Authors encouraged to put pen to paper and get creative

Budding writers are urged to submit their entries for the annual Okanagan Short Story Contest.

Now running for 22 years, the short story contest has a long tradition of introducing new and emerging writers to the Okanagan community. Past winners have gone on to publish with Penguin Random House, Arsenal Pulp Press, and NeWest Press, as well as numerous magazines and journals nationally and internationally, explains John Lent, one of this year’s judges.

“I always sound like I’m exaggerating when I talk about this, but there is a concentration of writing talent in the Okanagan Valley and Southern Interior right now that is unique, making this area one of the most talented community of writers and teachers of writing anywhere in this country,” says Lent, a Vernon-based poet, editor and fiction writer. “There is no better example of all this talent intermingling than the quiet, but sure success of The Okanagan Short Story Contest winners. Just look at the list of past winners and the judges who found them and another big classy story is told.”

Past winners include Erin Scott, Brittni MacKenzie-Dale, Karen Hofmann, Joe Dermo and Ashley Little.

Lent says while there is still plenty of time before the contest closes, he urges budding writers to perhaps use some spare time over the holidays to get their stories drafted. The contest is open to fiction writers in the Southern Interior of British Columbia: east of Hope, west of the Alberta border, north of the US border and south of Williams Lake.

All original entries must be between 1,000 and 4,000 words and writers are welcome to submit as many entries as they choose. There is a $15 entry fee for each story, but no charge for high school students. All proceeds go towards UBCO’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies (FCCS) Creative Writing scholarships.

FCCS is offering cash prizes to the top three stories-$1,000, $400 and $200; the first prize winner also wins a one-week retreat at The Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre in Kelowna. For the third year in a row, the top short story by a high-school student in the region receives $200 prize.

Contest deadline is 11:15 p.m. Friday, January 31, 2020.

Entries will be judged by Lent and faculty from the Creative Writing program. Winners will be announced in March at a public event where short-listed authors will be invited to read from their work.

Co-sponsors are FCCS, Amber Webb-Bowerman Memorial Foundation and the Central Okanagan Foundation. For a full list of contest details, rules and past winners, visit

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