SPARKS ready to fly at MUN this weekend

Annual festival highlights writers – both new and established – from across Newfoundland and Labrador

The SPARKS Literary Festival will be lighting up Memorial’s Petro-Canada Hall this Sunday, January 22. The festival, now in its third year, features talks, discussion groups and readings by a variety of Newfoundland and Labrador authors. The festival, which runs from 10:00am to 6:00pm, is open to the public. You can check out the full festival schedule here.

The event also features the awarding of the Cox & Palmer Creative Writing Award, a $2500 prize awarded to a participant of Memorial’s creative writing courses. There will also be an ongoing haiku competition for participants throughout the day.

When asked about the Festival, organizers turned us on to award-winning Newfoundland author Kevin Major. Here’s what he had to say about the event:

The 2012 edition of the SPARKS Literary Festival will set alight MUN’s PetroCanada Hall on Sunday, January 22. It’s a day-long celebration, a perfect opportunity to escape the tedious cycle of freeze and thaw, freeze and thaw that is winter in St. John’s. And if the festival’s first two years are any indication, there will be no shortage of book lovers eager to warm themselves around the words of Newfoundland and Labrador writers.

“It generates the sense of a literary community renewing and reinventing itself.” –

As someone who has been both onstage and in the audience, I can attest to the fact that SPARKS has very quickly become a red-letter day on the literary calendar of the city. Festival founder Mary Dalton and primary supporter Memorial’s Faculty of Arts could hardly have anticipated just what a success it has turned out to be. This year fifteen writers will be invited to the podium over the course of the day, and, as in previous years, the line-up showcases writers in various stages of their careers, from those fresh on the scene to the well-established. Acclaimed author Ed Riche will share space with Memorial student and poet Stephanie Trevorrow. The most recent winner of the Fresh Fish Award for emerging writers, Lesleyann Ryan, gets equal billing with author (and actor and film-maker) Joel Hynes.

That juxtaposition is something I find especially appealing. It generates the sense of a literary community renewing and reinventing itself. Equally enlivening is the variety of writing styles and genres that show up over the course of the day. There is something for everyone, with suitable breaks in the action to absorb it all, as well as to purchase books and get them autographed. People come and go (mostly come, with additional chairs filling up the edges of the venue), making for a fluid event with an interest level that never abates.

New at the retail tables this year is a limited-edition print in support of the festival. Candle Burning brings together a linocut image by visual artist Teresa Kachanoski and letterpress text by Sarah B. Wiseman (her winning entry from last year’s SPARKS Haiku Competition).

New as well is an annual award for young writers, the Cox & Palmer SPARKS Creative Writing Award of $2500, to be presented as the literary day draws to a close.

All in all, the third SPARKS festival promises to be as memorable as the first two. The opening session begins at 10, and the day ends with a reception at 6. That’s Sunday, January 22 in the PetroCanada Hall of MUN’s Music School. Free admission, and free parking in Lot 15B. Come, settle into January’s literary hotspot, experience the flash and flare of the local book scene, literally see SPARKS fly!

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