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Young storytellers celebrated for 'inspiring, igniting creative imaginations' (7 photos)

'It was a joyous, but very difficult task, to choose finalists and the overall winner because the submissions are truly of a very high calibre,' said contest judge

Members of the community and local dignitaries came out to the Innisfil ideaLAB & Library on Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, to celebrate and honour the 15 finalists of the 2022 Short Story Contest.

“The Short Story Contest is a wonderful way to inspire and ignite the creative imaginations of the next generation,” said Erin Scuccimarri, Innisfil ideaLAB & Library CEO. “As one of our signature events, it is an opportunity for the library to celebrate the many brilliant young authors we have in our community.”

The competing young writers, who range in age from Grades 3-12, are divided into three divisions for the competition: Junior (Grades 3-6), Intermediate (Grades 7-8), and Senior (Grades 9-12). A total of 104 entries were submitted.

Whether of friendship, heartache, or war; with magicians, guardians, lost luggage, or talking animals, the short stories written by the finalists captured the imagination of readers.

Internationally acclaimed, award-winning Canadian children's author, Michelle Kadarusman, was this year's esteemed contest judge, whose novels have earned many nominations and honours, including Canadian Governor General's Literary Awards, Green Earth Books Awards, USBBY Outstanding International Books and Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Books of the Year.

The library provides each year’s guest author with guidelines and a judging sheet. This year, Kadarusman announced Emily James as the Grand Prize winner. The Grade 7 student took home the $500 Seepe Walters Award for the second year in a row for her short story titled, The Suited Sailors.

“I found that I returned to this story over and over again because of its charm, and wit, and humour,” Kadarusman said, adding "I was totally blown away by the incredible talent of all the young writers. It was a joyous, but very difficult task, to choose finalists and the overall winner because the submissions are truly of a very high calibre — and I don't say that lightly. Many of the stories I read showed great promise of future published authors."

Kadarusman visited the Lakeshore branch (virtually or in person) on three separate occasions throughout the contest, providing insight to more than 350 students and community members about how she approaches writing and gave some tips and tricks to help students.

Of her win, James told InnisfilToday, "I always like writing cartoony, kind of funny stories."

All finalists were presented with their award, which included a plaque, an Indigo gift card, and certificates of recognition from Barrie-Innisfil MP John Brassard and MPP Andrea Khanjin. They also each received a copy of the 2022 Short Story Contest anthology, which features their stories.

"The Short Story Contest just highlights the skills of the youth that we have in Innisfil and the enthusiasm that they show towards this competition," said Anne Smith, chair of the library board. "And the encouragement they've had from all the library staff… we’re just absolutely thrilled."

Laura Jeffery is a children’s librarian. She worked hard to help make the event successful.

“I find it was so exciting and wonderful to see these aspiring writers and their families supporting them," she said. "I'm so proud of all the students who put their hearts and minds onto paper and share that."

Innisfil Mayor, Lynn Dollin, said bringing creativity and literacy together is such a powerful tool for learning. She credits the library for its commitment to developing both of these skills for the youth.

“The short story submissions were amazing, showing creativity, passion and courage and everyone who entered this contest should be incredibly proud of what they achieved," Dollin said.

Kadarusman agreed.

“It takes passion and commitment to create something from nothing and it takes courage to submit your creations to be judged... Keep writing. Keep pushing yourselves and there will be no limit to what you can achieve."

For readers unfamiliar with the namesake of the Seepe Walters Award, the 2022 Short Story Contest anthology explains that “Seepe Walters was a well-respected and dedicated member of the Innisfil community until her death in 1995." She was involved in many different facets of Innisfil life. 

The short stories written by the 15 finalists are available to read at the Lakeshore branch in the 2022 Short Story Contest anthology. They have also been added to the online collection of short story anthologies.

Amber Green is a freelance journalist for Village Media Inc.

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Amber Green

About the Author: Amber Green

Amber is a freelance journalist with InnisfilToday. Dedicated to the craft of writing, she is a storyteller at heart who writes novels, poetry, and short stories. She lives in Innisfil.
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