Judy Toews (left, shown here on a 2018 panel) moderates “Who’s Afraid of the Dark? The Power of Dark Stories,” one of the panel discussions on Saturday, July 13 at Elephant Mountain Literary Festival. Photo submitted

Plenty to savour at Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s panel discussions

Here’s what’s happening July 13

By Anne DeGrace

Not content with merely providing food for thought, the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival is rolling out a feast. On Saturday, July 13, EMLF serves up three hearty panel discussions, plus a bonus author talk.

The popular smorgasbord of Saturday panels promises to be as thoughtful, informed, occasionally fiery, often funny, and always engaging as ever. All take place in the Hume Room at the Hume Hotel. Here’s what you’ll find on the menu for 2019.

In a fundamental question of nature vs. nurture, the first panel at 9 a.m. asks: “Can Creativity be Taught?” Here, the panelists are artists and educators who will discuss innate talent vs. mastery of craft — and they’re well qualified for the job!

EMLF writer-in-residence Marilyn Bowering has taught creative writing in university settings for decades and held writer-in-residence positions internationally — never mind penning 22 books herself — so she knows a thing or two about creativity. Ditto Andrew Chesham, associate director of the creative writing program at SFU Continuing Studies; Allison Girvan, who inspires vocal excellence through the award-winning Corazon Youth Choir and other ensembles; and Natasha Smith, who has taught artmaking and printmaking in public schools and at Oxygen Art Centre. Creative folks all, but one has to ask: were they born that way?

The second panel at 10:45 is entitled “State of the Art: Trends and Transformations in Artistic Disciplines.” There’s no question that creative enterprise has had quite the shake-up in the face of relatively recent game-changing shifts in how culture is experienced and consumed. And yet the question remains: what changes have affected the art you love, or love to produce? Where do things stand today?

Weighing in are filmmaker Amy Bohigian, visual artist and Touchstones curator Arin Fay, singer-songwriter Stephen Fearing, and former Poet Laureate of Canada Fred Wah for a multi-disciplinary look at the present state of affairs.

At 1:15 p.m. legendary crime-writer William Deverell offers a talk about just what goes into creating those un-put-downable mysteries. “Guilty as Charged” promises to be a fascinating exposé on the craft of the whodunit. He’ll be introduced by colleague-of-the-genre Iona Whishaw.

We take on the dark side at 2:45 with our final panel, “Who’s Afraid of the Dark? The Power of Dark Stories.” Our panelists have all embraced weighty subjects through their work, and have told important stories and reached people in creative ways.

Stephanie Fischer is executive director of the Capitol Theatre. She hasn’t shied away from Truth and Reconciliation programming, sometimes trading full houses for meaningful dialogue. Marya Follinsbee may wear a clown nose on occasion, but with her activist theatre roots she’s taken on a number of social justice subjects. Visual artist Deb Thompson has explored, through her paintings, themes of the underworld, and of death as a contrast to life. And Ian Weir’s novels investigate the edgy underbelly of human nature with colour, insight, and a dose of humour. Judy Toews, responsible for at least one literary murder, moderates this one.

As if that’s not satiating enough, after the panel discussions you can amble down the street to Finley’s for a cold brew, and — starting at 4 p.m. — performances by students of Stephen Fearing’s songwriting workshop. Then it’s back to the Hume for Saturday Night Live! at 7:30, where you can enjoy Bowering, Weir, and Fearing live on stage to wrap-up another unforgettable day 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 to 14 in Nelson. Full schedule and ticket information can be found at emlfestival.com.

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