This Sunday at the SPARKS Literary Festival, Brigdet Canning read an excerpt of her debut novel, The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes, which is being published by Breakwater Books in April.

In the selection Canning read, her protagonist recounts what begins as a mundane grocery run and ends with her stopping a mass shooting by hurling a can of coconut milk at the gunman. Canning’s reading bewitched listeners with a mixture of dry humour and ruthless suspense.

The audience erupted in applause when Canning was invited on stage again at the end of the day-long festival to accept the 2017 Cox & Palmer SPARKS Creative Writing Award.

The award acknowledges outstanding achievement in creative writing by a current or recent participant in Memorial University’s creative writing courses. This year, in addition to the award’s $4000 prize,  the Landfall Trust partnered with Cox & Palmer to offer the winner a two-week artist residency at Kent Cottage in Brigus.

Award-winners often get a secret heads-up that they will be recognized at an event, but Canning had no idea she’d won the prestigious award until she was summoned to the stage a second time.

One of her professors had scheduled a fake meeting with her in the lobby immediately after award ceremony to make sure she didn’t leave before the announcement. Canning appreciated the elaborate, surprise-party-style set-up.

“I was completely overwhelmed and so so happy… SPARKS is such a special event, it was so nice to get the award at the Festival and receive well-wishes from people who have helped me and who I admire.” Canning said.

Canning is enrolled in Memorial’s English Literature Master’s program and has just begun work on a collection of short stories, which will be her thesis. In addition to her soon-to-be-released novel and her new story collection, she is working on a several collaborative writing projects including a short film that is being produced through NIFCO’s PictureStart program, and a coffee table book called, What’s Written In The Ladies: Photographs and Scribblings.

The large-format book will combine photographs of graffiti in women’s bathrooms with fiction inspired by the images.

Canning is thrilled about the Landfall Trust Residency, which will give her a block of time to get some serious writing done. During the residency she will be staying in a 200 year-old stone cottage that was originally owned by the famous illustrator and author, Rockwell Kent.

I’m terribly excited about that, just before you called I was looking at photos of Brigus and the cottage, it’s so beautiful…The idea of having two weeks to focus and get some ideas down is really exciting, I’m so grateful,”” Canning said.

She plans devote some of her time in Brigus to working on her short story collection. She is also hoping to hammer out a draft of her first feature-length screenplay during her stay, a horror film about a serial killer who targets Internet trolls.