Joan Clark

by | Apr 16, 2023

I first met Joan Clark back in the 1980’s. I belonged to a children’s writers’ group at the time, and we organized an annual weekend writers’ retreat, piggybacking off the National Book Festival author readings in schools and libraries. These retreats enabled us to meet and learn from some of Canada’s best writers for children. And Joan was certainly one of the highlights.

I remember that she would travel with a shockingly tiny suitcase for her clothes, leaving the more substantial second bag for her books. Despite the limited wardrobe, Joan was one of those enviably tall, elegant women who could throw on a scarf and look fabulous, even after surviving days of a gruelling two-week literary junket.

Besides being an enthusiastic and generous mentor of less experienced writers, Joan had a natural grace and empathy that encouraged and inspired, while firmly pointing out areas that needed work. One of her first books for teens and young adults, The Hand of Robin Squires, was hot off the press. As each of her next books were published, and she moved into writing for adults to much acclaim, Joan became a friend and and cornerstone of the writing community in Atlantic Canada. She was a fine example of how to live a writer’s life with integrity and intent. Thank you so much Joan. Safe Home.

(selected from the obituary of FLORENCE JOAN CLARK)

Florence Joan Clark (nee MacDonald) known fondly as Joan, was born October 12, 1934 in Liverpool, NS. Joan lived life passionately, immersed in literature, learning, travel, lifelong friendships, and her family.

Joan graduated from Acadia University in 1957 with a BA in English and received an honorary Doctor of Letters from her alma mater in 1997 and an honorary Doctorate in 1998 from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Joan began writing at the kitchen table during her children’s nap times. She published her first novel in 1968. Throughout her vast and vibrant writing career she wrote poetry, short stories, children’s books, young adult novels, adult novels, and a screenplay. Her work has been translated into many languages around the world and her novel Audience of Chairs was made into a movie. Joan was an integral member of the expansive arts communities in Alberta and Newfoundland as an advocate and mentor. She was a founding member of Writer’s Guild of Alberta, as well as a founding member of the Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador. She co-founded the literary journal Dandelion (Alberta) and won numerous awards for her writing. She was passionate about mentoring writers across the country and served as Writer in Residence in Edinburgh, Banff Centre of the Arts and University of New Brunswick, where she completed her last novel in 2015 at the age of 80. Joan was honoured to receive both the Marian Engle Award (for adult body of fiction) and the Vicky Metcalf Award for children’s literature (for a body of work). In 2010, Joan received the Order of Canada for her contribution to the literary arts communities in Alberta and Newfoundland.

 Joan died on April 11, 2023 in Calgary, Alberta.  

Please consider donating to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, or to one of Joan’s passions; PEN Canada, , Writer’s Guild of Alberta,  or Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador,  or supporting your local independent bookstore.