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2016 Contests

The Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award

Judge: Méira Cook

Natalie Appleton – First Prize

Annie Pootoogook

Inuit artist Pootoogook wins $50,000 Sobey Art Award

My name is Annie.

Annie as a girl, her braids, smashing bottles out back
at the bed of her bedridden gran, drawing
the boy licking clean his shiny white plastic plate
crumbs of Ritz crackers, the crumbs
always those square tile floors, those clocks
clocks strikes her
eyes like hers in the reflection of the neon-lit
frozen aisle, its fish sticks and hungry mans
the used yellow noose that failed his brother
the eighty-eight days she spent on that bed
beaten by two-by-fours, his words, I’ll kill
you when I get back. She found a window, a way
the coloured pencils these scenes
they say, difficult poignant profound

Natalie Appleton is a Canadian writer living in Vernon, BC. She is a graduate of the University of Regina School of Journalism and the MA in Creative Writing (Narrative non-fiction) program at City University London, UK. Her stories have appeared in publications around the world, including The New York Times.

Angeline Schellenberg – Second Prize

Warming Up

1. Trumpet

Brash bad boy
bringing a gander into battle.

If your point’s a Camaro,
he’ll drive it home.

Tight-lipped, slip ships
to Signal Hill.

Shrill. Brand the dizzy cattle
with bravado.

Dang it all. Don’t give a damn
where the spit may fall.

Angeline Schellenberg’s debut collection Tell Them It Was Mozart was published by Brick Books in fall 2016. Her chapbook Roads of Stone (The Alfred Gustav Press) launched in 2015. Angeline’s work placed third in Prairie Fire’s 2014 Banff Centre Bliss Carman Poetry Award Contest and was shortlisted for Arc Poetry Magazine’s 2015 Poem of the Year. She lives in Winnipeg with her husband, their two teenagers, and a German shepherd/corgi.

Mollie Coles Tonn – Third Prize

Just a Man

And here’s the island of Palaia Kameni,

in the caldera of Santorini, where nothing is,

where no one lives, except a man.

Oh and seeping iron, volcanic sand. One man:

Mollie Coles Tonn has completed a CSARN grant for the development of her first collection of poems under the mentorship of Barry Dempster. She has been published in other literary journals including Room and Event and two of her poems were shortlisted in the 2014 and 2016 Malahat Review’s Far Horizons Poetry contests.

Kerry Ryan – Honourable Mention

Bedtime Story

Once upon a time your hair was dark as mine.
Your hands were always in fists,
mine always reaching.
When you slept, you slept in a basket beside the bed.
When I slept, I dreamt you were drowning
in bedsheets. Mostly, we stayed up
all night, crying.

Kerry Ryan has published two books of poetry, The Sleeping Life (The Muses’ Company, 2008) and Vs. (Anvil, 2010), a finalist for the Acorn-Plantos Award for People’s Poetry. Her poems have appeared in journals and anthologies across Canada and she contributed an essay to The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood (Gooselane, 2014). Her work has recently appeared in All We Can Hold: Poems of Motherhood (Sage Hill Press, 2016).

Fiction Contest

Judge: Greg Hollingshead

Stephen Henighan – First Prize

Three Fingers

“Never go with a married man.”

When they were alone in the kitchen, Irina’s mother struck a match. A ring of blue flame encircled the front right element of the gas stove. The flames turned orange as they lapped around the base of the plain iron samovar. Since Ivan’s departure, Irina had ceased to view her parents as a unit of authority, coming to see them as two people in a relationship that was complicated by her presence. The warning against married men–the first time her mother had recognized her as a woman–encouraged her to distance herself from this triangle.

Stephen Henighan is the author of five novels, including The Path of the Jaguar (2016) and Mr Singh Among the Fugitives (2017), three short story collections, including A Grave in the Air (2007), and half a dozen books of non-fiction, most recently Sandino’s Nation: Ernesto Cardenal and Sergio Ramírez Writing Nicaragua, 1940-2012 (2014).  He has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Canada Prize in the Humanities, among other awards.   “Three Fingers” will appear in a new collection of stories, Blue River and Red Earth, to be published by Cormorant Books in 2018.

Rowan Smith-McCandless – Second Prize


Mr. Papadakis tells us to smile. He says, “Girls, here at Castaways, we’re not just selling Singapore Slings and Crab Rangoon. We’re selling fantasy. We’re giving a bunch of poor saps who’ve never been anywhere special, a taste of tropical paradise right here on the Prairie. And you, young ladies, are key to the illusion. You’re the dusky jewels in Castaways’ crown . . . Yes, Tina. Even you. So you can stop rolling your eyeballs. Now where was I?”

Teacher, storyteller, thrift-store junkie and chai tea lover, Rowan Smith-McCandless writes and lives in Winnipeg. Her short story “Whale Song” placed second in Room magazine’s 2015 Annual Poetry and Fiction Contest.”

Karen Hofmann – Third Prize


In the morning Bryan follows the North Thompson, which is grey, sluggishly rippled, like a black-and-white photo of water, north and east, towards the mountains, toward the headwaters. The highway clings to the mountainsides, is flung back and forth in wide loops, rising from the floodplain to precarious slopes.

Karen Hofmann has published fiction and poetry in several literary magazines, including Prairie Fire. A first collection of poetry, Water Strider, was published by Frontenac House in 2008 and shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay prize.   Her first novel, After Alice, was published by NeWest Press in 2014, and a second novel, What is Going to Happen Next, will be published in 2017. Karen teaches literature, composition, and creative writing at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia. Her writing explores relationships, especially of family, and the landscapes of the BC Interior.

Rosella M. Leslie – Honourable Mention

Stuck on a Rock

Their plan was to leave at first light and be back before the storm hit.

“Weather channel says it’s going to be a bad one,” Anne warned.

But Warren couldn’t find his favourite reel. “I always keep it right here,” he said, pulling out a drawer that contained lures and line and a box of reel parts—but no reel. “Kids must have borrowed it.”

The grandkids hadn’t visited all summer, but she didn’t argue with him. Once he set his mind to something, there was no changing it.

Rosella Leslie was born in Edmonton, Alberta but has spent most of her life in British Columbia. She has published three novels and two non-fiction books and co-authored three others, including a BC Book Prize winner, A Stain Upon the Sea (2004). Her work has also appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. Her website is www.rosellaleslie.com

Creative Non-Fiction Contest

Judge: Helen Humphreys

Nicole Boyce – First Prize

The Old House

My sister and I visited the old house on a cold December evening. We were both in Calgary for Christmas—me from grad school in Vancouver, and my sister from Whitehorse, where she’d moved on a whim a couple weeks earlier. When I’d been describing my sister to people lately, I’d begun using this move as an example of the differences between us. Becca can look at a map and turn intriguing coordinates into a new existence in a matter of days. It takes my brain months just to accept the idea of an idea.

Nicole Boyce‘s writing has been published by The Awl, Joyland, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Big Truths, and more, and has been shortlisted for EVENT’s Non-Fiction Contest and The New Quarterly’s Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award. She recently graduated with an MFA from UBC’s Creative Writing Program.

Natalie Hervieux – Second Prize

Life, Death, and Deer

From my cozy spot on the couch, I looked up to see my father wiping his blood-smeared hands on his fluorescent orange coveralls, light reflecting off of his bald head.

“Please, I need your help. I can’t do this alone,” he said, resorting to guilt when the “now means now” technique had failed. I begrudgingly followed him into the cold garage, my pajamas dragging as I walked.

Natalie Hervieux lives in Edmonton, where she graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in physics. She now works in science outreach and pursues writing in her free times. She recently published a short essay in Glass Buffalo.

Shelley Bindon – Third Prize

The Fish Kings

My father gave me a tackle box when I was a child. Beige, brown and ochre, small as a shoebox. He ran a large outfitter store, and I “worked” there on weekends, moving tents, dusting inventory, reorganizing the tall displays of fishing tackle. I had been begging for a tackle box of my own for months.

I suppose Mom convinced him to throw a few lures into that little box—huge, gouged spoons with gold bellies and a few gooey worms on the verge of disintegrating. They were far from the shining beaded ones I had wanted, but I was elated.

Shelley Bindon is a writer living in Edmonton, AB, Canada. She has spent most of her career as a journalist and now puts her journalistic sensibilities to use in the field of marketing and communications. She is passionate about the outdoors and prefers days when she can point her face at the sun. She is currently completing her first novel and is thrilled that “The Fish Kings” will appear in the pages of Prairie Fire.

Barbara Wackerle Baker – Honourable Mention

On Leaving Home

My eyes open wide. I lift my head off my pillow, hold my breath and listen. What is it that woke me? Was Franz mumbling again? He does that a lot in his sleep. Brothers, they’re so dumb.

Wait. There it is again. A low rumble. Thunder? No. It can’t be. It’s February. We haven’t even planted the crops yet.

There’s a knock at the front door.

What in the world is going on? It’s the middle of the night.

Barbara Wackerle Baker grew up in Banff, Alberta and spends her free time racing up and down the Rockies to keep up with an active family of outdoor enthusiasts. Her passions include: writing, photography, exploring landscapes and time with her grandchildren (the most beautiful grandchildren ever). Three of her stories have found homes in Chicken Soup publications, a dozen others are in short story contest anthologies and she was awarded the John Kenneth Galbraith Short Fiction award in 2016.