Festival Tales: From both sides now

Anne DeGrace on creativity at the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival.

It’s not easy to find information about Marsha Lederman. That’s because, as the Globe and Mail’s Western Arts Correspondent, she’s always on the other side of the keyboard: writing about books and publishing, as well as film, TV, visual art, theatre, dance, and whatever’s moving and shaking in culture from the Prairies to the Pacific.

Now, Lederman is coming to Elephant Mountain Literary Festival. She’ll interview our guest authors on stage at the Saturday Night Live! event at the Hume Hotel on Saturday, July 8 at 7:30 p.m.

That’s where festival-goers will hear Joy Kogawa — known for her novel Obasan — read from her new book, Gently to Nagasaki. EMLF writer-in-residence Fred Stenson will read from his newest novel Who By Fire, in his oh-so-engaging manner. And award-winning First Nations author Lee Maracle will read from her substantial oeuvre, which includes seven books of fiction, three non-fiction books, a poetry collection, short stories and essays.

And then, the audience gets the inside look into what makes all that creativity shine when Lederman, whose past journalistic stints include National Arts Reporter for CBC Radio, asks the probing questions. Prepare to be fascinated.

But for those who, like me, also want to know about the woman behind those fabulous articles and interviews, EMLF offers that opportunity, too: Lederman sits on the Saturday panel discussion “Finishing: What to Do, and How?” at 2 p.m. This is where curious culture-consumers can find out what a famous reviewer thinks about what makes a creative work finished — and how do we know when it is.

This year’s panel discussions all look at aspects of creativity, and not just from different sides of the keyboard. Lederman is joined by Slocan Valley potter Robin DuPont, Kogawa, and artist and curator Deb Thompson.

All panels, which are ticketed separately at $10 each, take place at Selkirk College’s Kootenay Studio Arts, Room 310, located at 606 Victoria St.

I always learn a lot from the Saturday panels — an annual event since EMLF’s inception — with food for thought that has me chewing for days. By including people from other artistic disciplines, discussions are thoughtful, lively, and illuminating.

The first panel, “Gatekeepers or Collaborators?” at 9 a.m., looks at the creative aspects of the editor’s role, including the encouraging and cajoling of writers to be the best they can be. On the panel is Micheline Maylor, Calgary’s poet laureate and co-founder of the Freefall Literary Society; she’s also poetry editor at Frontenac House. She’s joined by former Nelson Star editor Greg Nesteroff (now at Juice FM) and Articulate arts magazine editor Margaret Tessman, along with Stenson.

Following that panel is “Rituals, Attitudes, and the Role of Fear in Creativity” at 11 a.m., featuring Maylor, architect and performance artist Thomas Loh, Maracle, and founding director of Kootenay School of the Arts and long-time ceramics teacher David Lawson.

There are so many sides to creativity, from keyboard to microphone to brush and canvas, aperture to footlights to musical scores. We’re always on the other side of something, and we’re always looking for the inside scoop.

That’s where a journalist like Lederman comes in, to shine a light on our creative luminaries.

And that’s where Elephant Mountain Literary festival comes in, to bring those luminaries into Nelson’s spotlight, the better to make us all shine.

This is the last in the EMLF “Festival Tales” series. As I write there’s a great scurrying going on in the background, legions of literature-lovers working to get all the pieces in place by the first event on Thursday, July 6. See you there.

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 www.emlfestival.com.


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