Kaslo storyteller Shayna Jones helps Elephant Mountain Literary Festival celebrate local on July 8. Photo: Louis Bockner

Kaslo storyteller Shayna Jones helps Elephant Mountain Literary Festival celebrate local on July 8. Photo: Louis Bockner

FESTIVAL TALES: Celebrating local, with pith and plonk

Anne DeGrace on the writers and wines of this year’s Elephant Mountain Literary Festival

by Anne DeGrace

Poet Jane Byers goes very well with a Pinot Noir; Eileen Delehanty Pearkes is perfect with a light chardonnay, crisp on the palate with just a bit of bite. Donna Macdonald is best celebrated with a glass of Blanc de Noirs Rosé. And crime writer Roz Nay? Why, Diabolica Red, of course.

The Elephant Mountain Literary Festival has been pairing B.C. wines with local writers nearly every year since the festival began a decade ago. The pairing is described — the nuance of the grape, the nose of the author — the audience raises a glass, and the reading begins.

So much fun.

Celebrating Local, as we call this event, will be a little different this year, being online and all. We will have two B.C. wines—a white, a red; we’ll let you know what they are and invite you to pick up a bottle of your favourite (or both) and sip along. We’ll raise a glass to local flavour — and then we’ll introduce you to some. The event, which takes place Thursday, July 8 at 7 p.m. on your local computer screen, is free (donations welcome), with registration at emlfestival.com.

Here’s who’s helping us Celebrate Local this year:

We know Pat Henman as an actress and singer who has wowed us on stage — and then, last year, she wowed us with words when her memoir Beyond the Legal Limit: Surviving a Collision with a Drunk Driver was released by Caitlin Press. What set Pat on her path to publishing was the devastating event the book describes. Within the pain and grief of that were silver linings: discoveries of courage and love, and in this book, which is a gift to all of us.

When I first saw Kaslo storyteller Shayna Jones she had her young audience mesmerized; I can hardly wait to hear her storytelling for adults. Shayna is an award-winning professional performance artist specializing in the traditional African Storytelling, and she has performed for audiences across Canada. “Everything I do … starts from a place of heart” she told Articulate Magazine, where she is the cover artist for the spring/summer edition.

Rayya Liebich is a Canadian poet of Lebanese and Polish descent, and a member of the EMLF planning committee. She won the Geneva Literary Award and the Golden Grassroots Chapbook Award, both in 2015. At EMLF 2019 she was presented with the Richard Carver Award for Emerging Writers, where she read to a riveted audience from her then-forthcoming book Min Hayati, released this month by Inanna Publications.

You might know performance poet Zaynab Mohammed from Baker Street, where she occasionally busks with a vintage typewriter. You might also know Zaynab from the collaborative performance piece and film (with Shayna Jones, Xochilt Ramirez, Jesse Piniero, and Carlo Alcos) called “Beneath the Surface” created for Touchstones Museum’s Diefenbunker. If you don’t yet know this gifted wordsmith, we are thrilled to introduce you.

Anna Purcell, who also recently joined the EMLF committee, emcees the evening. We love Anna, who always brings fine words, heart, and not a little humour to this evening, which makes sense: Anna, a former city councillor and a Nelson mover-and-shaker, could write the book on celebrating local. How perfect is that?

It’s all about story, in all its forms — and so, a toast!

To prose and plonk, with all their pith and pluck. To wines and words, full-bodied or light on the palate. To our glasses-half-full (or more!) with hints of citrus, nuance of narrative, end notes of dark cherry and plum, all the fruits of inspiration, and a long and satisfying finish.

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 www.emlfestival.com for all the details.