Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival August 24 & 25

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This weekend sees the city’s annual celebration of the literary arts come to the shores of Trout Lake. While the Vancouver International Writers Festival in October brings the big names to the spotlight, Saturday’s Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival is all about recognition for the local literary scene.

Started nine years ago by members of Pandora’s Collective as a way to honour and promote the various monthly literary events and writing groups that were happening throughout the city, the festival has grown from a small event on the north side of the Vancouver Art Gallery to this year’s lineup of more than 90 writers and performers on 3 stages at Trout Lake.

“There were so many events going on and I wanted to get everybody together to celebrate that,” explains festival co-founder and Executive Producer Bonnie Nish on the origins of Summer Dreams. “I knew the kind of work that the hosts put into running these events on a long-term basis, and so the idea was to honour them and to let the public know what was going on. The idea was initially to have the hosts read, because they usually don’t get to read themselves as they’re so busy organizing, and then to bring people in along with them.”

That first year was a lot of fun, remembers Nish. “We had skateboarders and people sitting on the statues and around the fountain.” The next year the festival moved to the south side of the gallery to Robson Square and then a few years later to Lumberman’s Arch at Stanley Park.

“That allowed us enough space that we could add two stages. Because what was happening was we were having more and more groups involved,” explains Nish. “We wanted to add panel discussions and more features. So the first year we were (at Stanley Park) we had two stages and then the next year we added a third stage. We added a kids’ stage because there are so many kids’ writers in town.”

The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some of the more that 18 writers groups being represented this weekend include Twisted Poets, Thursday’s Writing Collective, the SFU Writer’s Studio, Vancouver Storytellers, and the VanSlam Team 2012. In addition there will be panel discussions on Getting Published, Poets as Storytellers, and the pros and cons of attending literary readings (irony alert), as well as a Literary Game Show.

Featured readers include (clockwise from top left) Joe Rosenblatt, Daniela Elza, and Trevor Carolan, with Barbara Adler and Fang performing at 6:15 pm on the Main Stage.

The Children’s Stage will include readings by James McCann, Lee Edward Fodi, Jacqueline Pearce, and Tiffany Stone, as well as music, storytelling, and a puppet show.

A full schedule of readings, performances, workshops and panel discussions can be found at the Summer Dreams festival website.

Music is also a big part of the festival. Past performers have included rising stars Mother (before they doubled their moniker) and C.R. Avery. Closing out the festival this year will be Barbara Adler and Fang, Vancouver’s most famous accordion rock band.

The festivities actually begin Friday evening when the 3rd annual Pandora’s Literary Awards will be presented at a free gala at CBC Studio 700.

“It was this idea I had because there are so many great people out there,” say Nish. “And I know that there are all kinds of literary awards and we felt we wanted to add to what’s already there. We’re certainly not a big literary award. The original idea was that we wanted to take it to the community. So the first year we had people voting on it. We decided on categories and the community nominated people, and we had people vote on that.”

Unlike many literary awards, the Pandora’s Awards focus on the people that nourish the literary community: supporters, organizers, and mentors.

“They are so important,” says Nish.

This year’s recipients are Joe Rosenblatt (Distinctive Body of Work), Heather Haley (Organizer/Promoter), Wayde Compton (BC Writer Mentor), D&M Publishers (Publishers Award), Adbusters (Magazine Award), and Steve Duncan (Citizenship Award). Hosted by Dennis E. Bolen, the evening will also include a performance by the Inchoiring Minds choir, a silent auction, and a cash bar. Doors open at 6:30 pm, with the awards beginning at 7 pm.