The 2019 Islands Short Fiction Contest awards were presented at a ceremony on April 27th in Nanaimo.
Co-sponsored by the Nanaimo Arts Council, the Vancouver Island Regional Library, and the Vancouver Island University Department of Creative Writing and Journalism, the awards are open to writers on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. 127 entries were received this year across three categories: Adult, Youth, and Junior.
Winner of 1st-prize in the Adult category, as chosen by judge Stephen Guppy, was Katy Weicker of Victoria for her story “Tinder Embers.” Noted Guppy: “The narrator of ‘Tinder Embers’ is the anti-heroine of an anti-romance; the author has taken the formula romance and turned it on its head.” (Read Stephen Guppy’s complete remarks on the winners below.)
Second-prize went to Jonathan Sean Lyster of Parksville for “Target Market,” while Dawn Stofer of Denman Island won third-prize for “Identities Reclaimed.”
Receiving Honourable Mentions were Robert Bowerman (Nanaimo) for “I’ve Got You Now,” Jim Creighton (Campbell River) for “Old Growth,” Cornelia Hoogland (Hornby Island) for “1-800-WHERE-R-YOU,” David Reichheld (Sooke) for “Let Morning Bring Me,” and Délani Valin (Nanaimo) for “Potemkin.”
In the Youth category, the first-prize winner was Charlotte Taylor of Nanaimo for “Calm Before the Storm,” of which judge Lee Losell said, “This beautifully written piece begins with a low tension that builds throughout the story until we arrive at an ending we suddenly realize was inevitable.” Second-prize was awarded to Yinan Cao (Nanaimo) for “Stray” and Jocelyn Diemer (Campbell River) received third-prize for “Burning Away.”
Honourable mentions went to Kaitlyn Ha (Nanaimo) for “Clouds” and Linnea Wiggers (Nanaimo) for “The Adventure of Arthur May.”
Of the first-prize story in the Junior category, “The Old Clock” by Thunya Dudley of Nanoose, judge Nathan McKay said, “This is a cool mix of fantastical and realistic. There’s wild stuff with elves and glow pumpkins and wishes but it’s grounded by a main character with very human motivation . . . . Great stuff!” The second-prize winner was Esmé Iverson (Duncan) for “The Patchwork Girl” while third-prize went to Carolynn Warren (Comox) for “The Super Cookie.”
Honourable mentions in the Junior category were awarded to Caroline Edwin (Campbell River) for “Adventures in the World,” Cadence Millsap (Nanaimo) for “The Miraculous Tales of Butterfly and Bee,” Julia Ratzlaff (Nanaimo) for “The Dove Diamond,” Tarika Stitt (Nanaimo) for “The Origin of Thought,” and Franklin Warren (Comox) for “Almiro’s Tales.”
Over $2200 in cash and prizes was awarded.
The Islands Short Fiction Contest is made possible by financial support from the Province of British Columbia, the City of Nanaimo, and Vancouver Island University. Most of the winning stories will be posted shortly on this website, where past winners may also be read.
Judge Stephen Guppy on the winners and honourable mentions in the Adult category:
I enjoyed reading through the entries in this year’s contest. Every entry had something to offer in terms of entertainment value, and most were well-written and constructed around a worthwhile concept. Nanaimo obviously boasts a vibrant community of fiction writers.
Winnowing down the lengthy list of entries was a challenging task. A few narratives simply didn’t fulfil the genre criterion: this is a short fiction contest, and memoirs, travelogues, and philosophical essays—however interesting they might be on their own terms—don’t qualify. Quite a few stories have real potential but seem to be a draft or two away from completion—typically, the conflict is too vague or appears too late in the narrative. “Go straight to the heart of the conflict” is the best advice I can give to writers of short fiction: it’s often the difference between a story that gets published and finds an audience and one that doesn’t.
I hope the writers who shared their work with us will continue to revise and develop their stories: there’s no shortage of potential here.
1st Prize: “Tinder Embers” (Katy Weicker, Victoria)
The narrator of “Tinder Embers” is the anti-heroine of an anti-romance; the author has taken the formula romance and turned it on its head. The use of social media as a device for involving the narrator with an “off-stage” character who functions as a foil is particularly effective.
2nd Prize: “Target Market” (Jonathan Sean Lyster, Parksville)
“Target Market” is a science fiction story that’s built around an original concept, one that’s particularly appropriate in the context of a writing contest. The resolution is understated but chilling.
3rd Prize: “Identities Reclaimed” (Dawn Stofer, Denman Island)
“Identities Reclaimed” is original, funny, and hip. While quite a few first-person stories feature an unreliable narrator, the central figure of this story isn’t so much unreliable as profoundly quirky—her perspective is refreshingly strange.
“Potemkin” (Delani Valin, Nanaimo) is a well-crafted story with a simple but intriguing plot structure. The voice is engaging, the transitions are clear and incisive, and the prose style is interesting without being obtrusive.
“Old Growth” (Jim Creighton, Campbell River) makes effective use of an unreliable narrator to set us up for a convincing resolution. The narrator’s voice, rooted in a clearly-imagined place and time, carries this story.
“1-800-WHERE-R-YOU” (Cornelia Hoogland, Hornby Island) features some enjoyable poetic prose and imagery.
“Let Morning Bring Me” (David Reichheld, Sooke) is richly descriptive and does a good job of representing a sweep of time.
“I’ve Got You Now” (Robert Bowerman, Nanaimo) includes a couple of strong characters and exploits the parallels and contrasts between them—that’s always an important technique for fiction writers.