“Writing — like all forms of communicating — is a universal urge. We write because we must, even if it hurts.” Anonymous
Professor Walter F. Spara, while not here to vouch for it, would probably agree with that statement.
Spara was the founder of Pensacola Junior College’s creative writing program and passed away March 12 of this year, after a brief hospitalization. He was 80.
Spara taught at Pensacola Junior College (long before the name change to Pensacola State) from 1966 until he retired in May of 2000.
He also founded the nationally acclaimed literary journal, “Half Tones to Jubilee,” currently titled “The Hurricane Review.”
The Walter F. Spara Writing Competition, named in his likeness, has been a staple at Pensacola State for as long as anyone can remember. The competition allows students to submit works of poetry, fiction, and essays for a cash prize.
“Walter was a poet, in all senses of the word,” said Creative Writing professor Bill Fisher.
His works appeared in assorted publications over the years. He was also awarded a Heritage Award for Special Achievement in the Literary Arts by the West Florida Literary Federation.
English Department Head Thom Botsford was a close friend to Spara. Shortly before his death, Botsford gave him an update on the competition.
“He smiled when I told him we hoped to see him at the ceremony this year,” Botsford said.
Spara was said to have been a night owl and that is why his classes met in the early afternoon and early evening.
Spara steered students away from “free verse” and instead focused on rhyme and meter. He wanted his students to write haikus, sonnets, and ballads.
“He liked the musical aspect of poems. He encouraged students to write with the ear,” Botsford said.