2019 Write On! Contest

RCLAS Write on Contest 2019 WINNERS AND HM's

Judges Comments – 2019 Write On! Contest  

Contest Winners
First Place:  Summer Gone Wrong 1979
Second Place: Welcome to Canada
Third Place: Fly Away

Fiction Honourable Mentions:
The Iron Maiden
A Fair Critique
A New Start

First Place: Summer Gone Wrong 1979

This story is rich in characters, subtext, and vivid sensory descriptions. The writing is tight and well paced. The reader is welcomed to an isolated, slow-paced summer town. A place where locals meet and gossip in the bar. However, “this summer felt out-of-step, the normal cadence, off-tempo. For one thing, there was a beer strike.” Everything is off, including the main character. Fiona, mother of preschoolers, always stops by the bar after work to “change gears.” From her we learn about the town’s puzzling incidents “someone tried to burn down the post office.” And, two local “boys” go missing. One of the missing is vulnerable man-child. His description is one to remember. I was hooked didn’t want to stop reading this exceptional story. Congratulations!

Second Place: Welcome to Canada

“When the endless umbrella of the Vancouver sky opens up above your head for the first time, you will have just become an immigrant in Canada.”

The story unfolds lightly, even though it addresses the hard truths of being an immigrant. What emerges is a series of instructions for new comers, and what to do if the money runs thin or you find yourself living in the shady neighbour. I enjoyed the fluid writing, and understated descriptions like, “You and your friends will see yourselves as clumps of tumbleweed in a flowering meadow.” Anyone who has left their homeland will relate to this story. Those who have never left their birth land will get a glimpse into the struggles of adjusting to a new culture.

I hope this author continues to write engaging stories as this one.

Third Place: Fly Away

It is difficult to convey a story about a character’s emotional limitations in under one thousand words. The writer of this piece did an excellent job. The main character finds himself at an airport, and by coincidence sees at a girl who could have been part of his life. But, he was and still is emotionally incapable. This story had to be read with care. A whole backstory was tucked into a single sentence. “He moved toward security with restless feet, followed the ropes that outlined a serpentine path instead of a boxing ring, thick ropes that could abrade naked skin and made him studiously avoid thoughts of his childhood basement.” I’m sure we’ll see more writing from this talented author.


It has been my pleasure to read through the 18 nonfiction submissions for the 2019
WriteOn Contest.

WINNER – Jack Plane
It was not difficult to choose this piece as the winner among the NF submissions. It is a
perfectly executed story that takes you on a journey through generations all set in the
small space of a woodworking shop. I could smell the wood shavings and hear the jack
plane move. It is beautifully yet simply told tale of passing the torch from father to son to
daughter. Not overly sentimental, but deeply heartfelt, Jack Plane will put a lump in your
throat and tears in your eyes. It will make you glad for all the good things your parents
gave you.

2ND PLACE –  Crocs in Cottage Country
It was not as easy to choose the second and third place winners. This was a close call. I
enjoyed the tightly written Crocs in Cottage Country. I was impressed by the character
development through dialogue. The story brings a Russian immigrant and a Texan croc
wrangler to life in just 3 pages. It left me with a smile on my face. Well told.

3RD PLACE  – Fire Dancing
As I mentioned, it was a difficult decision between 2nd and 3rd place. Fire Dancing is
also a well told story, an amusing adventure travel tale that was both informative (about
the Anastenarides dancers) and humourously entertaining. The story closes very well,
tying in the experience of the accidental overdose with the out-of-body experience of fire

HONOURABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order)
First Lesson
The Dragonfly Coincidence: Lessons learned from a strange set of
This piece had no title, but I refer to it as “The Fire”

Thank you for trusting me to judge the 2019 WriteOn Contest nonfiction entries. I
enjoyed the experience,
Jennifer Smith


Tillie’s Colander – This is a beautiful tribute to a mother’s love for her daughter. At the same time, it is a thoughtful recognition of the confusing mix of pain and pride a mother feels when her child is grown and ready to move out into the world. The setting – a shopping trip for the daughter’s new apartment – is perfect. The daughter is excited and “neglecting to conceal her zeal / or slow her gait” while the  mother lags behind, steeped in nostalgia. The fulcrum of their interplay is a colander and what a delightful metaphor! Will a cheap plastic colander be good enough to keep the daughter fed and safe? Indeed, mother thinks not and switches it for enamel which will be “strong / enough to withstand bacteria and loss.” The bacteria symbolic of all things threatening the daughter once she’s out of the safety of home. And loss, of course, symbolic of the mother’s new life which will be, like the colander, full of holes. In the final lines of the poem we come to understand that with the help of her mother’s love and support, the daughter too will be “free-standing, sturdy, strong.” The use of everyday settings and objects to show so completely these kinds of bittersweet moments in life demonstrates skillful technique. Well done.

Boxing Day-  It’s impossible not to connect viscerally to this poem, which deals with the topic of sexual abuse. Immediately we are devastated both for the child and the mother. But the poet doesn’t languish in sentimentality. The speaker is a strong little girl who is angry but will survive and we celebrate her courage. I enjoyed the extended metaphor of water and the sea. The daughter’s revelation leads to a ‘deep sea sting,’ she is ‘oyster shucked/feather plucked’ like a sea creature. The visual layout of the work aids in the story with the horrible details off to the right, separated from the interactions between daughter and mother. In the left aligned segments we are shown the love the girl has for her mother, and the sorrow she feels having to tell her mother what the grandfather did. There’s skill in the telling of this tale, with rhymes so unforced they seem almost accidental. It is a well-crafted poem dealing with a most difficult subject. Bravo to the poet.

GIRLS IN SUMMER – There’s such wonderful detail in this fun poem which captures a perfect summer day – the sprinkler, the ice cream truck, the sleeping bags, and of course, the girls. The story is grand. But what really makes this poem stand out is the language. “Warblers bloom.” Girls leap ‘scissor-legged’ through the sprinkler, and the “water holds onto the light and gleams like broken glass flung into the air by an earthquake.’ The imagery takes us elsewhere – into the halcyon days of our own youth when we stood on the threshold to adulthood. That the crickets could rise ‘like a lullaby’ then abruptly rise ‘like the roar of kerosene stars’ is testament to the wild contradictions of those times. I especially loved the close. A full moon rising reflects the womanhood rising in the girls, a womanhood that will certainly ‘light up the pale hairs on their arms / and set their skin on fire.’


2019 write on contest info sheet

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