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Double feature

2023 Sparks Literary Festival to honour Stan Dragland

Campus and Community

By Janet Harron

For the first time since 2019, the Sparks Literary Festival will take place in person on Sunday, April 23, from 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

The words "2023 Sparks Literary Festival are on a black background. The Memorial University logo is in white at the top right corner. Colourful illustrated fireworks go down each side.

The roster includes new and celebrated local writers and Memorial alumni, alongside Canada Reads 2023 winning-author Kate Beaton.

Honouring Stan Dragland

Stan Dragland, originally from Calgary, settled in St. John’s and was an integral part of the literary world for decades. He passed away in August 2022.

Stan Ragland stands at a podium reading a book at the 2015 Sparks Literary Festival.
Stan Ragland at the 2015 Sparks Literary Festival.
Photo: Submitted

Prof. Lisa Moore, who has been involved in planning Sparks for a number of years, will give a dedication to the beloved writer when the day begins.

“Everywhere I’ve travelled in Canada, people bring up Stan,” she said. “How they have been mentored by Stan, edited by Stan, how they never would have written their books without Stan. His fingerprints are all over Canadian literature. Lucky is what I feel. So lucky to have his writing to return to, and to have had his company. What a gift.”

New diverse panels

This year’s festival features a broad range of panels, from fiction and poetry to playwrights and comic book authors.

“Over the past few years, we’ve had a panel on illustrated books, or writing with pictures,” said Prof. Moore. “There is so much innovative work in theatre and comics going on in the province and at Memorial. The English department has an interest in comics and theatre. Nancy Pedri recently published two books on comics and Jamie Skidmore has been very busy with magnificent, experimental puppet shows, and other forms of performance and theatre. Denise Lynde also teaches theatre, Robert Ormsby teaches Shakespeare and Andrew Loman also does comics.”

Dr. Pedri, chair of the Sparks committee, says the comics panel is a way to introduce the public to one of the fastest-growing literary genres.

“Telling stories with word and images engages readers differently and allows authors to treat difficult material in incredibly subtle, suggestive ways. St. John’s is also embracing comics, with a book club held monthly at Downtown Comics, a comic per hour day being hosted, comic jams and workshops.”

Ms. Beaton, a New York Times No. 1 bestseller, will read from her graphic novel, Ducks.

2023 Pratt lecture

The Pratt lecture is dedicated to fostering the public appreciate of the literary arts and is the oldest public lecture at Memorial.

This year’s lecture will take place the night prior to SPARKS on Saturday, April 22, at 6 p.m. at the Emera Innovation Exchange, Signal Hill Campus.

This year’s lecturer will be Peter Balkwill, co-founder of the Old Trout Puppet Workshop in Calgary, Alta.

The lecture, It Takes a Village: Spinning the Collective Yarn, will focus on the collaborative process through which we discover our singular stories.

Everyone welcome

Admission to both SPARKS and the Pratt lecture is free and all are welcome.

For the full Sparks lineup, visit the website.

Please note that free parking will be available outside the School of Music in lot 15B.


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