Orcas Lit Fest is back for second annual three-day event

For three days in early April, dozens of writers will gather together to make literary magic.

“Doing it a second year is different. We’re much more efficient,” said Jule Treneer, president of the Orcas Island Lit Fest board. “But it’s a labor of love for sure. It’s hundreds of hours from an all-volunteer board.”

This year’s festival is titled “Celebration of Literature and Community” and will run from April 5-7. The main hub for events is Orcas Center, where there will be books for sale from Darvill’s, a barista stand, chai, food and a literary fair with items to purchase.

Last year, more than 200 people – from both on and off the island – attended the first annual festival.

“It’s something we work at all year long, and it’s gratifying how the Orcas community has supported us. It’s really humbling, and I am really proud,” Treneer said.

For 2019, organizers have lined up 60 national, regional and local artists who will present readings, perform music and participate on panels that cover topics ranging from immigration to body image.

Middle and high school students will be treated to a special panel called “From Page to Screen,” and there will be free kids’ programming open to all (pre-ordered free tickets are required).

The festival opens on Friday, April 5 with two free events: a Lit Walk held in multiple venues around Eastsound and a panel at the Sea View Theatre. This year’s walk is from 4-8:15 p.m. at Enzo’s, The Barnacle, Doe Bay Wine Company, Darvill’s Bookstore and the Orcas Island Library. Kids and teens can participate in an open mic at the Emmanuel Parish Hall. Starting at 5 p.m. at Sea View Theatre is “Delicious Writing” with Kim Bast, Jessica Gigot, Joe Ray and J. Ryan Stradal, moderated by Iris Graville.

“We’ve worked really hard to create an event with national appeal that stays true to its Orcas roots,” Treneer said. “We made a conscious decision to fold local programming seamlessly into the festival this year.”

Scientist Joe Gaydos and writer Bob Friel are part of a panel discussion about the “Orca Anthology” that writer and lit fest board member Jill McCabe Johnson spearheaded. Friel and Gaydos both contributed pieces to the anthology, which is a collection of everything from poetry to science writing.

“The common theme is that all pieces speak to how deeply we all care about the fate of ‘our’ orca,” said Friel.

They will share the stage with biologist and writer Paula MacKay, poet Jed Myers and Johnson herself on Sunday, April 7, from 10:45-11:50 a.m. at Orcas Center.

“This is an exciting opportunity to bring science and the art of writing together to talk about a charismatic species – our neighbors the Southern residents,” said Gaydos.

For Treneer, another high point is Saturday night’s “Words + Music: an Unforgettable Evening” with Tom Barbash, Rick Barot, Nicole Chung, Nicola Griffith, Mat Johnson, Terese Marie Mailhot, Eric Puchner, Kiwi Smith, Judith Thurman and Laura Veirs. It will be from 7:15 to 9:15 p.m., and a weekend pass is required to attend. The concert will showcase readings selected by the featured artists interwoven with musical performances.

“That much literary and artistic talent on one stage is an awesome thing,” he said.

Tickets and a full schedule of events are available at https://oilf.org. Everything on Friday is free to the public, and there are also Sunday-only passes available.

The festival is supported in part by grants from San Juan County and the Washington State Arts Commission. Treneer said it’s also made possible by local sponsors, in-kind donations and the 15-20 volunteers who help out daily during the event. Lit fest board members are Scott Hutchins, Paula Treneer, Graville, Theresa Harris, Mia Lipman Irwin and Johnson.

For those who are new to the festival, Treneer says, “Expect to hear engaging, enlightening discussions by talented and fascinating artists in an intimate setting. It enables magical interactions between people. … Sparks fly.”