COLUMN: Inquiring minds want to know

Festival Tales with Anne DeGrace

The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival runs July 12 to 15 at various venues around Nelson.

At the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival in Nelson we get to hear, first-hand, the written words of our invited authors in all their brilliance. But what makes the writer tick? We all want to know, but we don’t always know the questions to ask. And so we’ve asked an expert.

Marsha Lederman, Globe and Mail western arts correspondent, regularly interviews, with trademark curiosity and insight, all kinds of artists. And so it stood to reason, we figured, that a Marsha Lederman interview of our Saturday Night Live! authors might offer just the right kind of insight for our curious minds.

Last year, Marsha interviewed authors Joy Kogawa, Lee Maracle, and Fred Stenson on stage and we liked her so much we asked her back this year. She’ll interview Susan Musgrave, Esi Edyugan, and Steven Price on stage at the Hume Hotel this Saturday night, where they’ll read from their work, she’ll ask them intelligent, insightful questions — and we’ll learn what makes them tick.

But what makes Marsha Lederman tick? It’s hard to find out when she’s asking all the questions. And so we asked our emcee for the 100-Mile-Opening Gala on Friday night, Nelson city councillor and naturally curious person Anna Purcell, to interview the interviewer live on stage. How does she come up with all those insightful questions? Which were her most exciting interviews? Does she ever feel intimidated? Inspired? Astonished?

What curious person wouldn’t love the opportunity to learn about fascinating people real and imagined, which is really what the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival is all about. Writing, after all, begins with “what if?” and so it follows that EMLF is truly a celebration of creative inquiry.

We’re in good company when it comes to creative inquiry of the literary sort. Across Canada, Lit Fests are thriving, with more than 60 throughout the year and a dozen across the country this summer alone.

In theory, you could pack your curiosity, hit the road, and bask in literary brilliance from the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts to Writers at Woody Point, Newfoundland and be back in time for fall. In between there’s the Saskatchewan Festival of Words, Gatherings First Nations Literary Festival in Ontario, and Read By The Sea in Nova Scotia to name just a few.

Included is our own Elephant Mountain Literary Festival July 12 to 15, which also made the Top Ten Best Literary Festivals in Canada list in a 2016 Toronto Star article. “Arguably one of the most beautiful lit fest locales going,” said the writer, and we can’t argue with that.

I won’t say it hasn’t been a rocky year. News of the death of Stephen Reid, a remarkable individual, fine writer, and one half of a literary couple in a festival built around that theme, was tremendously sad. And yet Susan Musgrave surprised and humbled us with her willingness to come to Nelson, work one-on-one with 12 local writers, and read from her work, despite her personal loss.

Funding can be fickle, and this year that road was bumpy as well. But thanks to some last-minute measures of generosity we’re going to be OK (please go to emlfestival.com for our list of supporters). Thanks are due, also to my co-committee members and our hard-working executive director for the optimism and vision that keeps us going.

So what makes us tick?

Curiosity, of course. Enthusiasm. Appreciation for artistic response to this beautiful, difficult world, and the opportunities we enjoy to discuss, deeply, the things that matter and share laughter about the things that don’t.

It’s the knowledge that we can celebrate words together with a room full of enthusiastic, thoughtful, inquisitive people on a warm summer weekend, and that the experience will sustain us through the winter months until we can do it again.

See you at the Fest.

This is the final column in the five-part Festival Tales series, with many thanks to the Arrow Lakes News. For festival information and tickets go to www.emlfestival.com.

 

Globe and Mail Western Arts Correspondent Marsha Lederman will interview Esi Edyugan, Steven Price, and Susan Musgrave on Stage at the Saturday Night Live! event at the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, July 12 – 15 in Nelson. Photo submitted

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