Seventh SPARKS a smash

Feb 8th, 2016

Janet Harron

Seventh SPARKS a smash


For the seventh year in a row, the annual SPARKS Literary Festival which took place Sunday Jan. 31, 2016, 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 student of creative writing received the $4000 Cox & Palmer SPARKS Creative Writing Award and first place in the SPARKS Poetry Prize (sponsored by Brown Morgan Fitzgerald & Avis) for her poem “Cocoon”.

“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 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.

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 of the English department. “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 on Jan. 29, 2017. For further information on this year’s festival, please see

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