Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

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Read It Here! The Winners of the Write Across Ontario Contest for Student Authors

Write Across Ontario is a literary competition open to middle and high school students across the province, and every year we're excited to see what the next generation of CanLit stars has for us. Together with IFOA Ontario, we are pleased to present the winning stories for the 2015 competition. This is your exclusive chance to read the first place texts in all four categories!

Each grade range was provided with a story starter written by a Canadian author. From there, students were free to go in any direction they wanted for up to 500 words. The creativity and imagination on display was impressive and we're thrilled to host the winning stories once again this year.

We congratulate all the fine young writers who entered and especially our winners. Keep your eyes peeled for more from these names a few years down the road!

Please note some of the following text contains graphic images


Claire Whelan, Winner of the Grades 5–6 division

Writing prompt provided by Kate Cayley

It seemed like a good idea at the time. No, that’s a lie. I always knew it was a bad idea. But it was only when we finished climbing and I saw how high up we really were that I realized how bad an idea it actually was. I looked down once, just quickly. The world below was dots of light. I looked away, and swallowed hard, trying not to get dizzy, trying to hold on tight. How we talked each other into doing this at night is really beyond me. But neither of us could have predicted what would happen when we got to the top. Nobody could have known. Afterwards, when I told the story, everyone agreed with me. Everyone agreed it was nobody’s fault.

Not that we told anybody what really happened.

It started when our aunt invited us on this tall ship cruise, the Ruby Marina. Our aunt is a very important businesswoman, and she's consequentially rolling in money. She invited us because our parents wanted some peace and we wanted a vacation.

But the tall ship wasn't really a cruise. Charlotte and I just called it that to make it sound cooler. It's really just a hotel, anchored next to a reef so the guests could go snorkeling.

It sound cool already, but trust me, a month of just swimming and eating seafood can get a bit dull. That's why Charlotte and I started looking for something more interesting to do.

Of course, we could hardly fail to miss the mast. Tall and intimidating, it loomed over the deck, with all its posts and sails and ladders. Ladders! It was Charlotte's idea first. In the beginning, it seemed ludicrous, but as we talked ourselves into it the whole idea seemed less and less ridiculous. Finally, with nothing better to do, we met up on the deck, at midnight, so we wouldn't be caught, and began to climb the mast.

As we climbed, I felt something bump me in my pocket. My pocket knife! I dunno how it got there, but I felt a bit nervous with it bumping around in my pocket, so I put it between my teeth and continued to climb.

When we got to the top, the view was terrifying. The deck looked about an inch wide, and I could see for miles: the reef, the island we rowed here from, a shark fin of in the distance... I was dizzy from the height. I opened my mouth to say something about the view to Charlotte, but then something fell out of my mouth. We watched in horror as the knife hit a rope. I could almost hear the rip... and then a gust of wind blew apart the remaining strands of rope, and our hotel broke free of her anchor, gliding away towards the reef.

I still can't remember how we managed to climb down to mast while the ship was swaying dangerously, or wake everyone up and warn them in a matter of minutes. The captain soon got everyone in lifeboats and before long we were rowing towards the island.

According to the crew, the Ruby Marina had missed the reef by inches. They managed to find it and bring it back into use after a few small repairs. Our aunt invited us back but our parents said no. They had been very shaken after the anchor incident and didn't want us to go. They promised to make it up to us later with a nice vacation on land.

Charlotte and I were lucky. People might have been suspicious, what with our being the only ones out that night, but the captain claimed that it was the rope. "It had a small rip," he had said. "I was going to have it replaced. I didn't think it was that serious, though."

We still haven't told anyone and we don't plan on doing so any time soon. Maybe in our wills or something. It would be safer that way.

Kate Robertson, winner of the Grades 7–8 division

Writing prompt provided by Farzana Doctor

Laila awoke to her mother’s fingernails digging into her shoulder.
“Five more minutes, Ma,” she grumbled.
“No. Get up now. Get dressed.” The trace of panic in her mother’s voice made Laila sit up and rub her eyes. Dazed, she caught the jeans and t-shirt her mother threw in her direction.
“Why? What’s going on, Ma?” Laila changed out of her pajamas and watched as her mother emptied her dresser’s middle drawer into her school backpack.
“Get your shoes on. Sturdy ones, good for walking. Then go out to the car,” she instructed, hefting the bag over her shoulder and rushing down the hallway.
Laila shoved her feet into sneakers, and went to the window. It was dark out but the street was full of people packing up their cars. She watched as her father carried Zainab, her younger sister, into their minivan. As she looked east, she saw clouds of smoke billowing in the distance. The CN Tower was ablaze.

It was as if someone had brought time to a shuddering stop.

Laila stared uncomprehendingly, at the burning tower. How was this possible? What could have started the fire? Who could have started the fire?

“Laila! Hurry!” her mother called, but Laila’s feet were glued to the spot.

The flames were a bright crimson, a beacon of light in the distance. It was horribly beautiful.

Somewhere nearby, an army of firetrucks’ sirens wailed, and Laila jerked out of her trance.

This was really happening. The CN Tower was on fire.

She fled from the window, running out into the frigid night air. Her mother stood by the car, motioning for her to hurry. Her father sat in the driver’s seat, knuckles white on the steering wheel. Her sister started to cry in the back seat. Only her older brother was missing. He had moved out months ago, and had probably already left the city for safety.

They were one of the last families left on the street as the firetruck rushed past, Laila’s mother yanking her out of the street just in time to avoid being hit.

In the pulsing red light of the truck’s light and sirens, Laila recognized the young firefighter sitting in the passenger seat, eyes trained on the tower.

Her brother.

It was like some kind of awful, twisted, nightmare.

Someone was screaming. It occurred to Laila that it might be her.


Laila lunged forward, because her beautiful, brave, selfless brother could not go. He might die. She’d read about fires like this, the tower would certainly collapse. How could they- how could her parents- leave without their only son? How would they know if he would be okay?

Someone was calling after Laila, but the girl was already running, stumbling down the street, as fast as her legs could carry her. She ran blindly through the city until her lungs were burning and her feet were numb. She ran until she could go no farther.

Laila collapsed on the pavement, the firetruck long gone.

Her brother, long gone.

After a few moments, when the only sound was her own ragged breathing, a noise like thunder, and someone’s distant yell echoed through the empty streets.

Lifting her head, and wiping her tear-stained cheeks, Laila watched in horror as the CN Tower began to fall.

Katie Cooke, winner of the Grades 9–10 division

Writing prompt provided by Matt Lennox

In October our uncle moved into our house. I didn’t know him well at all – for all the years I could remember, he’d been travelling around the country, apparently on business, as my mother explained, and only came back for the odd special occasion. But one autumn day he showed up on our doorstep, wearing a rumpled suit and scuffed shoes, with a single suitcase in his hand. He looked much older than I remembered. My mother seemed to have been expecting him, because she led him into the kitchen and sat him down and gave him coffee and cookies. The two of them talked for a while, but they kept the door closed and their voices low. None of us kids could make out what they were saying, but after that conversation our uncle became the newest resident of our already too-busy house. At least he moved into the basement, instead of the bedrooms or the living room. Our basement was unfinished, with cinderblock walls and exposed pipes and wires and a weird, wet smell in the air, but it seemed to suit our uncle just fine. He would sleep late most days but stay up late in the night. Working on something, my mother said, although she didn’t explain what it was, and neither did he. One night close to Halloween I got up after eleven. I went into the kitchen to get a snack. The basement door was closed, but coming out from underneath the door was this white light, so blindingly bright it was almost blue, and a noise of strange machinery.

I didn’t know what it was, how could I? Our uncle barely talked to us about his project. I crept towards the door silently, no one would be up at this hour except him. As I opened the door more noises met my ears, one of them sounded like a growl. I closed the door quickly. What could he possibly be doing down there? I grabbed the snack I’d left on the counter and ran upstairs, I dove under the covers and pulled them up over my head. What was my uncle building? What where my parents keeping secret from us? I fell asleep to the sound of heavy clanking noises drifting up through the air vents.

I stayed up until twelve the next night, I knew my parents and siblings would be asleep. I had to know what my uncle was doing in the basement. I walked down the stairs, and avoided all the creaky spots I had memorized when we first moved here. The same blue light as the night before drifted out from underneath the basement door, I opened the door. The machinery noises were louder than before. I climbed down the first flight of stairs, the lights were brighter now. They cast eerie shadows across the walls, I peered through the railing of the stairs. My uncle was standing in front of a table, over what appeared to be a body! I wanted to scream, was my uncle a murderer? I breathed out a shaky breath and composed myself. I walked quickly up the stairs to my room. I didn’t fall asleep until sometime after four.

I spent the next few days in a state of paranoia, I couldn’t go anywhere near my Uncle. The slightest noises made me jump, I couldn’t go more than a few minutes without looking behind my back. I was a wreck, I hadn’t gotten more than a few hours ofsleep all week. It was Halloween when I talked to my uncle again. He was giving me a strange look, almost as though I was a fish out of water.

“Are you alright?” he asked, I responded with a hurried yes. I don’t think he believed me, the bags that had formed under my eyes were a large give away.

“Don’t lie,” he said, “What’s wrong?You look like a zombie.”

“Why is there a dead body in our basement?” I don’t know what compelled me to say it, maybe it was the lack of sleep, or maybe it was because I’d been running on only coffee and Fruit Loops for the last twenty four hours. My uncle’s face twisted into a look of confusion before it morphed into a look of excitement,

“You were snooping in the basement!” He said, “come on, I’ll show you.” Warily I descended the stairs. On the table and covering the walls weredozens of animatronic Halloween decorations.

“I’m starting up a new business!” my uncle beamed.

Claudia Lam, winner of the Grades 11–12 division

Writing prompt provided by James Grainger

Night fell too quickly. One minute I could see the overgrown garden and broken lawn furniture, the next minute the backyard was nothing but blobs of shadow. The streetlights had come on, but they didn’t reach this far back, and the house’s boarded windows were all as black as the sky. I checked my knapsack again for the flashlight and tools, took a few deep breaths, and stepped out from behind the tree. For the first time in days, I felt calm. I had no choice: I either stole a pillow from one of the bedrooms or spent my last year in school with no friends. Never mind that the place was supposed to be haunted. I’d lost a bet, and the sooner I paid it, the sooner I’d get on with my life.

So with another deep breath, I walked across the yard and opened the mahogany doors, into the unknown and the darkness beyond.

But as I ventured deeper into its shadowy depths there was something that made me


It wasn’t my long distorted shadow casted by the moonlight that fought its way through the boarded windows, nor was it the wisps of air flowing through the house that seemed to come from nowhere. It wasn’t even the consistent, stinging pain in my lower abdomen that accompanied me throughout the past week. Instead, it was a feeling. A feeling coming from deep within my mind, my heart, my soul.

I’ve been here before.

I shook my head, an automated response.

Stop it. You’re just being paranoid.

That’s all.

Reassured, I kept walking. But as I walked towards where I thought was the staircase leading upstairs, with every thing I saw, with every step I took, the thought repeated. Over and over and over.

The moldy crimson carpet.

I’ve been here before.

A dusty painting.

I’ve been here before.

A broken window.

I’ve been here before.

The pain in my stomach was getting stronger.

OK Ana, just get the pillow and get out.

With that, I ascended the steps, thinking it couldn’t get any worse.

I was wrong.

With each ascending step the pain grew and grew to a point that I doubled over midway. This wasn’t just pain anymore. This was agony. I felt my back warm and sticky with sweat and tears were coming out of the slits that were my eyes. This pain, this agony, was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. It was as if someone was slowly cutting my stomach open. I felt my mouth opening, and air passing through, but no sound came out. Or maybe there was sound, I just couldn’t hear it through the blood pounding through my ears and the thoughts swirling around my head and the howling and the fear I tried so hard to suppress and the pain and why won’t it stop why is there so much noise what is happening to me it’s too much it’s toomuchit’stoomuch-

I screamed, barely able to hear myself through all the noise. I was hyperventilating, and my face was covered in tears and snot. I knew I was going to die.

But suddenly, it stopped. The pain stopped, the howling ceased. It was as if it never happened. I uncurled myself from my fetal position and stood up slowly, unsure if this was really over. Catching my breath, I told myself to calm down, and that it was over, that I wasn’t dead. With newfound tranquility and determination I ascended the last step and went into the master's bedroom.

And that was the worst mistake I’d ever made in my life.

Right on top of the bed, hanging by the neck from the lamp, was me.

And everything below my stomach was missing.

Claire Whelan is being raised in Toronto by her parents and her two cats. She enjoys reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic, soccer, skiing, and both playing and coding video games. She was told about Write Across Ontario by her Grandad and is delighted to be a rich, published author.

Kate Robertson is a grade eight student who reads voraciously and constantly. She also loves to write and create stories. She adores reading because it allows you to escape into another world, and writing because you can create one. She can also be found on the soccer field from time to time.

Katie Cooke is a grade nine student at Collingwood Collegiate Institute in Collingwood, Ontario. She aspires to be a writer as her full time career and is entering as many writing contests as she can to gain writing credits to add to her resume. Her favorite genres to read and write are fantasy, mystery, dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction.

Claudia Lam is a grade 11 student who currently resides in Markham, Toronto. She hopes to one day be a part-time writer. She recently moved to Canada from Hong Kong and finds Canada to be a fascinating and very different place compared to where she came from. Her hobbies include reading and writing, and she is very excited to try skiing and building snowmen when winter comes.


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