It’s been said that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine.
While Quesnel writers may not be walking away from the pandemic with a literary classic, some will be walking away with cash prizes for their writing efforts during this year.
Winners of the sixth annual Quesnel Short Story Writing Contest were recently announced.
Bernice Heinzelman, chair of the contest, said she received more entries this year.
“We usually only have four or five [youth entries], but this year we had 22,” she said.
The theme of “stranded” was appropriate for 2020, but writers were eager to avoid the topic of a virus or pandemic.
“When we chose the topic, we had no idea,” Heinzelman said, laughing. “There was very few with COVID-19.”
The stories were judged by L.G.A. McIntyre, the author of the Lies of Lesser Gods fantasy series, College of New Caledonia English instructor Mary-Ann Sturdy and Evelyn Galbraith, another local writer.
Entrants had to write a story of up to 500 words based on the theme.
“In 500 words, it’s very difficult, and some [writers] execute that with so much skill, it’s just amazing,” McIntyre said. “I’m in awe of that because I’m not a great short story writer.”
Cash prizes of $75, $50, $25 and $10 went to winners in both the youth and adult categories.
Neveah Kueber won first place in the youth category, with Ruby Nicholas and Molly Heartley taking second and third, respectively. Honourable mention went to Sara Stobbe.
In the adult category, Lin Weich came out on top, with Sarah Champagne and Karen Seinson rounding out the top three. Rose Pairse was honourable mention.
While the cash prizes are great, even more valuable for writers is the detailed feedback from experienced authors. Each story is returned with suggestions and potential improvements.
“You want to make sure you’re giving constructive feedback and not just ripping it,” McIntyre said. “Being an instructor at the college, it becomes very easy to start grading it. I can’t apply that kind of critical eye to the stuff we get. Some of these people are children.”
Sponsors of the contest include the Friends of the Quesnel Library, Literacy Quesnel, the Quesnel Wordspinners, the Quesnel and District Community Arts Council, the B.C. Arts Council and the Government of B.C.
The contest winners will be published in the Observer in the coming weeks.
The contest will run next year as well, but Heinzelman said she wasn’t sure when the seventh annual contest will start.
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