Shauna Oddleifson

Communications and Marketing Specialist

Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies
Office: CCS 177
Phone: 250.807.9864


Faculty promotion and development of promotional material.
Working toward increasing the faculty profile and increasing student enrolment and retention.
Student Recruitment.
Promotional Support for Events in FCCS
FCCS websites, social media.


The successful SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s (CGS-M) Program award recipients were announced in April 2020. We are proud to share that four of our master’s students have received the CGS-M, which provides financial support to graduate students who demonstrate a high standard of achievement in undergraduate and early graduate studies.

“We’re excited to have so many successful CGSM students in FCCS this year. These prestigious awards support students through their Master’s degrees with predictable funding, and enhance their CV for future academic and job applications.” Says Greg Garrard, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies. “They also open to the door to Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements, which we especially recommend students to access.”

Below are the recipients from the IGS and MFA programs in FCCS with a summary of their research.

Craig CarpenterIncoming Digital Arts & Humanities MA student Craig Carpenter has been awarded a SSHRC CGS-M fellowship for his interdisciplinary MA research on literary audio, titled The Numinous Reel: How the personal magnetic tape recorder shaped poetry, poetics and an artistic community, which he’s set to begin in September, 2020. His supervisor is Dr. Karis Shearer.


Here is a summary of Craig’s research proposal: “Drawing upon a combination of archival tape recordings from the UBCO SoundBox Collection (housed in the AMP Lab) and by producing new born-digital oral histories with some of the TISH poets (Daphne Marlatt, George Bowering and Robert Hogg) my project seeks to outline how their poetry intersected but also “made new” the poetics of Olson and what role the emergence of personal magnetic tape recorders played in this evolution. This research project will employ an interdisciplinary research model that merges literary, communications, acoustic, and cultural theory and methodologies. The aim of this research will be to not only understand these schools of poetry in relation to and through their analog audio recordings and practices but perhaps more essentially—to grasp what we can learn from them about listening ethically.”

Kaytlyn BarkvedDigital Arts & Humanities IGS graduate student Kaytlyn Barkved has been awarded a SSHRC CGS-M for her interdisciplinary MA research titled, Neuroqueer Imaging. Her supervisor is Dr. Aleksandra Dulic and committee members are Drs. Ilya Parkins and Karis Shearer.


Here is a summary of Kaytlyn’s research project: “My research is focused on producing an interactive and generative art project that bridges the interdisciplinary fields of Visual Arts, Critical Disability Studies, and Gender and Women’s Studies from the autistic perspective. I will design a collaborative digital drawing program for users to interact with. Each piece of generated art will be a unique study that attempts to fill theoretical and cultural gaps around individuals with cognitive, mental, and emotional disabilities that have largely been absent from Critical Disability Studies. The project will be exhibited locally for public interaction and will also feature an online iteration.”

MacKenzie SmythMasters of Fine Arts Creative Writing student McKenzie Smyth has been awarded a SSHRC CGS-M for her graduate research titled, The Posthuman Prairie Gothic: A Collection of Stories. Her supervisor is Anne Fleming and committee members Michael V. Smith and Nancy Holmes.


Here is a summary of Mackenzie’s research project: I am writing a collection of linked short stories, all taking place in the same unnamed fictional town in rural Northern Alberta. The stories will feature a recurring cast of characters – residents of the town and the surrounding farms. The collection’s primary recurring character is Clementine LeClair. Clementine is past middle-age, works part-time at a garden center, and lives on a hobby farm with her husband Morley, a retired oil man, after their grown sons move to the city. Through Clementine and those around her I will explore themes of aging, motherhood, and aloneness, all in relation to rural life. A large part of rural life is death. In particular, animal death and human relationships to animal death. Each story will contain the death of an animal, ranging from small to large, magpies to cattle. What is more, it will most often be women in these stories who come upon the dead animals and must reconcile their deaths. These stories, then, will look at women’s experiences, animal death, and the prairie landscape, all through a gothic lens.

Manjinder Sidhu Masters of Fine Arts Creative Writing student Manjinder Sidhu has been awarded a SSHRC CGS-M for her graduate research titled, Lost and Found. Her supervisor is Michael V. Smith and her committee members are Anne Fleming and Nancy Holmes.


Here is a summary of Manjinder’s research project: “My proposed graduate thesis Lost and Found, is a collection of ten fictional short stories that focus on the intersections between gang culture and modern Indo-Canadian identity.The stories will follow the lives of modern Indo-Canadians as they search for belonging and identity in their rural Okanagan communities: a single mother fights to clear her dead son’s name from a mistaken gang affiliation; a female RCMP officer struggles to contain her resentment towards her own ethnic community; a high school student is disowned from his conservative Sikh family after he refuses to wear his turban. These are some of the modern concerns facing Indo-Canadians like myself, where being born in Canada catches us between identities and cultures.”

Covid-19 has presented a unique set of challenges to graduate students in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.

“This is a difficult time for all of us, and we need to pay special attention to our graduate students,” says Greg Garrard, Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies. ”We are working to ensure they feel supported both mentally and financially.”

FCCS has been working to ensure the graduate students in their programs have the necessary supports they need during this time, and has provided funding in the form of research assistantships.  The RA student assistance is going to students across the IGS, MFA and MA programs, with particular emphasis on supporting international students.

“We see it as a win-win: we’re helping faculty colleagues complete writing projects while they’re house-bound, and helping tide students over during the summer months,” notes Garrard.

FCCS is also providing three international students experiencing severe financial challenges with subsidized summer accommodation at the Woodhaven Eco Culture Centre, a heritage home managed by the Faculty.

Each year the Faculty also funds three research awards for undergraduate students to conduct research over the summer month, two for domestic students, and one for an international student. This funding will allow these students to keep working on their projects over the summer. Find out more about this year’s recipients and their projects.

Many of our graduate students are still able to work on their research and are finding ways to stay connected with the supervisors and fellow students. To that end, Digital Arts & Humanities Theme coordinator Karis Shearer says: “I’m hearing from our grad students that it’s important to sustain community with their cohort and faculty mentors not just via online classes but also socially even if it’s virtual. This makes a lot of sense. The Digital Arts & Humanities Theme students and I meet online weekly; we share news and resources, do a check-in to see how everyone’s doing, and our meetings let me know if there are any concerns I can help with.”

However, this time is particularly a challenge for our MFA students who do not have access to their studio spaces, which has limits on the work that they can continue related to their studies.

A first year MFA student, Sam Neal explains that he is worried about the progress of work now that studios are no longer accessible.

“Being an artist working out in the land is going to be tough to navigate but I will plan accordingly and make the best possible work out of a bad situation,” says Neal. “Although I have an RA position I am still figuring out how student fees are going to be affordable as an international student during this situation.”

Rina Garcia Chua, a current PhD student in FCCS explains that many of our students have families to care for, and may be sole breadwinners or primary caretakers, and that many of her fellow students are thankful for the financial support they will received for the first few months of the summer.

“I think one of the key things I’ve always maintained as I was thrust into the advocacy was that FCCS has been extremely supportive all throughout and have been leading the way to advocate for graduate students,” says Garcia Chua.

Garcia Chua also notes her concerns about the financial implications that students are facing having to continue to pay tuition.

“If we have to pay summer tuition, I think that will still be a significant financial dent during a time when that should be the least of our worries,” she notes.

FCCS was able to pledge funds to support graduate students who could not find work on or off campus over the first two months of summer to help alleviate some of their financial strain.

“To date, there have been 26 research assistant positions to our students, and as there is need, the Faculty will work to accommodate more students,” says Garrard.

UBC Okanagan is working towards having support for students with an emergency bursary fund to provides temporary financial relief to students experiencing financial distress during this time. Find out more about the A.W. Hunt, QC Student Emergency Assistance Fund.

The federal government also just announced their $9 billion student aid package to assist people who are unable to find work throughout the summer months.

After attending the Textual Editing Modernism in Canada Summer Institute, Editing Modernism on and Off the Page in August of 2013 at UBC Okanagan, Mathieu Aubin was inspired by what UBC was able to offer its graduate students on its sister campus.

“The Summer Institute was co-led by Dr. Karis Shearer, and when I met her, I realized that she and I shared many similar research interests and I left the institute wanting to work with her on my PhD.”

Mathieu Aubin

Mathieu Aubin

Aubin completed his doctoral degree in November of 2019, and is now a Horizon Postdoctoral Fellow at Concordia University in Montreal, as part of the SpokenWeb research team. Aubin’s dissertation examined the intersection between Vancouver’s queer small presses and lesbian and gay liberation movements, and as a Horizon Postdoctoral Fellow at Concordia, he continues to pursue his passion by working with a new media: audio recordings of events that included LGBTQ2+ people.

His Postdoctoral Fellowship is supervised by Dr. Jason Camlot (Principal Investigator of the SpokenWeb project) and Dr. Steven High (Founding Member, Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling).

Aubin became familiar with the SpokenWeb project through Dr. Shearer’s work as Director of the AMP Lab and the SoundBox Collection while he was a student here at UBCO. SpokenWeb is a SSHRC-funded project that digitizes and makes publicly available audio recordings of poetry events, literary community discussions, and oral literary histories.

Due to his previous experience with oral histories and strong interest in literary events, Dr. Shearer recommended that he apply to be a Horizon Postdoctoral Fellow. After submitting a comprehensive research statement and completing an interview, he was awarded the position. Aubin now co-leads the oral literary history component of the project of the SpokenWeb team, which includes faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students in the departments of English and History.

“Because SpokenWeb is a multi-institutional project, my new postdoctoral work keeps me connected to UBCO’s SpokenWeb team.”

As part of the project, his research focuses on comparatively analyzing oral literary histories by queer literary agents and audience members who participated in or attended literary events during the 1970s-1980s. It considers how these events functioned as nexuses of queer community exchange and aims to shed light upon the significance of literary events as crucial sites of queer cultural activism across Canada. Aubin is passionate about listening to the stories and concerns of LGBTQ2+ people and being an active agent in synthesizing these bodies of information to tell compelling stories about their lives.

The Secrets of Mathieu’s Success

Some of the key highlights Aubin talks about during his time at UBC include: co-organizing a graduate student conference during the first year of his PhD, participating in Dr. Jeannette Armstrong’s Indigenous Theory course, as well as Dr. Anderson Araujo’s Imagism course, receiving the Provost Teaching Assistant and Tutors Award, attending Cornell’s School of Criticism and Theory, living at UBC Vancouver’s Green College for two years (as the first UBCO student to do so), receiving the Gibson Citation for his outstanding contributions to the college, and working closely with Dr. Shearer on the UBCO SpokenWeb programming at Congress at UBC Vancouver in June 2019.

While in Vancouver at the UBC Green College, he had the opportunity to access important archives on a regular basis, interview literary agents, and be part of a vibrant interdisciplinary research community. Being away from Kelowna introduced Aubin to a new community, but he and Dr. Shearer met every other week to keep in touch. They also made sure to meet in person when they were in each other’s respective cities.

“I always felt that I could rely upon Dr. Shearer’s support when I was working through tricky research partnerships, the discovery of sensitive research materials, looking for resources to answer my research questions, and responding to difficult rejections.” Aubin notes.

Aubin says he relied upon a community of supporters including Dr. Shearer as his supervisor, as well as the members of his committee, Dr. Constance Crompton, Dr. Anderson Araujo, and Dr. Ilya Parkins, all without whom he believes his doctoral experience might have been more difficult.

“Dr. Shearer believed in me, provided very strong research and writing guidance, guided me through the administrative quirks of a university, and became a very trusted friend.” He notes.

He also benefited from the mentorship of his teaching assistant supervisors Dr. George Grinnell and Dr. Kyong Yoon, as well as the IGS program coordinator, Dr. Margaret Reeves.

“Whenever I spoke with her [Dr. Reeves], I felt as though she was rooting for me and gave me that extra boost of confidence that I hadn’t realized that I needed.”

UBC supported my passion by providing me a rich queer-friendly graduate student research community and doctoral committee that was interested and invested in my research.

Unique to the Okanagan campus, the AMP Lab provided Aubin the opportunity to learn about Vancouver’s literary history through rare audio recordings and to develop his digital humanities skills. The Centre for Scholarly Communication in the Library ensures that graduate students and postdocs feel supported in any of their writing projects.

“When speaking with my friends at Green College who did not have access to this service, but likely would have benefited from it, I realized how lucky I was to have the Library’s resources.”

Moreover, having completed parts of his PhD at both UBC Okanagan and UBC Vancouver, Aubin says that he always felt comfortable at UBC Okanagan.

“Whenever I visited UBC Okanagan, I always felt as though I was going home, in spite of being born and raised in eastern Canada. I felt as though there was a sense of community amongst faculty members, graduate students, and between graduate students and undergraduate students.”

Mathieu Aubin, defence

Mathieu Aubin (centre), pictured here after his doctoral defence with PhD supervisor, Dr. Karis Shearer (left), and external examiner, Dr. Heather Milne, Associate Professor of English, University of Winnipeg (right).

Mathieu_Julia Polyck O'Neil

Mathieu Aubin with colleague and friend, Julia Polyck-O’Neill at the TEXT/SOUND/PERFORMANCE: Making in Canadian Space, UC Dublin Conference, April 2019

Mathieu Aubin with Dr. Karis Shearer at the TEXT/SOUND/PERFORMANCE: Making in Canadian Space, UC Dublin Conference

Auboin_Congress 2019

Mathieu Aubin presenting on the SoundBox-SpokenWeb panel, Congress 2019


Mathieu Aubin leading a “Curated Close Listening” on bill bissett, at Congress 2019


The Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies provides an environment within which students, faculty, staff and the larger public engage one another as a vibrant, creative, and critical intellectual community.

As being able to venture out into the community to events or to connect with people is not available to us during this time, we have complied a variety of things for you to do and see while in isolation.

We have faculty and students who are offering storytelling sessions, podcast recordings, updates on progress for our upcoming virtual BFA graduating class exhibition, and will add other stories, and share recipes and top picks for books, movies and TV shows to watch as recommended by our staff and faculty.

We are also fortunate to have a number of community partners who are working to keep their community engagement alive and active.

We will be continually updating this list, so bookmark this page for multiple visits! If you want to receive updates via email, please contact

Poetry is for Times Of Crisis

In this unprecedented time of fear, bewilderment, and isolation, poetry is a beacon. It speaks to the complex emotions that are unleashed at times like this, says Nancy Holmes, poet and associate professor of Creative Writing. Read more…

Have I told you the one about…

Creative Writing professor Michael V. Smiths shares true stories from his life every night at 8pm. Tune in, subscribe and you are sure to be entertained!

Please note that these stories contain adult content and are not suitable for children.

Soundbox Signals Podcast

Soundbox Signals Podcast

SoundBox Signals
is a podcast that brings literary archival recordings to life through a combination of curated close listening and conversation. Hosted and co-produced by English professor, Karis Shearer, each episode is a conversation featuring a curator and two special guests. Together they’ll listen, talk, and consider how a selected recording signifies in the contemporary moment and ask what listening allows us to know about cultural history. Episodes are available for streaming or download on Spotify, Apple iTunes, or here on Simplecast.

Summer Indigenous Art Intensive Archive


The Summer Indigenous Art Intensive is a month-long residency gathers artists, curators, writers and scholars to engage in contemporary ideas and discourse—a place for new ideas rooted in Indigenous art-making.

Each year we run the Summer Indigenous Art Intensive, and like all other events, we had to cancel for this year. Visit the archive to see what happened over the last few years to keep this top of mind as lead faculty member, Tania Willard, gets ready to start planning for the 2021 session.


UBCO Lecture Series – Vernon Public Art Gallery

Andreas Rutkauskas photographyAndreas Rutkauskas teaches photography in the BFA program at UBCO.

He will be leading a lecture via Zoom on Thursday, April 30 from 6-8 p.m. In this lecture, he where he will examine his past research, which relies principally on photography as an artistic medium. His talk will touch on the theme of his projects, which focus on landscapes that have been affected by technology, including cycles of industrialization in Canada’s oil patch, the impact of Internet-based research on wilderness recreation, and the subtle technologies used to monitor the Canada/U.S. border. His photographic approach seeks to reveal diverse perspectives, act as a critical foil to dominant media representations of destruction and bravery and open up space for the consideration of practices of resiliency, including the reintegration of fire as a means of maintaining healthy forests and associated ecosystems.

Join the lecture

BFA Graduating Exhibition – Any Moment

Students have been working hard to create a body of original and engaging works over the course of the year which includes a wide variety of artists’ works including sculpture, photography, drawing, painting, digital media and printmaking.

Any Moment is now available on an online platform, which launched May 15

Any Moment Virtual Exhibition

Here is a sneak peak as the students prepare for their exhibition.

What would the wind write if it could write poetry?

In this collaboration between nature and technology, Indigenous artist and Visual Arts instructor Tania Willard creates poetry using wind. This is a CBC video of Tania’s work from 2018, that will be installed at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus later this year.

Books to read

Our faculty and MFA graduate students have published a number of books, and we have created a short list of fiction, poetry and memoirs here for you to read and share with your families. Check out your local bookstore or order online!

Faculty books

MFA Alumni Books

More things from FACULTY

Here are a few things we put together to share so people can see the kinds of things our faculty are doing to keep their lives calm and interesting.

The Dean’s Cookbook

Our Dean, Bryce Traister, has found himself somewhat of a whiz in the kitchen. Check out The Dean’s Cookbook that he is working on while in isolation. In Episode 1, he shares what he has learned in making all things sourdough.

Drive-by Puppet Show

Denise Kenney, Department Head of Creative Studies, drove around with her daughter and asked friends to step out their front door, performing a live puppet show to “I Will Survive.” It was a huge hit with their friends and neighbours!Drive-by Puppet Show

Exercises in Ease

Eliot’s conversion poem, about someone else, somewhere else, sometime else, can
speak elsewise here, now, to me, to us. It’s a poem for making changes. This entry was shared by Michael Treschow, Department Head of English and Cultural Studies.  Read the full entry, EASE 1 – σχολή.

Shout out to the manager of the Four Points SHERATON

Shirley McDonald, English Lecturer in the Department of English and Cultural Studies, had a very positive experience with the Four Points Sheraton giving her son a room during his 14-day quarantine after returning from Kuala Lampur. Read her message… 

From the Top of the Hill

From the Top of the Hill is a piece of classical music composed by Art History & Visual Culture professor, Robert Belton, as one of two meditations on the consequences of a long hike to the top of Giant’s Head in Summerland. The freedom that activity implied, when it was written almost ten years ago, is contrasted sharply in the video to imagery related to the effect of COVID-19 restrictions on day-to-day liberties. These was intended to be a more metaphysical approach to the “express yourself from home” trope that is all over the Internet these days.

The video is a companion piece to “Giant’s Head,” a slightly longer classical piece intended to convey the impression that hiking to the top of the mountain is akin to glimpsing something beyond the normal range of human perception. As a result, it is more explicitly mystical than metaphysical.

Shakespeare from Home

English professor, Sean Lawrence, has a number of recommendations for all you Shakespeare lovers to watch movies and theatre productions from home:

The Stratford Festival is releasing a series of its recent plays, starting with King Lear, starring the brilliant Colm Feore. The version starring Sir Anthony Hopkins from 2018 is available from Google Play and YouTube, at a nominal cost. Apple TV+ has the 2015 Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender, as well as the less cinematic but nevertheless much better 2010 production starring Sir Patrick Stewart, who turns the title character into something like a Russian dictator. Both could be compared to Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, possibly the best adaptation ever made of a Shakespeare play, where the characters are all samurai. Then there’s the Folger Theatre Macbeth, co-directed by Teller, of Penn and Teller, and the Stratford Festival Version.

ModPoMinute #80: On Fred Wah’s “Selves,” with Stephen Collis and Karis Shearer

Stephen Collis and Karis Shearer join Al Filreis at Green College, UBC, to discuss Fred Wah’s “Selves” from the collection “Is a Door.”

Back to Bite You Rehearsal

Here is some video footage of the last day of creative exploration with Neil Cadger, Claudia Moore and Lesandra Dodson in Toronto, December 2019.  Back to Bite You is a dance/theatre performance based on the story of Artemis and Actaeon, and was intended to premiere April 23 in Fredericton NB. What is included here are moments stitched together for further work.  The performance reflected on the power of myth & our relationship with the non-human world – with all that is not us.  Hence, the title.

Community Partners

The Vernon Public Art Gallery has created a virtual tour of their current exhibition with Visual Arts Professor Emeritus, Bryce Ryley.

Daily Art Challenge

KAG Daily Art Challenge

Each day, the Kelowna Art Gallery shares (via Facebook and Instagram) a work from their Permanent Collection along with a prompt word to get people to create and share a new piece of artwork on social media. @kelownaartgallery #KAGartChallenge


Recreating Art photo Challenge

The Lake Country Art Gallery has started a Recreating Art photo Challenge…find a work of art and recreate it using anything you have, then post it to social media and tag them to share what you have created.

Lake Country Art Gallery Photo Challenge

From Our House to Yours

The Okanagan Symphony musicians are sharing their favourite piece of orchestral music live through the OSO Facebook Watch.

From Our House to Yours: Rosemary Thomson

The OSO believes in the power of music to heal, unite and transform. What better time than now to share all of our individual inspiration with you. Be prepared to witness the glorious chaos and authenticity of our real selves, in our real lives. From Our House to Yours is our ongoing gift to you, until we can share live music once again.First in our series is OSO Music Director and Conductor Rosemary Thomson. She and her family present one of her favourite songs for you. Rosemary also recommends one of her favourite pieces, Le jardin féerique from the Mother Goose Suite by Maurice Ravel. Rosemary says "This is my favourite interpretation, you can't beat Dutoit for French music and I love the sound of the MSO." Enjoy! (see the link below).

Posted by Okanagan Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies is committed to supporting and encouraging our students to reach their full potential while at UBC Okanagan. Each year, FCCS has a competition for research awards for domestic and international undergraduate students who are completing a major in an FCCS program in the BA or BFA degrees.

These awards for undergraduate students provide an opportunity for students to pursue innovative and original research as part of their learning experience over the summer months. This year, the faculty offered the awards a domestic students and an international undergraduate student.

Sheri Ptolemy, a Creative Writing major in her third year, is going to be working on a documentary showing the process of making bannock with voice over from her about how learning to make bannock made her feel connected to her culture. This footage will be spliced with other interviews from various members of the Stl’atl’imx Nation and how they reconnect and preserve their culture.

Laavanya Prakash, a second year student pursuing her Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Art History and Visual Culture, and a minor in Visual Arts, is this year’s recipient of the International award. With this funding, she is still able to work on her project this summer of exploring the British colonization in Lucknow, near her hometown of Bangalore, India. Prakash traveled back to India a few days after receiving confirmation that UBCO would hold online classes.

“Growing up in India, I came to the realization that we’re often made subject to ideals of colonialism and neo-colonialism without realizing the extent to which we are.” Says Prakash, “The funding allows me to fully and justifiably explore an aspect of history that has affected societies globally.”

The research awards are available to  Domestic and International students who are enrolled in a major, or combined major, in FCCS B.A. or B.F.A. program (English, Cultural Studies, Art History and Visual Culture, French, Creative Writing, Visual Arts. More information on these awards and other funding opportunities can be found here:

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 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

Nancy Holmes, Creative Writing professor

by Nancy Holmes

In this unprecedented time of fear, bewilderment, and isolation, poetry is a beacon. It speaks to the complex emotions that are unleashed at times like this, says Nancy Holmes, poet and associate professor in UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.

“It is hard to express our deepest anxieties and longings, so we turn to poetry especially in times of intense disruption,” she explains.  “Poetry’s job is to try to say what cannot be said.”  This is why, she notes, we want poetry for special occasion cards, why we recite poems at funerals, and why we listen to songs when we are in love.  In World War One, she says, The Oxford Book of English Verse was one of the most well-read books in the trenches.  Poetry is our go-to art in times of upheaval and catastrophe.

Right now, we are reeling with massive cultural and personal shifts as the pandemic affects everything we do.  These changes are disturbing and incomprehensible at some level.  Finding poetry that speaks to us might help get us through the next few weeks, Holmes says.

“These days, certain lines of poetry are coming unbidden into my head, like Irish poet W. B. Yeats’ ‘Things fall apart/ The centre cannot hold” and the American poet Carmen Tafolla’s update on this phrase: ‘Things falls apart/ sometimes people too.’  These two phrases show that poetry addresses the big picture (mass social concerns)as well as the most intimate personal experiences.”   Most of us are in the midst of both social and personal confusion this month.

Holmes, who has been reading and writing poetry since she was 10 or 11 years old, says poetry is a way of knowing how we feel and experience the world.  When she was very young, she wrote poems about spring flowers and horses, and as a teenager she wrote about fears of nuclear war and religious hypocrisy.  “In my faltering way, I was participating in the work of poetry: to celebrate the sheer joy of being alive and to try to speak about our deepest fears.”

As we move through the many uncertainties and alarms of this pandemic, poetry gives us a way to live with our inner turmoil.  “Most of us are experiencing a shock to our daily lives, but there are also people who are sick or who have lost people they love,” Holmes says.  For millennia, poetry has been an art that people turn to in order to cope with these traumatic experiences.

Art is an essential way human beings learn about, explore and express their understanding of the world, with its final form only limited by the extent of human creativity. From paintings, sculptures and mosaics to literature, theatrical performances and architecture, art has helped humanity learn about ourselves and our relationship to other people and the universe.  Poetry, along with music, seems to be the art we are drawn to times of intense personal and social transformations.

Holmes says that there is a poem for nearly every feeling and situation human beings have encountered, and new poems are being written to explore what it is like to be alive now.  She says that reading poetry offers benefits of consolation, release and enlightenment. But she also encourages people to write their own poetry.  If you’re in self-isolation, writing a few poems is a nourishing way to spend a few hours. Sometimes just sitting down and expressing your terrors or your love for people and the planet or even your anger can be genuinely therapeutic.

Several great writing prompts exist online if people are not sure where to start. This is one Holmes’ favorites: “30 Writing Prompts for National Poetry Month”  by Kelli Russell Agodon.

Selection of Poems

On World Poetry Day, Holmes offers a selection of poems worth reading to feel hope or cope with worry.

The Heart is A Thousand- Stringed Instrument” by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky

For a Friend on the Arrival of Illness” by John O’Donohue

After great pain, a formal feeling comes”  by Emily Dickinson

blessing the boats” by Lucille Clifton

Small Kindnesses” by Danusha Laméris

Morning Poem” by Mary Oliver

Try to Praise the Mutilated World” by Adam Zagajewski, translated by Clare Cavanagh

UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies (FCCS) is pleased to share the finalists of the 2020 Okanagan Short Story Contest.

The Okanagan Short Story Contest awards the best new short stories by 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. 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.

A total of 87 stories were submitted to the adult category, and 36 stories were submitted from all over the region for the high school category, with six of those shortlisted.

“The high school stories were outstanding and I am so glad I don’t have to decide who is going to take home the prize!” says Creative Writing professor, Nancy Holmes.

Shortlisted authors: adult category

  • Michelle Alfaro, All of It
  • Faye Arcand, Bird in the Rafters
  • Shawn Bird, Dead Man on the Porch
  • Harlee Code, The Drowning
  • Carlo Da Ros, For You, Annette
  • Alexandra Davison, Weekday at the Magic City
  • Nils Donnelly, Hotplate
  • Heide Rose Garnett, Paul’s Tomb
  • MacKenzie Smyth, Artificial Sweetener
  • Jorie Soames, One on Each Side
  • Carol Zuckerman, Trout

Shortlisted entries: high school category

  • Trinity Blacklock, Beneath the Waves
  • Carla Deetlefs, A Weed Among Blossoms
  • Bethany Pardoe, Rat King (2018 winner)
  • Sarah Prentice, World Alone
  • Sonia Rosenberger, Girlish
  • Chanel Sergeant, Slipcover

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.  Co-sponsors are FCCS, Amber Webb-Bowerman Memorial Foundation, and the Central Okanagan Foundation.

Due to current conditions with the COVID-19 outbreak, we are cancelling this workshop on March 17.

Transnational and Diasporic Asia: Research and Pedagogy

 This project aims to facilitate collaborative research between the Cultural Studies program (UBCO) and the Department of Asian Studies (UBVC). Focusing on transnational and diasporic Asian media and culture, the project will comprise two workshops at UBCO and UBCV.

The first workshop at UBCO (March 17, 2020) will focus on the history, method, and context of transnational Asian media and cultural studies, while the second workshop at UBCV (April 24, 2020) will focus on specific empirical case studies of transnational Asian media and culture, such as the global flows of Japanese animation (anime) and Korean pop music. At the UBCV workshop, researchers from other universities (e.g., SFU, U of Victoria, and Okanagan College) may also join to share their research outcomes.

Each workshop will consist of research presentation sessions and discussions in the morning, which will be followed by a roundtable discussion about Asian Studies pedagogy and curriculum development in the afternoon. In the roundtable discussion at the UBCO workshop, participants will also discuss the potential development of the Asian Studies minor program at UBCO, as well as further research collaboration between two UBC campuses.

The inter-UBC workshops will encourage scholars and students whose research interest concerns Asia to showcase and share their research outcomes, while exploring a long-term research network for Asian media and cultural studies. These workshops will help fuel the development of research and teaching collaboration including the establishment of an Asian media and culture research cluster across the two campuses in near future.

The workshop takes place on Tuesday, March 17, in EME 2202, at UBC Okanagan.

Contact: Dr. Kyong Yoon (


8:45-9:00 – Reception


    • Introduction (Dr. Yoon)
    • Welcome (Dean Bryce Traister)

9:10-9:50Keynote Speech

    • Prof. Hyung-Gu Lynn, UBCV
      Seven Flags: Common Issues in Articles in Transnational Media Studies


    • Dr. Alwyn Spies, UBCO
      Approaches to Transnational Migration Memoirs


    • Dr. Alifa Bandali, UBCO
      Faulty Lines: Tracing Contemporary Women’s Organizations and Feminist Activism in Malaysia

10:30-10:45 – Discussion

10:45-11:00 – Break


    • Dr. Ruthann Lee, UBCO
      Divided Nations, Fractured Selves: Reconciling Diasporic Korean-ness in Min Sook Lee’s Tiger Spirit


    • Dr. Hussein Keshani, UBCO
      Defining Muslim Asia through Architecture on


    • Ms. Mehnaz Tabassum, UBCO
      Loving the Brown Body: A Study of the Portrayal of Intimacy in the South Asian Characters in Contemporary Popular North American Sitcom

12:00-12:15 – Discussion

12:15-1:00 – Lunch

1:00-2:20 – Roundtable discussion on Asian Studies pedagogy and curriculum at UBCO
(5-10 min presentation per presenter, followed by an open discussion)

    • Prof Hyung-Gu Lynn
    • Dr. Kyong Yoon
    • Dr. Jordan Stouck
    • Dr. Alwyn Spies
    • Dr. Manfred Elfstrom
    • Ms. Melissa Plisic
    • Mr. Shao Yuan Chong

2:20-2:30 – Closing

Sponsored by UBC Collaborative Research Mobility Awards (Office of the Vice-President Research + Innovation), Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, and UBCO Equity and Inclusion Office.

Dr. Peña Fernandez

Dr. Peña Fernandez (centre) with faculty members at the University of Exeter

Between Feb. 12 and Feb. 19, 2020, Francisco Peña Fernandez, Associate Professor in the Department of Languages and World Literatures at UBC Okanagan, visited the University of Exeter to discuss a collaboration with the Exeter Digital Humanities Lab.

The visit was hosted by the Exeter Digital Humanities Lab and was focused on developing stronger bridges in research and collaboration between the two institutions. The research priorities and synergies between faculty members at both institutions are in the fields of medieval religious cultures, digital humanities and interdisciplinary studies.

Francisco Peña Fernandez is leading a group of scholars working in the SSHRC funded project “Confluence of Religions in Medieval Spanish Historiography’’. One of the main goals of this project is to produce a scholarly, critical, and annotated digital edition of the first volume of the General e Grand Estoria (General Estoria), the most expansive 13th-century book written in Spanish and the largest universal history written in Medieval Europe.

The University of Exeter has a number of scholars whose expertise make them perfect partners to collaborate with the project. Dr. Peña Fernandez will work with scholars and students from Exeter to create the first translation of the GGE into English in print. An accurate first translation into English of the first volume will create innumerable research possibilities for historians, philosophers of history and religion, linguists, traductologists, and specialists in literary studies and the history of narratology.

The visit to Exeter has allowed for further international collaboration and dissemination of research in the area of Digital Humanities, Medieval Studies, Religious Studies and Translation Studies, explains Dr. Peña Fernandez.

“We are creating a new methodology of study, involving digital media, creating new tools for innovative interdisciplinary study of the Middle Ages,” Peña says.

“The idea of people who specialize in different fields communicating and working together is also an important part of the project—it mirrors the way this book was originally written.”

During his visit, Dr. Peña Fernandez was engaged in a number of activities related to his research, and was offered opportunities to connect with others in the field at the University of Exeter. He conducted a workshop that addressed digital humanities; he participated in lectures, meetings with dignitaries and academicians from different fields, as well as meetings with students.


The University of British Columbia, Okanagan, entered into a Statement of Cooperation with the Exeter College of Humanities in the spring of 2018, with the aim to strengthen the relationship between the universities, and nurture a collaborative approach to education, research and academic exchanges.

Faculty members and students from both institutions have had opportunities to travel back and forth over the last year two years. This past year the creation of an Exeter/UBC Humanities Collaboration Fund has increased the opportunities to both build on existing collaborations and to develop new links.

Confluence of Religions in Medieval Spanish Historiography