Hailing from throughout Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, the winners of the 2017 Islands Short Fiction Contest were announced at an awards presentation in Nanaimo on April 27th.
First-place winner in the Adult category was Jill Talbot of Gabriola Island for her story “Two Humpback Whales,” of which judge Robert Hilles remarked, “This story grips you immediately and always keeps you off kilter. As a reader you never know what will happen next . . . . It’s proof that great stories can be set anywhere and even if they seem to be about everyday events, every moment in them can be miraculous, bold, and transcending.” (See Hilles’ complete remarks on the winners below.)
Second place went to Kristine Stephenson of Parksville for “Bee Soup,” while third place was awarded to David Reichheld of Sooke for “Sombrio Beach.” Hilles also gave honourable mentions to Jim Creighton of Campbell River for “Old Growth,” J. Leigh Hirst of Mill Bay for “Stick People,” Tara Douglas of Sidney for “Travelling to Tranquility,” Julia Baker of Victoria for “Katie,” Violet Walter of Nanaimo for “Pros(e) of Psychosis aka the Perils of Writing,“ and Jenny Hyslop of Sointula for “Tom and Choice.”
Hilles, a Governor General’s Award-winning author and an instructor in the Vancouver Island University Department of Creative Writing and Journalism, noted that “There were a lot of strong stories this year and it was hard to weed my list down to just these nine.”
In the Youth category, for writers from ages 13 to 18, the first place winner was Tyler Lynch of Nanaimo for “Waiting in the Wings.” Lynch’s story will also be published in In Our Own Voice 2017, an anthology of youth writing from Rebel Mountain Press. Second prize went to Rebecca Cyr of Port McNeill for “A Perfect Imperfection,” while Sara Lewis of Nanaimo won third prize for “Slavery of Freedom.” Judge of the Youth category was Jennifer Seper of the Vancouver Island Regional Library.
First-place winner in the Junior category, for ages 12 and under, was Flynn Connolly Sifton of Parksville for “The Vacuum of Infinity.” Second prize went to Arthur Taylor of Nanaimo for “Patrol Chase,” and third place to Ember Westerhof of Qualicum Beach for “A Walk in the Woods.” Julie Carter of the Vancouver Island Regional Library judged the Junior category.
Over $2000 in cash and prizes were awarded at the event. The Islands Short Fiction Contest is co-sponsored by the Nanaimo Arts Council, the Vancouver Island Regional Library, and the Vancouver Island University Department of Creative Writing and Journalism. It is made possible by financial support from the Government of British Columbia and The City of Nanaimo.
Judge Robert Hilles on the winning entries in the Adult Category of the 2017 Islands Short Fiction Contest:
First Place Winner: “Two Humpback Whales” by Jill Talbot (Gabriola Island):
This story grips you immediately and always keeps you off kilter. As a reader you never know what will happen next. The thoughts and observations in the story are clever, witty, quirky, and contemporary. This story is proof that great stories can be set anywhere and even if they seem to be about everyday events, every moment in it can be miraculous, bold and transcending. You will not soon forget this story or the author’s assured voice. This a story that will get its author noticed.
Second Place Winner: “Bee Soup” by Kristine Stephenson (Parksville):
This starts as a story about mortality but ends up as a story about the power of living. The details about beekeeping and honey making are enthralling and so elaborately realized that the reader is left mesmerized. The main character is diagnosed with terminal cancer but she doesn’t allow that to be a death sentence. Instead that sparks her to life and by attending to her bees and the complex tasks of preparing honey she discovers that she is able to draw her two daughters closer. This story features sophisticated, detailed writing that proves why short stories can be transformative.
Third Place Winner: “Sombrio Beach” by David Reichheld (Sooke):
Here is a story steeped in the geography of the west coast and more specifically the rugged beaches at the turbulent edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It expertly renders that moment when the interplay between characters shifts from being dangerous and stirred up to being a deep realization of mortality. The dialogue and characterization is so original, subtle, and vivid that each character is instantly unique. The end will move readers to tears.