Winner of the 2019 Petrichor Prize for Finely Crafted Fiction
For K.T. Sparks, it’s always been about the words.
At first it was the words encased in the great books. Educated at those two guardians of the classical canon–University of Chicago and Oxford University (Brasenose College)–K.T. earned BAs in politics, economics, rhetoric, and law and politics, philosophy, and economics. The Oxford PPE degree could have morphed into an MA at some point in the 90s but affecting that required travel to Britain, finding someone with an ermine cloak he was willing to lend out, and mumbling several Latin phrases, and K.T. simply never got around to it.
Instead she took her words to Washington DC, where she worked as a speechwriter, legislative director, and political operative for Senate Democrats and federal agencies, a speech- and ghostwriter for left-leaning nonprofits, and an instructor in political communications (whatever THAT means). After twenty-five years, she realized she physically could not type the sentence: We must not kick the can down the road one more time and so left DC and moved to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. There, with a phalanx of Mennonite farmers, Mexican workers, a James Beard nominated chef, a retired local sheriff, and K.T.’s husband (an adventure writer, jalopy restorer, retired spy, and counterinsurgency professor) established a sustainable, multiproduct farm that brought food and some understanding of local agriculture to one hundred families in the DC area. K.T.’s words were central to the valiant but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to convince consumers that Green Fence Farm was a thriving food production enterprise and not an expensive hobby-cum-mid-life crisis.
After politics and marketing, fiction was a natural next landing place for K.T.’s words. She received her MFA from Queens University in Charlotte, where she served as an assistant fiction editor of Qu (a literary magazine). She has work upcoming in the Kenyon Review and Prime Number Magazine, and her short fiction has appeared in Pank, Word Riot, Citron Review, Jersey Devil Press, WhiskeyPaper, and Jellyfish Review, was anthologized in The Lobsters Run Free: Bath Flash Fiction Volume Two, and was recognized in the New Millennium Writing Awards, The Moth short story competition, Tulip Tree Press, and the Bath and WriterHouse flash fiction contests. Her novel, Four Dead Horses, a story of cowboy poetry and the obese pet mortician who loves it, was a semifinalist in Southeast Missouri State University Press’s Nilsen Prize for a First Novel, took first place in the James River Writers’ Best Unpublished Novel Contest, and was excerpted in Richmond Magazine. In August of 2019, Four Dead Horses won Regal House Publishing’s 2019 Petrichor Prize and will be published in spring 2021.
Throughout all her career shifts, K.T. has continued to save her wisest and most heartfelt words for those least willing to listen: her large distended family, which includes children, stepchildren, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, parents, in-laws, exes, and seemingly unending concentric circles of spouses, partners, fiancés, more exes, and more spouses—shining bright and swirling outward, like the rings of Jupiter, but less dusty. Without this mélange for inspiration and support, K.T. would probably never have been moved to put word one on paper.
K.T., her husband, Nick, their whippet-beagle-terrier-dachshund mix, Sonny Jim, and more scrawny chickens than anyone cares to count live on their farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, waiting for the kids to come visit, or at least call for God’s sake.
To read the first chapter of Four Dead Horses (excerpted in the Richmond Times) and more of K.T.’s published fiction, visit her website at KTSparks.com