Laurier Brantford to host Stedman writing contest for high school students

Laurier Brantford is hosting the third ever Stedman Prize competition for high school students in the area.

The competition is held biannually and awards around $12,000 in prize money for the chosen fiction stories.

Ken Paradis, English professor at Laurier Brantford and coordinator of the Stedman prize, said the last two competitions, held in 2018 and 2020, showcased very outstanding works of creative fiction. 

 “We’ve had tremendous quality in the stories in the past two competitions and we look forward to having the same quality of writing coming in this year,” he said.

This will be the first time the competition will be held since the shifts to and from remote learning that high school students experienced over the last two years of the pandemic.

This has changed the outreach strategies Laurier has used and means the Gala dinner normally held to celebrate the winner must move online.

However, the basic process of writing and submitting work electronically has stayed the same, allowing students to participate even if teaching conditions may be different from early 2020.  

Because of this, Paradis has hope that these changes won’t impact the quality of submissions this year.

“COVID has changed some things in terms of the ways we interact with the high schools, and it certainly has altered our awards dinner, but I’m hoping that the quality of the stories will be the same because the basic model of writing is the same.”

Each high school involved can submit up to four stories, leading to 40 to 50 stories to be judged.

The first round of adjudication is a jury made up of Laurier Brantford students studying creative writing who determine which stories move onto the prize round of adjudication.

The prize round is judged by a panel of 30 experts. In the past, it has included authors, Giller prize winners, politicians and academics. 

The past two competitions have all had a consensus on the first-place story: The Lechton Wanderer by Abby Traina in 2018 and The Year I Dreamt by Samiha Sanjida in 2020, both of which are available to read on Laurier’s website.

Besides the prize winners, Paradis said he enjoys the more unconventional stories as well.

“I’m always completely entertained by the stories that come in, and often some of my favourite stories are the ones that don’t make it to the prize round,” he said.

“I look forward to the contest because on one hand, we’re going to see some good quality literature, and we’re also going to see some completely wacky stuff that’s also a lot of fun to read.”

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