Sara Stobbe received the first-place youth prize for her story in the 2018 Short Story Contest. (Photo submitted)

Quesnel residents encouraged to share their stories in writing contest

The topic for this year’s Short Story Contest is “stranded”

The organizers of the sixth annual Short Story Contest are hoping Quesnel residents who have a story to tell will be inspired to write those stories down.

The Short Story Contest, presented by Literacy Quesnel, Friends of the Library Quesnel, the Quesnel and District Community Arts Council, the Quesnel Wordspinners, the Province of British Columbia and the British Columbia Arts Council, is a chance for budding and experienced writers to share their talents with the community and challenge themselves by writing up to 500 words based on a writing prompt.

“We really encourage people to take a chance,” said local author L.A.G. McIntyre, who is one of the contest judges. “Everybody’s voice is valid, and we want to hear from them. We want to hear what they think. It really reflects the diversity of our community when we see that. It’s amazing what people can say in 500 words.”

The topic for this year’s contest is “Stranded.”

Submissions can be up to 500 words about the topic, and there are categories for adult and youth writers.

The contest is open to Quesnel and area residents who live within the School District 28 boundaries, and each person can enter one story. Entries must be typed, using Times New Roman font, 12-point size and double-spaced.

Stories will be judged on how convincing they are, if they draw you into their world, if the characters come alive, if it is exciting or moving, and if you feel you learned something or gained some insight after reading the story.

“It’s been really interesting to see the varied types of stories that have come in over the years,” said Bernice Heinzelman, one of the organizers of the annual contest.

McIntyre agrees.

“There are very talented people in Quesnel,” she said. “Because it’s a writing prompt, the rules are really wide open, and people can write about anything around that topic.”

McIntyre, who is currently working on her fourth book in the Lies of Lesser Gods series, is one of three judges on this year’s panel. The stories are judged blindly without knowing the author’s name.

“I love stories because I think that’s why the written language exists,” said McIntyre. “I think that’s why it came to exist, because we needed a way to write our stories down. We all tell stories. It’s universal. It really is such a huge part of our communities and our cultures, and this is what gets passed down from generations.”

Once all the judges have finished critiquing the stories, the organizers meet together to determine the top three youth and adult stories, explained Heinzelman.

“Some years, it’s very easy, and some, it’s very difficult,” she noted.

Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three adults (aged 19 and older) and youth (aged 12 to 18), with the first-place authors in each category receiving $75, the second-place authors receiving $50, and the third-place authors receiving $25. In the event of a tie, each winner will receive the cash prize.

Each submission will receive detailed comments from the judging panel.

“The nice thing is everybody who enters the contest receives the notes, so if they are really interested in advancing their craft as writers, it’s really great feedback,” said McIntyre.

Heinzelman says this is a great opportunity for local writers because there is nothing else like this in Quesnel.

“We see a lot of repeat customers; that’s really neat for me because I see they are getting something out of it,” added McIntyre.

The contest usually attracts about 20 authors each year, and McIntyre would love to see even more entries.

“We have a large population here, and we know there are a lot of great storytellers,” she said. “There are some really brilliant people out there with brilliant ideas, and we want to hear all of them.”

Registration forms for this year’s contest can be downloaded from quesnelarts.com, or physical forms can be found at the Quesnel and District Arts and Recreation Centre, the Quesnel Library, the Quesnel Visitor Centre and Literacy Quesnel.

Entries must be submitted by 9 p.m. on April 5, and entries can be dropped off or mailed to the Quesnel and District Community Arts Council 2020 Writing Contest c/o Quesnel and District Arts and Recreation Centre, 500 North Star Rd., Quesnel, B.C., V2J 5P6. Entries can also be emailed to bheinzel@quesnelbc.com, with the subject line 2020 Writing Contest.

Prizes will be awarded at a public celebration event April 30 at 7 p.m. at the Quesnel Library. There will be an opportunity for the authors to read their stories at this public event, and refreshments will be served.

Winning submissions will also be published in the Quesnel Cariboo Observer.

For more information, contact Bernice at 250-747-1727 or bheinzel@quesnelbc.com.

READ MORE: Winning stories from Quesnel’s fourth annual writing contest



editor@quesnelobserver.com

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