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Literary event attracts the more thoughtful festival set

No laser light shows, no DJs, no electric guitars or go-go squads.

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What: Words & Stories

Where: MY (Millennium) Place

When: Sunday, April 18

Tickets: $5 - $10

No laser light shows, no DJs, no electric guitars or go-go squads. The youngest arts and culture event at the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival is a toned down affair compared to the gangbusters three-ring circus raging around it.

Even so, Words & Stories had no trouble finding an audience at its debut last year and with an impressive list of writers filling this year’s roster, it looks to repeat its success.

According to returning host Michel Beaudry, author of coffee table book Whistler: Against All Odds, the event’s draw has as much to do with the familiarity of the lineup as a shift in tastes in the community.

"The people of Whistler are growing up," says Beaudry. "Hanging out in bars and doing the pick-up thing is great if you're 19 and a first-timer to the valley. But if you've been living here for a dozen years, the whole party scene is pretty stale. So that's why events like Words & Stories are so well received.

"Whistler culture, slowly but surely, is getting more sophisticated. And Words & Stories is simply one more manifestation of that sophistication."

Manifesting sophisticates this year include longtime Georgia Straight columnist and author Jack Christie, Skier Magazine editor and feature writer Leslie Anthony and Susan Reifer, a regular contributor to such publications as Outside and Sports Illustrated for Women. Rounding out the group is a pair of incorrigible bookends: Pique back page columnist G.D. Maxwell and Pique front-page challenger (not to mention editor and owner) Bob Barnett.

This year’s theme is shifting slightly but not radically, from "Whistler" to "Tales from the Mountains," with each writer given approximately 12 minutes to present a work of their choice. Beaudry will introduce the evening and each presenter. Following the readings will be drinks and discussion, a new element.

"It all comes down to performance," adds Beaudry. "If the writers have good stories to tell, I'm convinced that people will be entertained."

Words and Stories may be the only event of its kind at the festival, but it is one of several events that are earning Whistler admiration in literary circles.

At February’s Whistler Arts Showcase Literary Leanings event, Vancouver writer John Moore expressed awe and admiration for the turnout and the energy in the upstairs room at Uli’s Flipside, remarking that book-related events in the city were seldom so well received.

The assessment comes as no surprise to Beaudry.

"I think the Whistler writing scene is more vibrant than anybody realizes," he says. "There are a lot of very creative people in this valley. Many of them exist within the cracks of the system, but they are producing some very interesting stuff. In fact, there is a wellspring of young talented writers that few people (outside their writing group) have yet heard about."

One of his goals for the event is to celebrate that vibrancy as the literary community continues to grow. Work towards showcasing younger, edgier writers alongside familiar regulars, fostering a collaborative atmosphere in what can be a solitary craft.

"Words & Stories is, first and foremost, an evening of sharing," confirms Beaudry. "From what we experienced last year, everyone came away inspired and invigorated.

"Whistler is growing up. It is no longer just a ‘ski place.’ Words & Stories, like all the other cultural events at the festival, represents the next phase in the community's growing-up process."

Words & Stories is set to begin at 8 p.m. at MY Place. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, available at the venue. For more information call 604-935-8410 or go to www.whistler2004.com.

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