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Back for the ’22 edition, SunLit Festival gets ‘Wild’

Bill DeYoung



Photo by Justin Clark/Unsplash.

Let the wild rumpus start!

This weekend’s SunLit Literary Festival, a loosely-tethered collection of events happening around the city, will be the sixth such lit-palooza organized by Keep St. Pete Lit, which was in fact formed – exactly eight years ago – expressly to put this festival on.

Eight years, six SunLit festivals.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that SunLit was sidelined by the pandemic – first in 2020, then again the next year.

Funds raised go towards Keep St. Pete Lit’s youth literacy programs, including one-on-one tutoring in reading and writing

So the 2022 edition, which kicks off with a big bash Friday at The Factory St. Pete, is in a sense making up for time lost.

Maureen McDole, Keep St. Pete Lit’s executive director and the woman behind the curtain for Friday’s party and all that follows, says this one will be particularly celebratory.

“We’re doing it from 6 p.m. to midnight,” McDole explains. “The last several kickoff parties we had were over so fast. People didn’t really have time to have an actual party after all the talking was done.”

Granted, there will be a fair amount of talking, as things begins with a presentation by St. Petersburg Press (and St. Pete Catalyst) publisher Joe Hamilton. Several of the press’ authors (including Tom Gribbin, Paul Wilborn and former St. Petersburg First Lady Kerry Kriseman) will be in attendance, and writing instructor Roy Peter Clark will pay tribute to Tampa Bay Times book editor (and author) Colette Bancroft, presenting her with the first-ever Roy Peter Clark Award.

Bands begin to play at 7:30. There will be food trucks and a cash bar.

McDole credits Factory director Kara Behar with the party theme: Maurice Sendak’s iconic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are.

We’re talking a real jungle, with leafy trails, a “bonfire of the wild things,” Max’s transformative sailboat and lots of interactive artistic surprises. Inside and outside The Factory.

“I’m really bowled over by the collaborative spirit,” McDole says, noting that the live music has been arranged by Daddy Kool Records (a Factory tenant), Great Bay Distributors donated the beer and wine, and Factory in-house artists have contributed to the atmosphere. “So it really is a community event.”

The festival moves away from The Factory Saturday and Sunday, for more collaborations.

There was a chance, McDole reveals, that there might not have been a SunLit Literary Festival in 2022, either.

“I was worried, because of Covid, and because there’s been a lot of leadership changes that have happened in the city. But what I really love about this festival specifically – and it wasn’t intentional – is that a lot of the events are outside. Most of them are outside. And there’s a lot of events for all different ages.

“And the weather’s so beautiful right now! I think it shows all different ways that literature can be expressed in our city.”


SunLit 2022 events

Friday, April 1

Kickoff party: Where the Wild Things Are, including the Roy Peter Clark Award, live music and more, 6 p.m. to midnight at The Factory St. Pete, 2622 Fairfield Avenue S. Benefits Keep St. Pete Lit children’s programs. Find tickets here.

Florida Antiquarian Book Fair: At the St. Petersburg Coliseum, 535 4th Avenue N. Friday (5-9 p.m.); Saturday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.), Sunday (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) Benefits the St Petersburg Public Library. Find tickets here.


Saturday, April 2

Poetry in the Park BLC: 9-11 a.m., Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center, Shelter #2. Breakfast, poetry and community, sponsored by the Cultured Books Literacy Foundation. Free.

Mirror Lake Walking Tour With A Literary Twist: 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Preserve the ‘Burg tour starts at City Hall. Learn about some of the ‘Burg’s history and architecture while gaining inspiration from local writers reading from their work. The tour will circle around Mirror Lake, with historic homes, schools, churches and shuffleboard courts. Find tickets here.

Gulfport Historical Society Book Swap: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Bring a book (antiquarian, fiction, poetry and children’s books) or a few to swap at the Gulfport Historical Museum front porch. Free.

Nature Journaling with St. Pete Audubon: 1-3 p.m., Sawgrass Lake Park. Whether you are a pro at journaling or are a newbie to nature, we will teach you fun ways to record observations while we explore the diversity of Sawgrass Lake Park. Journals, coloring supplies, pens and pencils will be provided. Free.

Poetry Exploring Wildness: A SunLit Poetry Event: 6-7:30 p.m., Tombolo Books. Readings with St. Pete poet laureate Helen Wallace, Gloria Muñoz, Sara Ries Dziekonski and others, followed by an open mic. Free.

Children’s Poetry Night Hike: Starts at 7:30 p.m., Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. Children will read poetry related to wilds of the night. Find tickets here.


Sunday, April 3

Tour de Kerouac: The Friends of Jack Kerouac guided bike tour (10 a.m.-noon) featuring historical landmarks that Kerouac interacted with during his time in St. Petersburg,  such as the Flamingo Bar, St. Anthony’s Hospital, the former Al Lang Field, Haslam’s Books, the Manhattan Casino and Mirror Lake Community Library. Some stops on the two-hour trip will have live poetry readings. Free (register here).

Wordier’s 1K Walk and Write (or Read): 1-4 p.m., begins at the Hangar restaurant at Albert Whitted Airport, and travels to The Pier, stopping at various points along the way for 15 minutes of free writing. All info is here.

Lucha Libro: 3-6 p.m., thestudio@620. “Eight of Tampa Bay’s most daring writers face off in live literary combat! Each pair of authors are given a random prompt and then they have five minutes to create an original piece of written brilliance, right before your eyes! After the frenzy of spontaneous creation, our combatants will present their work and a winner will be declared! Winners move on to the next round until only one remains! Theatricality and costumes encouraged.” Suggested donation is $5.


















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