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Word spree

SPARKS Literary Festival 2018 shines a light in January

By Janet Harron

Now in its ninth year, the annual SPARKS Literary Festival will take place in the Suncor Energy Hall, School of Music, on Jan. 28.

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

Among the novelists, short story writers and poets appearing this year are novelist Michael Redhill, the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Giller Prize, and actor and director Mary Walsh, who will read from her first novel, Crying for the Moon.

Mary Walsh
Mary Walsh
Photo: Submitted

Journey Prize winner Sharon Bala will make her second appearance at the festival, reading from her first novel, The Boat People, which is longlisted for this year’s Canada Reads competition.

Sharon Bala
Sharon Bala
Photo: Submitted

Ms. Bala says that when she first took part in SPARKS in 2016, her novel was “just a sheaf of printed pages.”

“When I return to the festival later this month, it will be with a newly published book in hand,” she said.

“One of the wonderful things about SPARKS is that it gives a podium and microphone to both emerging and established authors. It’s that kind of confidence boost, that belief in the work and worth of new writers, that makes creative success possible.”

Participating writers are Ms. Bala, Colin Barrett, Stan Dragland, Alison Dyer, Robert Finley, Jamie Fitzpatrick, Sue Goyette, Pam Hall, El Jones, Andrew Loman, Lisa Moore, Michael Redhill, Anna Swanson, Mary Walsh, and Heidi Wicks.


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. 19.

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, Katie Vautour and Bridget Canning.

The SPARKS Literary Festival will be held from 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 28, 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. There is no advance registration required.

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

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