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Room Magazine vol 33.1: Competition
Edited by 
Fiona Lehn

The collective chose the theme of competition for issue 33.1 long before the theme chose me. I agreed to edit the issue, making jokes about potato sack races, the lottery, and pushy little league parents. Eventually, I pondered "All About Eve" complexes, sibling rivalry, and athletics, but I had to start reading the submissions before I understood: competition pervades nearly every aspect of our lives. Competition is human, it is female in a male-dominated culture, it is nurtured and nature, and necessary.

I set out to find women who inspired me with their competitive spirit and found many. Hazel McCallion, the long-reigning Mayor of Mississauga, shares her secrets of political success. The Wurtele twins, Canadian ski champions of the 1940s and 2010 Olympic torch bearers, give us a glimpse into women's sports competitions decades ago. And we're pleased to present a commissioned piece about sex discrimination in world championship sporting events by sports writer and champion cyclist Laura Robinson.

Our competition issue opens with our 2009 Writing Contest winners: Poetry judge Sachiko Murakami selected Jessica Hiemstra-van der Horst's "I told my first stranger I was pregnant" for first place and Wenda Naim's "Funny Bone" for second place. Audrey J. Whitson's "The Glorious Mysteries" and M.E. Powell's "Ghosting" took first and second place respectively in the fiction category, awarded by judge Mary Borsky. And in creative non-fiction, judged by Deborah Campbell, "April the Cruelest" by Adrianne Kalfopoulou won first place. "Why Wake Dayo?" by Carla Hartenberger took second place in that category.

“The emotion of this poem,” says judge Murakami about “I told my first stranger I was pregnant,” “like the unborn child that is its subject, makes itself known quietly: beneath surfaces, unrelentingly present. The act of reading is transformed from an incorporeal, intellectual activity as the irreducible body edges its way into consciousness at the literal edges of the page. Preoccupation edges its way into the life of the speaker’s mind, and inconsequential scraps of everyday life become powerful markers for her pregnancy: library books greased with a stranger’s meal, her desire to change the plot of novels already written. Reading becomes matter, and it is a matter of life and death. A moving and well-crafted poem.”

Fiction judge Mary Borksy says, "In short stories—as in life!—I value emotional connection, truthfulness and energy. The [contest] winners are small gems that have stayed with me. ‘Glorious Mysteries’ is a quiet story, but it engaged me completely. I was pulled into Natalie’s world, the world of the hospital and the world of loss. Natalie’s rebellion felt important and real.”

Deborah Campbell, who judged our creative non-fiction category, comments on “April the Cruelest”: “This essay, which weaves together the story of a woman’s visit from Greece to see her university-aged daughter in New York with the myth of Persephone and the story of displaced Palestinians, is a poetic exploration of the nature of grief and desire. Pieced together from fragments, it is also a study in lost identity and the arrival of a new season.” Of “Why Wake Dayo,” Campbell says, “This narrative account of a deeply depressed woman ‘sleeping through her life’ ends when the woman is awakened by the needs of another.”

Congratulations to all our winners! And for those who are ready for our 2010 writing contest, Jennica Harper, whose second collection of poetry, What It Feels Like for a Girl, is available from Anvil Press, is our poetry judge; June Hutton, whose début novel Underground is available from Cormorant Books, will judge fiction; and Lynne Van Luven, University of Victoria professor and editor of Going Some Place and the celebrated collections of stories Nobody's Mother and Nobody's Father, will judge creative non-fiction. Deadline is June 15. Check our website for contest details. (We posted the 2009 Honourable Mentions there too—enjoy!)

Following our contest-winning pieces, poets Kerry Ryan, Adele Graf, MichelleBarker, Gillian Wallace, and Renee Emerson examine and celebrate aspects of competitive sports and relationship dynamics, literally and metaphorically.Kimberley Fehr’s fiction exposes the iron will of a world-class athlete’s psyche, and Kim Aubrey focuses on the subtle forces of competition in a love relationship. The unique quest for glass balloons as described by Jennifer Manuel stirs the imagination, while Betty Jane Hegerat’s creative non-fiction follows a quieter search, in preparation for death.

This issue’s art by Claire Madill focuses on social dynamics, Jessica Herrmann’s word-based pieces portray mind games, and our cover artist, WendyDing, humorously illustrates the power and complexity of our mind’s eye.

Perhaps there is no more difficult competition than when we face off against ourselves. Some days I have trouble enforcing boundaries with the cat, to be honest. But there's a trick or two to be learned in this issue—we hope you will find some new strategies to add to your playbook.

About the Contributors 

Kim Aubrey is a Toronto writer who grew up in Bermuda and holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College. Her work has appeared in Best Canadian Stories, Event and other journals, and is forthcoming in The New Quarterly. Kim coaches writers and leads an annual retreat in Bermuda.

Michelle Barker has recently moved from Quebec to Penticton, B.C. with her family. Her poetry has appeared in several literary magazines. She has also published short fiction and nonfiction, and received a National Magazine Award for personal journalism. Presently she is working on a young adult fantasy novel.

Wendy Ding is an illustrator based in Toronto. She loves creating colourful images of youthful girls. Her work is mostly created digitally in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Her inspirations are music, fashion, dancing, nature, and food. Visit to see more, and say hi at

Adele Graf's poems have appeared in The Antigonish Review, Canadian Woman Studies/les cahiers de la femme, Parchment, Bywords Quarterly Journal and many anthologies. Adele lives in Ottawa, where she devotes her time to writing, singing, her family, and her cat.

Jennifer Manuel is an elementary school teacher in Kyuquot, BC, a small boat-in community on the west coast of Vancouver Island, where the Nuuchah- nulth people are generous and spirited, their children affectionate, and the stories compelling.

Gillian Wallace earned her PhD writing her thesis on original sin and is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. She's had poems published in The Antigonish Review, ottawater, the Ottawa Arts Review, and forthcoming in Arc Magazine. In 2009, she won the Diana Brebner Prize for Poetry from Arc Magazine.

In this issue

Kim Aubrey
Michelle Barker
Mary Borsky
Deborah Campbell
Wendy Ding
Renee Emerson
Kimberley Fehr
Candace Fertile
Adele Graf
Carla Hartenberger
Betty Jane Hegerat
Jessica Herrmann
Jessica Hiemstra-van der Horst
Adrianne Kalfopoulou
Fiona Lehn
Claire Madill
Jennifer Manuel
Sachiko Murakami
Wenda Nairn
Janet Nicol
M.E. Powell
Laura Robinson
Kerry Ryan
Gillian Wallace
Audrey J. Whitson

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