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SPARKS a smash

Faculty of Arts' literary festival a winter highlight

Campus and Community

By Janet Harron

For the seventh year in a row, the annual SPARKS Literary Festival delivered powerful readings, big book sales and large crowds to the School of Music’s Suncor Energy Hall.

Katie Vautour, a reader from the 2014 festival and a Memorial creative writing student received the $4,000 Cox & Palmer SPARKS Creative Writing Award and first place in the SPARKS Poetry Prize, sponsored by Brown Morgan Fitzgerald & Avis, for her poem Cocoon.

Paul McDonald of Cox & Palmer pictured with Katie Vautour, recipient of the 2016 Cox & Palmer SPARKS Creative Writing Award
From left are Paul McDonald of Cox & Palmer and Katie Vautour, recipient of the 2016 Cox & Palmer SPARKS Creative Writing Award.
Photo: Dennis Flynn

“Winning both awards was a big surprise,” said Ms. Vautour. “I’ve put a lot of time into my writing, particularly poetry, the past few years, and I love it, so this acknowledgement provides an amazing amount of support and encouragement for me to continue.”

Highlights of the festival, which took place Jan. 31, included a hilarious performance by Megan Gail Coles; St. John’s poet laureate George Murray’s expletive-laden aphorisms; and Sara Tilley’s compelling reading from Duke, a novel based on the life of her great-grandfather.

1/ Packed house

Literature lovers filled the first festival session in the School of Music.

Photo: Dennis Flynn

2/ Literati

Sara Tilley, George Murray and Elisabeth de Mariaffi chat between sessions.

Photo: Dennis Flynn

3/ Visiting voice

Acclaimed short-story writer Heather O'Neill made her first visit to Newfoundland and Labrador to attend the SPARKS Literary Festival.

Photo: Dennis Flynn

4/ Animated author

Author Megan Gail Coles was named the Relit Award recipient on Feb. 1, the day after her SPARKS appearance.

Photo: Dennis Flynn

5/ Playwright

Governor General Award-winning playwright Robert Chafe.

Photo: Dennis Flynn

Festival organizers were relieved that both Irish poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Montrealer Heather O’Neill were able to brave Friday’s storm to arrive on time for Sunday’s readings.

Ms. O’Neill, who is known for her short fiction and novels, read a comically poignant non-fiction piece about the advice her father, a petty criminal, gave her as a child.

The Memorial University Bookstore sold out of several titles, including Andrew Peacock’s Creatures of the Rock and Elisabeth de Mariaffi’s The Devil You Know. The bookstore’s Deirdre Newman, who has worked every festival since the beginning, said book sales were the best to date.

“Sparks are bound to fly, when you bring together so many writers and readers to celebrate our province’s deep love of language and the written word,” said Dr. Jennifer Lokash, SPARKS’ director and head, Department of English. “It was a fun and fabulous day, thanks to our 16 brilliant authors, their unique and dynamic readings, and the most dedicated festival audience in town! We’ve already starting planning for next year!”

The 2016 SPARKS Literary Festival will be held Jan. 29, 2017. For further information on this year’s festival, please see here.

A full list of the SPARKS poetry prize winners can be found on the SPARKS Facebook page as can a complete album of photos from the festival, taken by Dennis Flynn.

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