Neil Gaiman to Headline StoryFest 2023 at The Westport Library, Serve as Guest Speaker for Fall 2023 Malloy Lecture in the Arts

Tue, Jun 13, 2023
EJ Crawford

Neil Gaiman, the prolific and admired author whose work includes American Gods, Coraline, and the graphic novel series The Sandman, will be this year’s keynote speaker at StoryFest 2023.

The sixth edition of StoryFest, The Westport Library’s annual celebration of reading, writing, ideas, and community, will be held October 20-22.

Gaiman will headline opening night on Friday, October 20, in the Library’s Trefz Forum. The festival will also include panel discussions and additional events on Saturday, October 21, and Sunday, October 22, with scheduled authors Angie Kim, Gabino Iglesias, Stephen Graham Jones, Caroline Kepnes, Eric LaRocca, Josh Malerman, and many, many more.

The free registration for the keynote address will go live to the public on Tuesday, June 20, at 9 am. The complete lineup and schedule for StoryFest 2023 will be announced this summer.

The largest literary festival in Connecticut and one of the biggest in New England, StoryFest drew more than 800 participants and 40 authors to the Library for its 2022 edition — an impressive collection of writers that included New York Times best-selling author Isaac Fitzgerald, Kirkus Prize recipient Saeed Jones, and famed fantasy writer Naomi Novik.

This year’s StoryFest keynote is doubling as the Fall 2023 Malloy Lecture in the Arts, following the spring edition that featured artist and former Psychedelic Furs frontman Richard Butler. The Spring 2023 Malloy Lecture was held in conjunction with VersoFest, the Library’s annual music and media festival.

The Malloy Lecture in the Arts, delivered free to the public since 2002 thanks to the generosity of Westport artist Susan Malloy, highlight individuals who have had significant cultural influence and whose work has enhanced the understanding and appreciation of the arts.

“It is a heady task to deliver both the StoryFest keynote and the Fall 2023 Malloy Lecture in the Arts, but without question Neil Gaiman is the person for the job,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “Few writers can match his cultural influence, output, and undeniable storytelling skill. Beyond that, he is a captivating and engaging speaker. We couldn’t be happier to welcome him to the Library and are delighted that our community will get to experience his magic in person.”

Renowned for his stage presence and oration, Gaiman routinely sells out large venues throughout the United States. Following his early work as a journalist and biographer, Gaiman achieved fame — and cult status — with The Sandman series, which ran for 75 issues and earned him nine Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards and three Harvey Awards. In 1991, Sandman was recognized with the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, making it the first comic ever to receive a literary award.

Following Sandman, Gaiman turned to novels, producing The New York Times best-sellers Good Omens (1990), Neverwhere (1995), Stardust (1999), American Gods (2001), and Anansi Boys (2005), as well as the short story collections Smoke and Mirrors (1998) and Fragile Things (2006). American Gods was honored with both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, and Smoke and Mirrors was nominated for the UK's MacMillan Silver Pen Awards as the best short story collection of the year.

Gaiman also has written a number of celebrated children’s and young adult books, including Coraline (2002), The Wolves in the Walls (2003), Odd and the Frost Giants (2008), The Graveyard Book (2008), and Crazy Hair (2009), among others. 

Coraline won the British Science Fiction Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the American Elizabeth Burr/Worzalla Award; Crazy Hair was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal; and The Graveyard Book won the UK's Booktrust Prize for Teenage Fiction and the 2010 UK CILIP Carnegie Medal, as well as the Newbery Medal, the highest honor given in U.S. children's literature, and the Locus Young Adult Award and the Hugo Best Novel Prize. With those honors, Gaiman became the first author ever to win both the Newbery Medal and the Carnegie Medal with the same book. 

Unsurprisingly, given their popularity and acclaim, Gaiman’s books have been adapted for film and theater. Stardust and Coraline were both made into feature films, with Coraline winning a BAFTA Award and earning an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film. Coraline was also adapted as a musical, and The Wolves in the Walls was developed into an opera by the Scottish National Theatre in 2006.

Gaiman traces much of his success back to libraries, of which he is an avowed fan, making him the perfect fit to open StoryFest 2023 and serve as the guest speaker for the Fall 2023 Malloy Lecture in the Arts.

“I wouldn’t be who I am without libraries,” Gaiman said on his website. “I was the sort of kid who devoured books, and my happiest times as a boy were when I persuaded my parents to drop me off in the local library on their way to work, and I spent the day there. I discovered that librarians actually want to help you: They taught me about interlibrary loans.”

Past StoryFest participants include New York Times best-selling authors Mitch Albom and Michael Lewis; National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds; Pinkalicious author/illustrator Victoria Kann; Goosebumps author R.L. Stine; young adult superstars Nic Stone, Tiffany Jackson, and L.L. McKinney; and Emmy Award winner Sheila Nevins.

In addition to Butler, previous Malloy Lecture programs have featured Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; distinguished playwright Arthur Miller; artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude; musicians Joshua Bell and Frederic Chiu; U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins; Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation; author Joyce Carol Oates; cartoonist Roz Chast; actor Christopher Plummer; stage, film, and theater star John Lithgow; preeminent classical dancer Jacques d'Amboise; music legend Clive Davis; author Salman Rushdie; Falsettos: In Conversation; Bernstein on Broadway; playwright, actor, and educator Anna Deavere Smith; and Tony Award-winning actress Kelli O’Hara in conversation with renowned American theater director Bartlett Sher.

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