Here they are, our winners of the Canada 150 writing contest.
Ready for your drumroll?
Last fall, as part of Canada 150th birthday celebrations, the CBC asked students from coast to coast to coast to submit the first pate of a novel set 150 years from now. They got thousands of entries, and narrowed them down to just twenty -- ten from students in grades 7 - 9, and ten from students in grade 10 - 12. See my last entry for the complete list.
(I was so happy with this list, incidentally: it's got students from nearly every provience and territory; it's got Anglophones and Francophones writing in English, and other ESL writers of several stripes. It's got indigenous voices and young people of color on it. And it's got non-traditional learners -- adults returning to school to lay new foundations for themselves. It was all judged blind so this is a happy coincidence -- but so worth celebrating!)
Anyway, after it was down to twenty it was down to me. I spent a long time with these words, and I am thrilled to finally share the winners.
Choosing a winner in the grade 10 -12 category was ridiculously hard. Each story had something special about it – a spark – but the nature of that spark varied. For instance, “Galaxy Rover” has a great sense of dialog; “Willingly Immured” talks about the taste of the pity baked into the casseroles your neighbours bring after a tragedy; “The Girl Who Stole the Light” has a rich setting and a sense of mythology that nothing else in the competition matched. I could have chosen any of them.
In the end, I picked “Greater Good” because it’s just so much fun. If you read teen fiction, you’ve seen it before: the crowd of nervous teens waiting for some terrible trial or competition to begin. But here, it gradually emerges, the kids are waiting to see who is going to be picked as an apprentice to the evil dictator. I was hooked from the first line – ““The beauty of running a benevolent dictatorship is that benevolent is a relative term” – and the story stayed with me. I would absolutely read more of it, and in the end, that’s what storytelling is about. Congratulations to author Abby Robitaille!
In the grade 7 – 9 category, I chose “Nameless.” In this story, everyone wears contact lenses that present them with an augmented reality: a world in which curated appearances and reputation are everything, and no one has anything as permanent or as personal as a name. “Nameless” works on its own terms, but it also could be read as a sharp critique of the omnipresent world of social media that envelopes today’s young people. It made my heart ache for today’s kids, and it made me think. It is science fiction at its finest. Congratulations, Sari Warshawsky.