Sapergia, Barbara 1943–

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Sapergia, Barbara 1943–


Born 1943, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada; married Geoffrey Ursell. Education: University of Saskatchewan, B.A. (English), 1964; University of Manitoba, M.A., 1966.


Home and office—Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.


Fiction writer and dramatist for stage, radio, and television. Instructor in English at University of Victoria and University of British Columbia. Coteau Books, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, co-founder, children's editor, and member of board of directors, beginning 1975. Playwright-in-residence, Persephone Theatre, 1985-86.

Awards, Honors

Saskatchewan Writers Guild Long Manuscript Award for Drama, 1989, for Double Take, 1985, for Roundup; Saskatchewan Book Award nomination, 1999, for Secrets in Water, 2005, and John W. Campbell Award nomination for best science-fiction novel, 2007, both for Dry; John V. Hicks Long Manuscript Award, Saskatchewan Writers Guild, 2006, for play Nell.


Dirt Hills Mirage (poetry), Thistledown Press (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada), 1980.

Foreigners (novel), Douteau Books (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), 1984.

South Hill Girls (short fiction), Fifth House Publishers (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), 1998.

Secrets in Water (novel), Coteau Books (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), 1999.

Dry (novel), Coteau Books (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), 2006.


Lokkinen (produced 1982), Playwrights Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1984.

Blizzard and the Christmas Spirit, produced 1985.

The Great Orlando, produced 1985.

Matty and Rose, produced 1985.

The Skipping Show, produced 1986.

Roundup (produced 1990), Coteau Books (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), 1992.

(With husband, Geoffrey Ursell) Winning the Prairie Gamble, produced 2005.

Also author of television and radio plays. Co-creator and writer for children's television series Prairie Berry Pie, Global Television/Aboriginal People's Television Network; writer for Mythquest, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


Barbara Sapergia, well known in her native Canada for her fiction and for drama for stage, radio, and television. For many years she was also the children's editor of Coteau Books, a Saskatchewan-based publishing company she cofounded in the mid-1970s. Her plays include Matty and Rose, which focuses on the lives of Canadian railway porters working during the 1940s, and Roundup, a published play that focuses on the effects of prairie drought among the Saskatchewan farming community.

A more recent work by Sapergia, the novel Dry, is a bit of a departure for the writer, whose focus has predominately been on the lives of people living in small prairie towns. Dry takes place in the near future, as the effects of global warming have caused a severe, decade-long drought and resulted in the overuse of chemicals and other drastic land-use measures on the prairie's large- scale commercial farms. While many in the region have left or resorted to living underground to avoid the relentless sun, [;amt scoemtosts Tomas Nilsson and his sister, Signy Nilsson, hope to find a way to grow wheat under drought conditions. The siblings' challenges increase when Magnus Dragland, a ruthless, land-grabbing neighbor, begins aggressive efforts to acquire the Nilsson's farm, which has been family land since it was settled by Swedish immigrants in the 1930s. As tensions grow and secrets between the neighboring farmers are revealed, Signy's deaf, twelve-year-old son David reveals an unusual ability that affects the story's tragic outcome. Praising Dry, Ann Hart wrote in Kliatt that Sapergia's novel presents "a serious look at our kinship with the earth and each other." In the Toronto Globe and Mail Carol Giangrande wrote that Sapergia's "writing is crisp and the story has the fascination of a well-told futuristic tale." Because of its focus and compelling story, Dry has also been studied in schools in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Biographical and Critical Sources


Hillis, Doris, editor, Plainspeaking: Interviews with Saskatchewan Writers, Coteau Books (Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada), 2004.


Books in Canada, January, 1982, review of Dirt Hills Mirage, p. 8; June, 1985, review of Foreigners, p. 21; May, 1992, review of South Hill Girls, p. 54; November, 2005, Antony Di Nardo, review of Dry, p. 17.

Canadian Book Review Annual, 2000, review of Secrets in Water, p. 161.

Canadian Review of Materials, September, 1992, review of South Hill Girls, p. 223.

Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), October 15, 2005, Carol Giangrande, review of Dry.

Kliatt, May, 2006, Ann Hart, review of Dry, p. 24.

Maclean's, February, 25, 1985, Michelle Heinemann, review of Foreigners, p. 72.

Prairie Fire, Summer, 1993, review of 200 Percent Cracked Wheat, p. 119.

Quill and Quire, May, 1992, review of South Hill Girls, p. 20; November, 1999, review of Secrets in Water, p. 34.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2006, Kathleen Beck, review of Dry, p. 65.


Coteau Books Web site, (July 17, 2007), "Barbara Sapergia."

Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan Online, (July 17, 2007), Justin Messner, "Barbara Sapergia."