Filmmaker Cheryl Foggo on the set of John Ware Reclaimed near Millarville, Alta. Foggo will give the keynote address at the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival on July 7. Photo: Bonnie Thompson

Filmmaker Cheryl Foggo on the set of John Ware Reclaimed near Millarville, Alta. Foggo will give the keynote address at the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival on July 7. Photo: Bonnie Thompson

COLUMN: Elephant Mountain Literary Festival takes on Writing in a Dangerous Time

Anne DeGrace on the theme of this year’s festival

by Anne DeGrace

Last week 167 Canadian writers penned an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau requesting tooth, rather than lip service, in Bill C-12, the Climate Accountability Act.

“As writers, we know the power of words to unlock imagination and creativity. What gets enacted now will affect the future for generations. We also know that it is impossible to get everything right in a first draft,” the letter says.

Strongly suggested revisions followed.

In a world of swords the pen might look harmless, but it has clout. For nearly 100 years Pen International has defended writers who are persecuted, imprisoned and exiled for their words; writing can be a dangerous business. The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s theme for this, our 10th anniversary year, is Writing in a Dangerous Time.

The festival, which runs July 7 to 11, promises merriment as well: writers know how to laugh in the face of danger. It is 100 per cent online in this pandemic time because we’re not into endangering others. Events are by donation and accessible anywhere (fees apply to workshops).

The festival kicks off with a keynote address on Wednesday, July 7 at 7 p.m. by wordsmith Cheryl Foggo on the theme of Writing in a Dangerous Time. The talk is co-sponsored by the Nelson Public Library.

An acclaimed author, filmmaker, and playwright, Cheryl is descended from Black Oklahomans who settled on the Prairies in 1910. Her research into the lives of Black pioneers — a history absent from most curricula — has led her to create plays, films, and books, including Pourin’ Down Rain: A Black Woman Claims Her Place in the Canadian West, which chronicles five generations of her family. She’s written books for teens and kids portraying Black and mixed-race childhoods with positivity.

If Cheryl’s accolades are any indication, her words in their many creative forms have had impact. She has won multiple awards for screen and stage, among them for her film and her play about John Ware, an influential Black Albertan cowboy and rancher in the late 1800s. She recently served on the advisory board for Black on the Prairies, a multi-platform archive and resource initiated and curated by journalist Omayra Issa and CBC Radio host Ify Chiwetelu, now available on the CBC website.

It’s an impressive career that speaks to courage: courage to write about the things that matter, and to shine a light on things otherwise buried. I asked Cheryl for a teaser on her keynote address, and she offered this:

“You can’t change anything if you don’t know everything.”

In a world where we can feel increasingly powerless, it’s good to be reminded that knowledge is power — the power to change.

The list of Canadian writers who took up the keyboard for climate action include several who were a part of EMLF during its first 10 years: Camilla Gibb, John Vaillant (returning this year!), Angie Abdou, Briony Penn, Caroline Adderson, J.B. McKinnon, Micheline Maylor, and William Deverell. EMLF aims to showcase Canadian authors for years to come — with all their heart and humour, courage and fine words.

“As writers we often write into the heart of discomfort. We can chronicle a world in flames. Or tell a story of what might have happened if we had only come together. Stories to break the heart,” the letter says. “But these aren’t the stories we want to tell.”

What are the stories we want to tell, and what are the stories we must? Join us to experience all of the stories: the heartbreaking, the hopeful, and the humorous at the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival.

EMLF 2021 has a chock-full schedule of talks and readings by fascinating writers, panel discussions, and workshops. Follow this weekly column leading up to the Fest and go to for all the details.

Just Posted

Adrian Moyls is the Selkirk College Class of 2021 valedictorian and graduate of the School of Health and Human Services. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College valedictorian proves mettle in accomplishment

Adrian Moyls is a graduate of the School of Health and Human Services

A report shows nine West Kootenay communities are have more low-income persons than the provincial average. File photo
Study casts new light on poverty in the West Kootenay

Nine communities in region have more low-income residents than provincial average

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

Author John Vaillant joins Lisa Moore and Fred Wah for Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s Alumni Reading on Friday, July 9. All three authors were featured at the inaugural festival in 2012. Photo: Submitted
FESTIVAL TALES: When 2012 meets 2021

The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival will include authors from the event’s inaugural year

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Bella Bella is on B.C.’s Central Coast, accessible only by air and ocean. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
B.C. provides $22 million for Heiltsuk development on Central Coast

Elders care home project, tourism, lumber mill supported

Most Read