Laura Clarke, 28, knows the value of writing contests. Last year, the Toronto poet took home the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers for her piece Mule Variations. It came with $5,000 and the confidence to keep writing, kind of like the boost she got a decade earlier at age 17 when she won a high school creative writing contest in her home town, Hamilton, Ont.
Clarke, who now has a Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing from the University of Toronto, is pleased to hear that the Writers’ Trust—Canada’s biggest non-governmental source of financial support for writers—has created the 2014 Hilary Weston Student Nonfiction Writing Contest for high school students. The winner will get $2,500, a trip for two to Toronto this fall to join prominent authors at the gala for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and have his or her work published on Macleans.ca. (Rogers, Maclean’s parent company, is a sponsor). His or her high school will also receive $1,000. There are cash prizes of $500 for placing second and $250 for placing third.
Submissions must be in the form of literary nonfiction and between 1,000 and 2,000 words. Literary nonfiction includes, but is not limited to, works of personal or journalistic essays, memoirs, commentary, both social and political criticism, history, and biography, according to the contest guidelines. There is no fee to enter and the deadline for submissions is March 31st.
Such contests matter, says Clarke, because they help young writers to get over their nervousness and share their work publicly, after which they’ll be delighted to find a supportive community to develop their ideas. “With any art form, community is one of the most important things.”
Katrina Afonso, program assistant with the Writers’ Trust, says that’s one of the reasons the contest was created. “We’re hoping this will give them a boost in their confidence and their careers.”