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Creative spark

Literary festival will showcase local writers in celebratory setting

Campus and Community

By Joshua Goudie

Writers from across the province’s literary landscape are set to illuminate the stage of the LSPU Hall as part of SPARKS 2024.

The SPARKS literary festival promotional image, which is a black background with fiery sparks and embers along the tops and behind the letter a in SPARKS, which is in all caps.

Esteemed poet and English professor Mary Dalton established the literary festival in 2009. SPARKS has since evolved into a showcase of emerging and established writers.

Memorial’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of English host the day-long event.

Over the years, SPARKS has maintained its commitment to fostering dialogue and camaraderie among literary enthusiasts.

“SPARKS has always been an event that aims to be comfortable, welcoming and entertaining for audiences.” — Dr. Danine Farquharson

Authors share their work while engaging in intimate discussions during moderated panels.

“SPARKS has always been an event that aims to be comfortable, welcoming and entertaining for audiences,” said Dr. Danine Farquharson, a SPARKS committee member and a professor in the Department of English. “That we already work within a supportive and enthusiastic writing community makes those goals really easy!”

Writers’ Trust Fellowship winner Michael Crummey and Gemini Award winner Andy Jones are two of this year’s featured writers.

Also included are emerging talents such as Winterset Award winner Holly Hogan, Percy Janes First Novel Award winner Willow Kean and CBC Poetry Prize winner Matthew Hollett — who all debuted books in 2023.

Something for everyone

The SPARKS festival highlights writers across multiple genres, including fiction, non-fiction, poetry and theatre.

While not a prerequisite, Memorial students and alumni are routinely counted among the event’s featured authors, especially those from the Department of English’s Creative Writing program.

A photo of Allison Graves, a white woman in her mid 20s and a copy of a book titled Soft Serve, whose cover is two red plastic chairs with a soft serve ice cream upside down on a seat.
Author and PhD student Allison Graves will be featured at this year’s SPARKS Literary Festival.
Photo: Submitted

Memorial doctoral student Allison Graves completed her recently published collection of short stories, Soft Serve, as her master’s thesis.

“I read at SPARKS before the pandemic and I remember everyone was so good and talented,” she said. “I really have an affection for SPARKS.”

Live literature

For Lisa Moore, a festival committee member and professor in the Department of English, events like SPARKS present an opportunity to create singular community experiences.

“I think hearing authors read their work makes consuming literature not just a solitary and private experience, but a living, breathing, heart-thumping event,” she said. “There’s something about being present that makes a story magical. Writing can be solitary and sometimes kind of lonely. Listening to people read at a festival is like a party!”

Featured writer Lindsay Bird agrees. Ms. Bird, who lives in Corner Brook, will travel to the capital city for the event.

A photo of Lindsay Bird, a white woman in her early 40s, is outside in winter. Her photo is next to the cover of a book titled Boom Time by Lindsay Bird. It has a sepia illustration of construction cranes on it.
Lindsay Bird, author of the NL Book Awards shortlisted poetry collection, Boom Time.
Photo: Submitted

“Getting to hear authors read and get insight into their work opens a door to better understanding and appreciating it,” Ms. Bird said. “It is also hugely inspiring. I rarely leave a reading without the itch to go back to my own writing desk and see what comes out.”

Panels and prizes

In addition to the day’s panels, there will also be a mini-bookstore featuring works from the festival’s authors.

Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase books, get them signed and speak directly with the writers.

The day will also include the presentation of three literary awards: the Gregory J. Power & Jeroboam Poetry Award, the Sparks Poetry Award and the Landfall Trust Award.

For Dr. Farquharson, it all contributes to a unique day.

“I’ve never been anywhere that can compare to how community members support, love and lift up its artists,”she said. “SPARKS is the occasion but the people are the energy and the passion.”

Everyone welcome

The SPARKS Literary Festive will take place on Sunday, April 28, at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s.

The event will feature live panels throughout the day, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Admission is free and open to all members of the general public. No ticket or registration is required.

For a full schedule and a complete list of the featured writers, visit the SPARKS website.

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