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Student creativity showcased in UTSC writing competition

CREATIVE WRITING: The 2010 Creative Writing competition drew some 91 entries of high-quality writing and an exciting range of voices.

by Robert Onley

With a flair for words and brilliant grasp of the English language, several students were recently chosen as winners in the 2010 Creative Writing Competition at U of T Scarborough. Students from every discipline and year at the university submitted a wide variety of prose and poetry for the competition. A total of 91 entries were submitted, 36 in the Prose category and 55 in the Poetry category.

“It is with great pleasure that we announce the winners of this year's UTSC Creative Writing Competition,” says creative writing lecturer Daniel Tysdal. “The quality of the writing this year was high and the range of imagination inspiring.”

“What impressed me the most was the variety of work being undertaken by UTSC students,” Tysdal adds. “There are a lot of unique voices exploring a range of ideas, from loss to love to faith -- as well as different forms of writing from the personal lyric to the surrealist flight to more performance-based howls.”

The competition was divided between submissions in Prose and Poetry. In the Prose category, the first prize winner was Andrew Shenkman for his short story titled "Salt Water." 

“Winning the prize was tremendously encouraging, and I guess also pretty validating because I've always really loved writing,” says Shenkman. He describes “Salt Water” as a short piece about a man returning to his parents' home after a long descent into mental illness. It deals primarily with his attempts to reconnect with his younger sister, a sufferer of Asberger's Syndrome, as well as a dark episode from their past. Shenkman says the writing process was stimulating and he appreciated the faculty support. "I can't say enough good things about Professor Tysdal, he was a real asset through the creative writing process.”

The first-prize winner in the Poetry section was Laura Cok, for her poem “The Bird Girls”. Cok says her poem is about “the cruelty of middle-school girls and, simultaneously, their intense vulnerability. There are things we do that we think will protect us -- gathering in groups of similar people, adhering to social conventions, wearing the right thing, not walking down the wrong street -- but the world can chew us up and spit us out all the same. These are real-life Mean Girls in the poem, but I think that a little age and distance has given me some sympathy for them.”

On winning the Poetry competition, Cok is understatedly poetic, saying “Writing just is, for me.” But she adds that she is “absolutely thrilled that creative writing is being taken seriously at UTSC. It's really important to have these contests -- so often we scribble away in our rooms late at night without human contact, and so a little recognition can go a long way towards encouraging us as writers.” Cok also won first prize in the Poetry category last year, for "Blues for Helen of Troy."

Second prize in the Prose category went to, Sung Ryu, with “Overheard”. The third prize in the Prose category resulted in a tie between Monica Varey with “The Memoirs” and Christine Tan with "Human Going".

In the Poetry category, second and third place went respectively to Stefan Catona for his poem "Ghoul Ricki's Hotel", and Katie Fewster Yan for "Sigh".

Catona’s "Ghoul Ricki's Hotel" is a dreamlike narrative documenting an individual's spiritual transformation facilitated by mind-altering substances. Inspiration for this poem came from the unlikeliest of places, as Catona says he got the idea “by observing the stages associated with changes in free energy during chemical reactions.”

Tysdal says, “As we expand our creative writing offerings in the department of English, we have an opportunity and a challenge: the opportunity is to help these already talented writers take great strides in their development, while the challenge is to organize more events like the Creative Writing Competition and Poetry Idol, which we ran last February. These events nurture a greater, trans-departmental writing community. We hope this year’s competition encourages all students, even those unable to take Creative Writing courses, to write and share their work with the UTSC community.”

“We were impressed with the quality of prose entries and the variety of themes, approaches and influences in our students’ writing,” says Nancy Johnston, writing support coordinator in the UTSC Writing Centre. “In the past two years we’ve expanded the awards to honour the breadth of student writing and we now include honourable mentions to highlight the talent here on campus.”

The 2010 Creative Writing Competition was sponsored by the Department of Humanities and the Writing Centre (Centre for Teaching and Learning), together providing monetary prizes for first, second, and third place in the poetry and prose categories. Entries in the Competition were judged by professors Trisha Lamie and Andrew DuBois, and the event was promoted by Arts & Events Programming. Three local publishers – Brick, Coach House, and Tightrope – also donated books to be given as prizes. To see more, visit the UTSC Creative Writing Blog, featuring winning submissions at

List of 2010 Creative Writing Award Winners


First: "The Bird Girls" by Laura Cok

Second: "Ghoul Ricki’s Hotel" by Stefan Catona

Third: "Sigh" by Katie Fewster-Yan

Honourable Mention: Poetry

"Dear, Indeed" by Lee Yoong Siang

"Periphery" by Stephanie Kazan

"Bloody Socks" by Constance Adams

"Metaphor for Lloyd" by Charmaine Santos

"Buttercups and Daffodils" by Casandra Rinaldi

"My Rosebuds" by Julia Pedota

"Heathcliff: A Retelling" by Fathima Feroze


First: "Salt Water" by Andrew Shenkman

Second: "Overheard" by Sung Ryu

Third (tie): "The Memoirs?" by Monica Varey

Third (tie): "Human Going" by Christine Tan

Honourable Mention: Prose

"A Hot Afternoon" by Sheeza Iqbal

"Christopher" by Damion Platt

"The Accident" by Rathees Uthaykumar

"Midnight Shelly" by Jonathon Alexander

© University of Toronto Scarborough