Posts Tagged ‘writing contest’

Literary Journal “Don’t Talk to Me About Love” Launches Inaugural Issue


Don’t Talk to Me About Love, a new online literary journal, is encouraging readers, writers, and artists to do quite the opposite — “to explore contemporary ideas about love in all its myriad expressions (romantic and platonic), in prose, poetry, and visual art.”

This online community is the brainchild of  literary agent Sam Hiyate of The Rights Factory, executive editor Diane Terrana, and writer Alexandra Risen (Unearthed; forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Penguin Canada). The project’s founders describe it as a site “that explores love through literature and art. It is the preeminent online community of people reading, writing and thinking About Love, publishing and promoting new and original works.”

Launched yesterday, the inaugural issue features new fiction by bestselling author David Gilmour, nonfiction by Kera Yonker, poetry by Linda Rui Feng, and an illustration by Heidi Berton. The site is also serializing a novel: Irresistible by Margot Berwin. Each issue will offer up an interview, Talk to Me, reminiscent of the well-known Proust Questionnaire. First in the hot seat — or rather, the love seat — is Sam Hiyate himself.

“Why love?” the site’s introduction asks.

“If it’s not what moves planets, fires stars and rotates galaxies; it should be.

“Is love a limbic function, madness or the ultimate truth? Life’s elixir? Maybe not: “Love is never any better than the lover,” says Toni Morrison. Matt Haig thinks love compensates for mortality. Emily Dickinson calls it immortality. As usual, Emily gets the last word.

“What do you think? Feel? Send us your stories, personal essays, poems or original artwork and let us know!”

Don’t Talk to Me About Love is now accepting submissions.

It’s also running its first writing contest, open for entries between now and (of course!) Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2016. Check out the contest rules here.

Subscribe for free to be notified of future issues. You can follow Don’t Talk to Me About Love on Facebook and Twitter (@talk2meboutlove) too.

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

“Be Creative Yet Real”: The Malahat Review 2015 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize



Polish up your best creative nonfiction story!

The Malahat Review, one of Canada’s premier literary magazines, runs an annual creative nonfiction contest to honour former editor Constance Rooke (1942−2008). The competition runs until August 1, 2015, and accepts submissions from Canada, the United States, and overseas.

The prize of CDN$1000 goes to one winner, who will also be published and interviewed by The Malahat Review.

The Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize is awarded to “the best work submitted to the magazine’s annual contest for a genre that embraces, but is not limited to, the personal essay, memoir, narrative nonfiction, social commentary, travel writing, historical accounts, and biography, all enhanced by such elements as description, dramatic scenes, dialogue, and characterization.”

For further contest details, click 2015 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize.

Read about the 2014 winner, Rebecca Foust of Kentfield, California, here.

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Inspired by Art: Who’ll win the OWC “Story Starters” writing competition?


©2014 Allyson Latta

©2014 Allyson Latta


Click to read stories based on this photograph.

Story Starters

I was thrilled when the Ontario Writers’ Conference committee asked me to contribute one of my photographs to Story Starters. Now in its second year, the competition brings together artists and writers in a creative and entertaining way.

From January to March, at the beginning of each month, OWC featured the work of a different local artist. My photo (above) was published in February. I was honoured to share the Story Starters stage with artist, writer, and editor Ingrid Ruthig (January) and artist Gretel Boose (March).

Participants had till the end of each month to submit their writing prompted by that month’s art — prose or poetry of no more than 100 words. The result was amazing, as you’ll see when you click the link at the top of this page. My photo gave birth to an unexpected and provocative array of stories and poems. Altogether the three Story Starters inspired almost 200 contributions.

The committee chose its top ten for each month, from which judge James Dewar selected three finalists per Story Starter. Good luck to the following writers!

Marie Arthur-Beswick

Joe Balevi

Mona Blaker (2)

Kristy Leigh Logan

Alicja Merifield

Claire Sylvan

Lori Twining

Caroline Wissing

At the Ontario Writers’ Conference this Saturday, delegates will be able to read the finalists’ stories and vote for their favourites. The three winners will receive their prizes at the close of the conference.

And if you need more proof that art can plant a seed in a writer’s mind, here it is. One writer, Audrey Ksepka, used her Story Starters submission as the jumping-off point and wrote a 1500-word story that won first prize in a writing contest in Brownsville, Texas.

The Conference

I’ll be at the Ontario Writers’ Conference this Saturday, presenting a workshop on memoir writing titled “Truth and Dare” (with bonus self-editing tips). If you’re attending, maybe I’ll see you there.

And if you haven’t yet discovered this annual conference with its wonderful lineup of authors, editors, and workshop leaders, you don’t know what you’re missing. There’s still time for you to register for the Festival of Authors on Friday night (May 2). Or just come along and pay at the door.

Look Around You

Really look. What art — visual or otherwise — do you see that might get your pen moving and the words flowing?



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Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Make the Judges Care: How to up your odds in a writing contest, by Anne Mahon



Writing contests are like speed-dating events: nervous writers with only minutes to make a lasting first impression, and judges hoping (at times praying) to find a recipient worthy of their affection and commitment.

I learned this recently as a first-time judge for a creative nonfiction writing contest sponsored by my city’s main newspaper. One week, 93 entries, 1,500 words each. It was like impatiently combing a patchy 600-page book for the best six-page excerpt.

I was excited to join my two co-judges in seeking out the most memorable pieces of writing. Yet, although we did read a few great pieces, I was shocked at the amount of mediocre, even careless work that had been submitted. Judging the contest was a hugely informative (and formative) experience, generating in me an urgent, humble concern for my own writing.

Here’s what I learned:

The opening paragraph sets the tone for the encounter between writer and judge (or reader). As a handshake and eye contact — or lack thereof — can turn a speed-dater on or off, so too can an opening paragraph. The opening sets the tone for the experience the reader will have “inside” the piece. If it’s unexciting, expectations plummet and the overburdened judge starts looking for an excuse to move on to the next piece.

There must be substance to back up the accepted invitation. Once you’ve made it past hello, judges are looking for effective voice, character development, dialogue, and emotional truth. Use these to make the judges care.

Good content and craft must go hand in hand. Superior content delivered in a flawed writing style won’t impress — but neither will the most beautifully crafted piece, if the story isn’t meaningful.

Clichés make your writing sound stale. The overuse of clichés among the submissions was jaw dropping. In the quest for a voice that’s fresh, better to replace a cliché with a clean, simple phrase. Even topics can feel cliché. The contest received an abundance of pieces about travel, dying and dementia-affected parents, and relocation. If you choose to write on a popular topic, your approach must be insightful and unique, your craft impeccable.

Every paragraph, every sentence, and ideally every word should have purpose. Edit, edit, edit. This unseen effort demands a ruthless pen, but separates the extraordinary from the ordinary.

The ending is the final opportunity to impart something unforgettable. Like the last taste of melting chocolate on your tongue, it should be satisfying and leave a hint of what was. Or do the opposite and slam the reader to the floor in shock or wonder.

Don’t underestimate the significance of the title. Avoid those that explain, or give away too much. Among 93 entries were four identical titles that restated the broad topic of the contest: “An Unfamiliar Place.” Yawn. My favourite titles were curious ones that evaded easy definition or held multiple meanings.

Check carefully for typos and minor errors. Vigilant proofreading is a must; otherwise judges will think you do not value your work and their time enough to take maximum care. Reading aloud is a great way to catch tiny errors.

Use 12-point font with black ink unless otherwise noted. Our contest’s winning entry was selected independently by two of the three judges on the first read; however the third judge had not read it because of its varying shades of purple ink. She had eyesight and forgiveness issues. When pressed, she refused to read it, and eventually excused herself from the panel. Lucky for the winner, the story’s language was gorgeous, the content distinctive and memorable, and the remaining judges were unanimous and committed.

Two factors that affect selection are completely out of the writer’s control: the calibre of the contest’s other entrants and the personal taste of judges. Enter the smaller contests; your chances will improve. As for taste, my personal preference was for clean writing that stayed out of the way of the story. A style that sounded new, creating either pop or a pause of appreciation was even better. And don’t underestimate the power of humour, even when writing on a serious topic.

Ultimately writers must write for themselves. Chasing contests and valuing yourself based on their outcomes will leave you unhappy, and always searching. If you love writing, keep writing. No matter what. Keep reading too. You never know when you’ll find yourself stepping into the pages of something special.


♦     ♦     ♦

Anne Mahon’s first book The Lucky Ones: African Refugees’ Stories of Extraordinary Courage won the Manitoba Library’s 2013 On The Same Page Book Award, promoted as the book every Manitoban should read. All author proceeds are being donated to two local charities assisting refugees. Visit for more information.

(Anne was a student in my University of Toronto SCS writing course Memories into Story.)


Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Poets Are Always Aspiring: Shannon Bramer on judging the 2013 Aspiring Canadian Poets Contest

Coming up in my next post is an interview with Natalia Darie, first-prize winner in the 2013 Aspiring Canadian Poets Contest. Here’s poet and mentor Shannon Bramer with thoughts on her role as judge and why Natalia’s poem captured her imagination. ~ Allyson


Shannon Bramer

I was flattered and surprised when Heidi Stock wrote to ask if I would judge a contest for aspiring poets. I thought — who, me? I’m still aspiring! I still nervously send work out to publishers and literary journals. I still struggle with every new poem like it’s my first time trying to write one down. So I come to this contest with humbleness.

I chose three poems from a stack of dreams, complaints, heartache, nostalgia, and mystery. Every person who sits down to try and write a poem, no matter how experienced, is taking a risk. Sometimes this risk involves a semi-colon or a lowercase letter — other times it’s an idea or an emotion or a wobbly metaphor trying to find its way into the world.

Poetry is about putting strangeness and beauty to work. Poetry is about the silence between words and all the weight of one word left in the right place, alone. Sometimes a poet writes something down and leaves it there even when he or she isn’t sure how it got there. That’s what I like about poems.

This contest was especially wonderful and challenging to participate in because of the rules: poets entering should not have had a poem published. You must not be a poet yet. You must be aspiring. Hmmm.

I chose Natalia Darie’s poem “Maroon,” because it made contact with me. The title, first of all, a colour: maroon. A brownish-crimson colour, the dictionary says. The colour of dry blood. But the verb maroon is important too. This time the word means to leave (someone) trapped and isolated in an inaccessible place, especially an island.

And so I found myself on this island, within a poem about remembering a body, a voice, a place. Yet this poem also evokes reunion. The past and present are depicted as one landscape: a landscape of lakes, ruins, trenches — the stubborn curve of years that come between people. And finally, one voice, one body — merging with another:

Tighter and tighter you wrap

skin of a still lake

over, water my body

a drum against yours

I read this poem over and over again. I wanted to take the poem apart and put it back together again with the poet. I found the voice raw, not in a crude way, but in a deeply thoughtful, genuine, reaching sort of way. And I wanted to know the person who wrote it.

One must always be aspiring. Being a poet means just this: striving, aching, reaching for the words and silences that seem beyond us.


Natalia Darie


Visit Aspiring Canadian Poets Contest to read the winning poems:

Natalia Darie’s “Maroon”

Whitney Sweet’s “Brass Plaque and a Bottle of Beer” (second prize)

Bria Lubiens’ “Blue” (third prize)


SHANNON BRAMER is a poet, playwright, and co-founder of Broken Cloud Company. She is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently The Refrigerator Memory (2005) published by Coach House Books. Currently she teaches poetry to elementary school students and is the poet-in-residence at The Creative Children’s Dance Studio in the Junction neighbourhood of Toronto. Her newest collection of poetry, Precious Energy, is forthcoming from BookThug.

Shannon blogs at Broken Cloud Company and Poet in the Playground.

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

Write now! Deadline for UofT School of Continuing Studies writing competition is almost here


"Geheime Korrespondenz," by Carl von Bergen, 1891 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

“Geheime Korrespondenz,” by Carl von Bergen, 1891 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


Friday, May 24, 2013.

That’s the deadline for submissions to this year’s Random House of Canada Student Award for Fiction.

If you were enrolled in a course offered by the Creative Writing Program at University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies between May 15, 2012 and May 15, 2013 (today!), YOU’RE ELIGIBLE.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013