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By Janet Harron

Now in its eighth year, the annual SPARKS Literary Festival will take place in the Suncor Energy Hall, School of Music, on Jan. 22.

Overseen by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Department of English, the festival’s 15 authors were chosen by a board consisting of Prof. Mary Dalton, former SPARKS director; Lisa Moore, novelist and associate professor of creative writing at Memorial; Dr. Robert Finley, writer and English professor; Dr. Larry Mathews, retired English professor and creative writing instructor; and Dr. Jennifer Lokash, head, Department of English.

Star-studded lineup

As in previous years, the SPARKS lineup includes a wide range of writers encompassing novelists, poets and short story writers.

Newfoundland spoken word artist Dave Paddon — also known as the poet pilot — will present his latest recitation (and first published book), Ralph the Flying Hound. Canadian/Irish author Colin Barrett continues the tradition instituted by Prof. Mary Dalton of the attendance of an Irish writer at each festival.

Irish writer Colin Barrett
Irish writer Colin Barrett
Photo: Submitted

And, this year a record number of SPARKS participants are current or former Memorial creative writing students.

Short stories

According to Lisa Moore, many Memorial creative writing students begin to hone their craft by writing short stories. Colin Barrett’s attendance this year reflects the importance of the short story form to both readers and writers.

“He is a writer who is revitalizing the form of the short story and making the world take notice,” she said. “His stories are some of the most exciting I’ve read in a long while, image-rich, compelling, sometimes harrowing, and full of voice. Move over Joyce!”

The complete list of writers includes Mr. Barrett, Andreae Callanan, Michael Crummey, Mary Dalton, Allison Graves, Matthew Hollett, Dave Paddon, Chad Pelley, Ed Riche, Susie Taylor, Kim Thúy, Tracey Waddleton, Russell Wangersky and Shannon Webb-Campbell.

Panel on place

The festival continues to be organized into four sessions, but this year one of the sessions will be devoted to a panel discussion on writing about place moderated by Chad Pelley, a novelist and publisher/editor of the Overcast. Another change this year is moving the start time from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., which has been accommodated by shortening the mid-day break.

The event also features various displays reflecting the variety of ways literature is produced in Newfoundland and Labrador. ISER Books, the Newfoundland Quarterly and literary journal Riddle Fence will be among those displaying work. The Memorial University Bookstore will sell books by all participating writers.

Poetry competition

With the support of Brown Fitzgerald Morgan & Avis, SPARKS is once again sponsoring a poetry competition. This year submissions are welcome on any subject in any style or form. Cash awards for three poems will be awarded at the festival. The deadline for submitting entries is Jan. 12.

The $4,000 Cox & Palmer SPARKS Creative Writing Award was established in 2012 and acknowledges outstanding achievement in any genre in the field of creative writing by a current or recent participant in Memorial’s creative writing courses. The winner will be announced during the festival’s closing events. Previous recipients include Randy Drover, Dana Evely, Iain McCurdy, Melissa Barbeau and Katie Vautour.


The SPARKS Literary Festival will be held from 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22, at the Suncor Energy Hall in the School of Music.

An evening reception will follow the daylong event. Admission is free and parking will be available in lot 15B.

Further details on the festival, the poetry competition and a complete schedule can be found here.

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