Short story contest winners to be announced virtually

As with many events this spring, UBC Okanagan’s short story contest winners will be announced at a virtual venue.

The annual contest, organized by the Creative Writing program in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, is a writing competition open to fiction writers in British Columbia’s Southern Interior. Writers submit their stories, which are then read, anonymously, by faculty, and the shortlisted stories are sent to a guest judge to choose the winners in the adult and high school categories.

John Lent, This year’s UBCO Writer-in-Residence John Lent was tasked with selecting the top short stories for this year’s contest. One of the winning authors, Carol Zuckerman, will share her story through the Virtual Reading Series organized by Read Local Okanagan on April 2.

Carol Zuckerman, a recent graduate from the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program at UBCO, took the top prize this year with her story, Trout. Lent says the delivery of the story, the rhythm and the imagery is handled superbly.

“This is a strong, beautifully written story, a portrait of a friendship that is so subtle and complex and the landscape of the story—the wilderness and all the wild things in that wilderness—begins to illuminate the closeness and love the two characters share,” says John. “The end result is a story that is full of life and the staggering limits of life.”

Second place went to Kelowna based writer, Jorie Soames with her story, One on Each Side.

“This is a wonderful story that from the outset risks the sentimentality that stories running in strong dialect often gamble with,” says Lent. “But this writer completes the risk beautifully and ends up writing a story that kept shouting back at me: look at this world here, look at this life and listen to these voices! Pay attention to this music,” he explains.

This year, there were two writers for third place. Alexandra Davison, who is a current Bachelor of Arts student completing her degree with a major in creative writing, and Heidi Garnett, an MFA alumni and previous sessional instructor for creative writing.

Lent describes Davison’s story, Weekdays at the Magic City, is a “staggeringly perfect little gem”, so compressed, so confident.

“I kept returning to this piece. It is one deft tiny scene that captures a huge, detailed, loving world sideways in a tour-de-force writer’s grab. Right down to its last word. I loved this story and wanted to know more, be drawn into more.”

Paul’s Tomb by Heidi Garnett, he adds, is a powerful short story that captures a vision of our society that needs to be captured.

“This is a very quiet, strong story. It risked a certain kind of sentimentality and predictability in its material, but it sidestepped those risks beautifully and did what it needed to do.”

George Elliot Secondary School student Chanel Sergeant wrote the top story in the high school category.

“There was no doubt about ‘Slipcover’ being the first prize winner. There is something about it, a confidence and an agility with the magic realist effects the writer employs—an openness and daring that really struck me and surprised me.”

Honorable mention goes to Bethany Pardoe of Nelson (L V Rogers Secondary School ) for her story Rat King and Sarah Prentice of Kelowna (Rutland Secondary School) for World Alone. Pardoe was also the recipient of the top story for 2018.

The virtual readings will take place on April 2, 2020. People can register for the reading here:

To view the full list of the shortlisted authors, visit:

The first-place author received $1,000 and a residency at the Woodhaven Eco-Culture Centre; second-place winner received $400 and third place received $200. Top high school student also won a $200 prize. Co-sponsors for the contest are FCCS, Amber Webb-Bowerman Memorial Foundation, and the Central Okanagan Foundation.

Carol Zuckerman

Carol Zuckerman

Jorie Soames

Jorie Soames

Heidi Garnett

Heidi Garnett

Chanel Sergeant

Chanel Sergeant