-group workshops offer skills-honing (if not blood-staunching) opportunities.

Musician-in-Residence Dawn Pemberton offers Sing me a Story, a two-part workshop on the art of crafting lyrics. Vancouver’s queen of soul is a versatile singer-songwriter who knows how to spin a tale through song. Dawn’s childhood home was steeped in music, a collaborative environment that inspired her to want to help others reach their dreams — or at least tackle a project relatively bloodlessly, and with a good dose of confidence-building fun.

The setting for this workshop can’t be beat: a lovely Blewett acreage with a century-old barn that has seen some unforgettable house concerts. Spend the morning of Thursday, June 23, learning the fine points, then come back Friday to workshop your new stuff with the group.

Dawn also performs a soul concert at the Capitol Theatre on Sunday, June 26 at 7:30 p.m., with a panel discussion on storytelling to follow (tickets at capitoltheatre.ca).

Long-time CBC Radio journalist Bob Keating retired from the Mother Corp. to throw himself into his other passion: podcasting. And he has! He’s travelled from sea-to-sea creating episodes for The Ocean Project, and produced The Headwaters, a project of Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine and the Columbia Basin Trust.

He captivated listeners with weird and wonderful tales in Kootenay Time (remember the Bear Dude?). And he knows that, with a million-plus podcasts hitting the airwaves each year on this continent, it takes creative craftiness to be heard. That’s where a Bob Keating podcast workshop is a smart move to get started.

Bob’s two-part (June 23 and 24, 9 a.m. to noon) workshop, Podcast Planet, will help students conceive, write, and record a show. This workshop has an early registration deadline of June 16.

Stories Out Loud is a workshop offered by “rabble-rouser and fancy-talker” performance artist Magpie Ulysses. It’s about oral storytelling — in any form — as it’s meant to be: wholly engaging. Magpie knows how to get your attention: a veteran of the poetry slam community in Canada, she has taken the podium with two national champion Vancouver poetry slam teams. She’ll teach storytellers and poets how to choose stories, plan delivery, and make audiences sit up and listen. This three-hour hands-on workshop happens Saturday morning, June 25.

Magpie takes the stage herself at Words and Wine: A Storytelling Speakeasy on Friday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Prestige Lakeside Resort, where she’ll be joined by actor-comedian Lucas Myers and performance poet Ellen Burt.

Courageous students and mentees can strut their stuff on the Happy Hour stage at the Royal Hotel on Saturday, June 25 at 4 p.m. Admission is free, the audience is kind, and it’s a lovely way to spend a summer afternoon.

The truth is out: bloodletting is not actually a requirement of creative enterprise. Just gather some indispensable tips, roll up your sleeves, and get at ’er.

EMLF features author readings, panel discussions, and more. See www.emlfestival.com for bios of presenters, mentors, and instructors, plus schedule and tickets. Workshop numbers are limited and early registration is encouraged (and sometimes required). Subsidies are available.