Talk to any writer and they will tell you that the process of writing, editing and rewriting is one that is unique to every person. Some writers need absolute silence, an antique typewriter and a pair of perfectly worn-in and well-loved slippers on their feet before the prose can flow. Others seek out busy coffee shops, the newest MacBook Air and double espressos.
Okanagan College’s English department is challenging budding writers to cast aside the comfort of their own writing environments and test their focus and creativity in a 3-Hour Short Story contest taking place on Saturday, Nov. 7 at all four campuses.
The contest is open to students in Grade 11 and 12, and those attending Okanagan College. Participating writers will not only be challenged with a time constraint – all stories must be written in a designated location within a three-hour time period – but they’ll also have to find a way to incorporate a “secret phrase” that won’t be revealed until the moment the contest begins.
For Joe Dermo, regional winner of the 2011 contest, the competition allowed him to develop his free writing skills and provided him with an introduction to the greater writing community. His story “Bank Robber” earned him first prize in the Kelowna contest and along with it, a $250 tuition credit to help him complete his Associate of Arts degree at the College.
“The 3-Hour Short Story competition was the first writing contest I had ever entered,” said Dermo. “It was really beneficial to me at that time because I can be a harsh critic on my own writing through my editing process. In the competition you don’t have time for editing and re-writing so it’s a great way to learn how to let whatever is in your mind spill out.”
Dermo says the contest pushed him outside of his comfort zone and exposed him to other writers.
“There aren’t a lot of opportunities for young writers to get involved in the writing community and it’s so important to put yourself out there and learn to be judged. Of course, for the winners, it’s extra special because of the prize, but that’s just a bonus.”
Dermo, who is now a player support representative and editorial contributor at Disney Interactive, isn’t the only former participant who sees value in the 3-Hour Short Story competition. Cole Mash participated in the contest when he was a creative writing student at Okanagan College and has taken when he learned with him in his master’s studies in creative writing.
“At the time I participated, I had taken writing classes and workshops but had never done anything like the Short Story Contest,” explains Mash. “It was great because there was no anxiety about editing, you just don’t have time. The contest allows you focus on just telling the story you are going to tell.”
Mash says writing in a different environment was also valuable.
“It was definitely a challenge to write in different space – no quill at your desk. It’s important though, just to get out in the community and engage with other writers.”
The 3-Hour Short Story Contest is The competition takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7 at the College’s Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton campuses. Writers will work on College computers and will not be able to access any pre-written material or anything online.
Four prizes of a $250 tuition credit will be handed out – one for each campus winner. The grand prize winner will be chosen from those four and receive an additional $250 tuition credit as well as have their story published in a limited fine-print edition by the Kalamalka Press.
This popular contest is free but can only accommodate a limited number of entrants, so interested scribes are encouraged to register early. Deadline for entry is 12 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6.