Sparks Literary Festival 2018

By: Krystyn Decker

Celebrating it’s ninth year at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador is the annual SPARKS Literary Festival

The festival is unique to the city of St. John’s, and features an abundance of emerging and established writers from Newfoundland and all over the world, in a variety of styles.

Light Up The Dark 

The SPARKS literary festival was founded in 2009 by poet and professor Mary Dalton, who served as the festival’s director for the first six years.

“It was the brain child of Mary Dalton who is a professor at Memorial, but also a poet, a fantastic poet,” shares Lisa Moore, professor of Creative Writing, one of the Sparks committee members and a writer herself. 

“It was her idea to, you know, light up the dark of January with sparks, and these sparks would be panels of readers. So, there’s usually four panels, with four different writers and recently SPARKS has been taken over by Dr. Jennifer Lokash, who has been at the helm. Mary is still involved too, of course.”

Last year, Lokash and the committee decided to begin panel discussions, and this year the discussion is writing about visual art, with Irish writer Colin Barrett leading the festival’s keynote session. Barrett recently wrote an award winning book called Young Skins, which is his first book and it went straight through the roof.

“It’s so beautiful, lyrical. It won all kinds of awards. They’re short stories. You can hear in his voice, which is a very Irish voice, you can hear bits of the Newfoundland dialect,” Moore shares.

The literary festival will have many other fantastic writers such as Sue Goyette, Halifax poet and 2014 Griffin nominee; Mary Walsh, who is a proud Newfoundland comedian, writer and activist; Pam Hall, who creates visual art, constructs installations, works with language, and is engaged in film & video; and many more names from across Newfoundland and Canada.

“It’s really a chance to sample all these different voices who are writing right now, and at the top of their field,” explains Moore. “They really experiment with language, and it moves like a freight train. People read and there’s questions from the audience. I think people get really excited by it. The audiences are usually huge, and it’s growing every year.”

Word Spree

Participants can expect to have a day packed with profound and magnificent writings, with the festival currently being organized by Memorial’s Department of English, and having ongoing support from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. SPARKS continues to celebrate the literary creations of Newfoundland and Labrador, and showcase writers at various stages of their creative lives.

“Mary Dalton has called it a word spree,” Moore shares.

“I think what she means is that it really is a blast of entertainment and beautiful language, and just charged storytelling and magnificent poetry. It just comes at you all day and people settle in, and they really enjoy meeting the authors, the authors who are writing here right now. And people, during breaks, get a chance to chat with people, and authors, and buy books. I think it is a pretty great experience.”

SPARKS literary festival will be held at the Suncor Energy Hall, with free admission, on Jan. 28 — 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more info. visit:

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