Young writers in the Okanagan and beyond are submitting their poetry and short story works for a chance at prize money and to become a published writer.
Okanagan Publishing House is holding its second annual Okanagan Young Writers’ Awards, collecting submissions of poetry (a group of three poems) and short stories (4,000 words or fewer) or a one-act play running no more than 30 minutes. Submissions close Friday, Nov. 24.
The competition is open to teens aged 14 to 19 as far north as Revelstoke, south to Osoyoos, east to Nakusp and west to Merritt. The finalists for the poetry and short story categories will be announced Jan. 5 and the winners will be announced at an awards gala on Jan. 15.
The winners in both the poetry and short story categories will receive a cash prize of $200, provided by sponsor The Vernon Morning Star. The top writers will also receive medallions courtesy of Kelowna’s Trophy Den.
A story and poetry reading will be facilitated by Okanagan Publishing House in early February.
Most exciting is the chance for young writers to get published, as the winners and honourable mentions in the competition will have their work published in the 2023 edition of the Best of the Okanagan Young Writers’ Awards Collection, a book that will be bound, printed and ready in time for the gala in January.
“It’s a way to be able to allow these kids the opportunity to have their works recognized and be able to say that they’re a published author or writer,” said Okanagan Publishing House owner and editor Jadon Dick, who will serve as one of the judges for the writing competition.
There is no entry fee to submit works, and Dick says his team is happy to be able to remove that barrier for the young writers.
He says most other writing competitions in the Okanagan — such as UBCO’s short story competition — are geared towards established writers, where as this competition aims to give young writers their first taste of the publishing world.
Dick takes pride in responding to the submissions; even if a story or poem doesn’t win an award or make it into the book, he will respond to the submission letting the young person know he read it, describing what he enjoyed about it, and fostering their creativity.
“I just think there’s something really powerful about allowing kids of all backgrounds the opportunity to be interested in something like this, trying to eliminate any barriers to access that way, but then also recognizing as many people as possible.”
It’s a rare opportunity for young writers living in small towns where there are fewer chances to submit their works and gain recognition.
Dick’s team fielded 40 submissions during the inaugural competition last year, and he was amazed at the creativity he got to see on display.
“One thing that constantly surprises and amazes me is just how talented these writers are,” he said. “Receiving submissions from people and getting people as young as 14 shortlisted just because of the creativity, that’s the biggest thing that stands out to me is just how amazing the minds of these kids are.”
He said it’s also inspiring seeing accounts of the teenage experience submitted; he’s read many stories and poems that capture how emotional that stage of life can be.
“I think writing is such a powerful tool to be able to communicate and help work through issues of mental health or abuse or even climate anxiety, and love and heartbreak too,” he said. “It reminded me of and connected me back to my experience (as a teen) too.”
To learn more about the competition, visit okanaganyoungwriters.ca.