Creative Non-Fiction Contest 2019: The Winners!

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Kayi Wong
Black and white image of two persons sitting opposite one another and discussing a piece of writing

Photo credit: Carissa D'andrade

Congratulations to the following three writers, whose essays have been selected by our esteembed judge, Terese Marie Mailhot, as the winners and honourable mention for our 2019 Creative Non-Fiction Contest!

Room's 2019 CNF Contest: The Winners

First place: “Back Home” by Shaelyn Johnston

Shaelyn Johnston is an Ojibwe and Irish-Canadian writer from Vancouver, B.C.. She writes predominantly for screen but also enjoys creative non-fiction, and uses both genres as a way to explore her culture and the relationships we have with one another. Shaelyn is a current MFA student in creative writing at the University of British Columbia.

“Back Home” is a deeply reflective work about homecoming and grief. It’s experimental in structure and form, and it’s exploring things most people I know turn away from. It felt as though I was witnessing the beginning of a writer coming into her own, and that’s sacred to me. The author resisted melodrama, even where it was earned, and, at times, stripped away the contrivance of setting up scenes and jumped in, creating a sense of intimacy with the reader, and she was unafraid to draw conclusions that were dealing with sentiment. The risk of the work was beautiful, and the truth of her story brought me a lot of heartache. It tells a singular story that speaks to a larger truth about loss and love.—Terese Marie Mailhot

Second place: “A Knowing” by Kelly S. Thompson

Kelly S. Thompson holds a master’s in creative writing from UBC and is a PhD candidate at the University of Gloucestershire. Kelly has published widely, with essays appearing in Chatelaine, Maclean’s, Prairie Fire, and more. Her military memoir, Girls Need Not Apply (McClelland & Stewart, 2019), was in instant Globe and Mail bestseller.

“A Knowing” is a humorous and beautiful work about sisterhood and the body. The tenderness of the moments between the author and her sister were very present and real to me. I liked that the author understood what to notice in a room, and when to put the work in-scene. It felt well-illustrated and personal in a way that moved me.—Terese Marie Mailhot

Honourable Mention: “Dazzle Camouflage” by Kim Dhillon

Kim Dhillon is a writer and social art historian living on Vancouver Island, B.C.. Her current writing explores legacies of colonialism, ideas of homecoming, and the space between language and land. This is her first published piece of CNF.

“Dazzle Camouflage” was full of beautiful language and the depth of the work was wonderful to sit with. It was personal and cerebral and the voice within the work felt poetic and full. What does it mean to inhabit an identity or be part of a larger community and shared history? It’s a beautiful essay looking closely at the self.—Terese Marie Mailhot


Thanks again to every writer who shared their stories with us and our judge. And, of course, much gratitude to Terese Marie Mailhot for the work and care she put into reading and shortlisting the submissions. You can read the honourable mention via the link above and the winning essays in Room 43.2 (publishing in Spring 2020). Just in case you missed the previous announcements, you can click through the links for the longlist and shortlist.


If you're interested in submitting your non-fiction writing to us, our annual creative non-fiction contest opens every year in April. In the mean time, check out our annual Short Forms Contest that just opened. For the short forms contest, writers can submit up to two pieces of writing per entry—essays, short stories, or poems—as long as they're each 500 words or less.


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