2013 Spreading the Word Youth Writing Contest Info

VWF Spreading the Word Youth Writing Contest Winners

The Vancouver Writers Fest is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Spreading the Word Youth Writing Contest.


Short Fiction


Judges' Notes

It was a pleasure to read for the Writers Festival’s Spreading the Word Youth Poetry and Short Story Contest. I found the entries to be remarkable, sure-footed, voice-driven, vivid. In order to feel right about choosing the pieces I felt were worthy of the number one spots in Poetry and Fiction, respectively, I knew I first had to consider what I found to be essential criteria when reading literary works.

The winning poems would arrest me with the fresh language first, and then idea. An understanding of the musicality of language would be present, and a unique point of view. But overall, I know that the poems in the world I like reading and re-reading, even the darkest, saddest poems, have a sense of humour to them that gives them that edge. Here was my criteria, and this is what I held the poems up to during my decision process.

When it comes to the winning short stories, I read for a strong sense of story, an action that held my attention, and unexpected turns. This sounds simple, but as the writers of these stories know, it's difficult to achieve any one of these criteria, let alone all three. Here are stories told in a new way, with voices that compelled me and had me reading on.

Sheryda Warrener
Poet and 2013 Spreading the Word Writing Contest judge


It was an honour and a pleasure to read this year’s entries and to help identify some young writers certain to emerge as upcoming talents. In both genres, I sought authentic voices with fresh approaches.

The poetry submissions ranged broadly. Some focused on personal events and dynamics, others on aspects of the human condition; some were raw and colloquial, others verbally dextrous. Regardless of subject matter or style, I was looking for poets offering particular points of view, using the powerful detail of specific, intimate moments to express larger themes and feelings. By harmonizing individual experience with universal, these poems effectively filtered profound, even abstract ideas (which can be so difficult to write about) into truthful and engaging responses—a great accomplishment.

The fiction submissions also ranged in style and subject, from historical fiction to science fiction to character study, and they were full of interesting, creative ideas. Some writers showed an impressive knack for storytelling in their considered balance of plot, literary device, and details of setting and character. In such pieces, I looked for characters with whom I felt strong empathy and a sense of connection. Whether in the context of historical wars, or of predictions about our society, or of just one individual’s life, the characters depicted in these very successful stories revealed something of human relationships—something that rang true and was thought-provoking. This is a goal that all writers, regardless of experience or accomplishment, struggle with every time they sit down to write a story.

Catharine Chen
Fiction writer/freelance literary editor and 2013 Spreading the Word Writing Contest judge


The Rewards

1st prize - $300

2nd prize - $200

Prize winners will be published in The Claremont Review.