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

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

by Anne DeGrace

“Great festivals trigger imagination.”

So writes mystery writer Iona Whishaw for the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s 10th Anniversary e-publication, which features the kind words and literary contributions of 10 writers from across EMLF’s first decade (Iona joined us in 2019).

This year the 100 per cent online festival, which runs July 7 to 11 and can be accessed from anywhere in the world, features a full schedule of free events and affordable, small-group writing workshops. Everyone who registers will receive a copy of this beautifully designed e-magazine.

Ten years is no small feat for a small festival, the brainchild of an enthusiastic group who initially saw it as a sidebar to an initiative to restore credit writing instruction to Nelson. But the festival grew legs of its own, and since its inception has introduced more than 100 authors, musicians, publishers, and panelists to rapt audiences.

Says co-founder Tom Wayman, “We wanted to bring to Nelson readers and writers the chance to interact first-hand with authors from across Canada, while also showcasing some of our amazing local literary talent.”

The Alumni Event on Friday, July 9 at 7 p.m. features three authors from our very first festival, plus a special guest.

When Newfoundland novelist Lisa Moore read at EMLF 2012, her novels were February (a New Yorker Magazine Best Book) and Alligator (Commonwealth Fiction Prize winner). Since then she has published Caught (adapted for TV) and Something for Everyone (which won the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award and the Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction, and, on a personal note, knocked my socks off).

John Vaillant’s first book, The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed, won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, the Pearson Writer’s Trust Non-Fiction Award and the Roderick Haig Brown Regional Prize. At EMLF 2012 he introduced us to The Tiger: A True story of Vengeance and Survival, which won five major Canadian and International awards. Since we saw him last John has turned his hand to fiction with The Jaguar’s Children.

Besides being one of our first presenters, Fred Wah has been a true friend of the festival, lending perspective on panel discussions and offering much goodwill. Fred is the author of more than 17 poetry collections, and he has won a Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry, among many other awards. His book The Diamond Grill, a prose-poetic reflection on his Nelson childhood, won the Howard O’Hagan Award for Short Fiction. He was Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate from 2012 to 2014, and we are thrilled to have him back this year.

And that special guest? Globe and Mail Western Arts correspondent Marsha Lederman, who joined us in 2017 to interview Joy Kogawa, Lee Maracle, and Fred Stenson after their readings at our all-star event, and Esi Edyugan, Steven Price, and Susan Musgrave in 2018. Expect an informed perspective and great questions as she interviews our 2012/2021 alumni authors after we hear their brilliant words.

This past decade has been, at its core, about the intersection of inspiration, creativity, and craft that gives us the books that make us think, draw us in, touch us. It’s about the writers behind those books, and the insights they share. It’s about each other, too.

Iona Whishaw sums it up beautifully:

“Whether it is geography, the warmth of the attendees, the wonderful panels designed for real substantive discussion and exploration, the opportunity to mix with authors outside of one’s own genre, or some other magical je ne sais quoi, Elephant Mountain Literary Festival made me feel I’d been at one of those wonderful dinners where all your favourite people are gathered, and discussion is animated and stimulating.”

Join us to meet all your favourite people.

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.