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Write On Ottawa: Six young authors to watch out for

By Alejandro Bustos on January 21, 2015

The aim of Apartment613 is to profile the great arts and culture scene taking place in Ottawa-Gatineau.  As part of our mandate, we have written about numerous writers, poets and comic book artists from our region.

Sometimes, however, we like to take a look at the next generation of artists, which is why today we are showcasing six young scribes whose literary talent has already been recognised.

Each year the Ottawa Public Library runs their Awesome Authors contest for local residents who are between the ages of 9 to 17.  Submissions can be made in English and French, and there are categories for poetry and short stories.  (The deadline to apply for the next contest is February 16, 2015).

As we near the deadline for this year’s contest, we thought this would be a good opportunity to talk to some notable participants from the most recent competition.

Belinda Xu (1st prize poetry – shared, 12-14 years old)

IMG_1564 (2)??Belinda Xu’s winning poem Flames to Embers is a poignant piece on human mortality.  Written when she was only in Grade 8, the work reflects the changes in her life when she was getting ready to enter high school.

“At the time, many of my friends were applying for different high schools, and suddenly the realization struck that we were all going to drift apart,” says Belinda, who currently attends Earl of March Secondary School.

“Of course, that’s inevitable as you progress through the stages of life, but it was a thought that I’d put off for a while. ?Most people don’t acknowledge that nothing is permanent.”

?While writing is strictly a hobby for her – she does not aspire to be a professional writer – Belinda does intend to enter more writing competitions.

?”I’m planning on submitting more poems to different contests, but I’m writing in my head practically all the time, just as a way to sort of relieve my thoughts,” she tells Apartment613.

Justin Moll (1st prize short story, 12-14 years old)

Justin Moll likes to read some of the best science fiction and fantasy authors of the modern era.  If you were to skim through his reading list, you would find such famous writers as Douglas Adams, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling and Orson Scott Card.

This influence can be seen in his winning story My First Words, an inventive science fiction-tale that is set at the end of the 19th century.

“(The story) was inspired by steampunk culture that I read about on the internet and the video game Bioshock,” says Justin, who wrote this tale as part of a Grade 8 English assignment.

This piece, he adds, can be compared to such stories as the League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

Madeline Cuillerier (1st prize poetry,  15-17 years old)

Madeline Cuillerier’s winning poem is intriguing in both its style and content.  Using an innovative layout, the piece tackles the issue of how people see themselves.

Madeline Cuillerier

Madeline Cuillerier

“I remember reading something (I can’t remember where) about how in our reflections we see all the secrets we try to keep hidden from the world, and I just thought that that wasn’t true,” says Madeline, who is currently a Grade 10 student at Colonel By Secondary School.

“I feel like when we look at other people, or at our own reflection, we see what we want to see.  I wrote this poem as a sort of response to that idea, and about the divide between how we most often perceive ourselves, and how others perceive us.”

The poem was also inspired by people who suffer from mental illness, and how this distorts the way they see themselves, says Madeline.

Looking forward, this talented 16-year-old is working on entering more writing contests, as well as preparing a rough draft by the end of this year for a book.

Shiven Joshi (Honourable mention short story, 9-11 years old)

Shiven Joshi likes to read Greek fiction stories that are full of quests and inspirational themes.  This taste for adventure comes through in his story The 3 Tests that Changed My Life, which he wrote when he was in Grade 4.

The tale is based on a 12-year-old bandit named Jimmy Walker who has to overcome three different challenges.

“At the time I was doing a social studies project on Brazil.  The culture and life there is interesting and stayed in my mind,” says Shiven, when asked why he set his story in South America.

Currently a Grade 5 student at Cedarview middle school, Shiven says he has completed some other stories, although he does find that short stories can be somewhat limiting.

Dian Yu (2nd prize short story, 15-17 years old)

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Dian Yu

Dian Yu is currently a freshman at the University of Toronto.  While in her last year at Colonel By Secondary School, she entered her short story Universal Language, a harrowing tale set in Bangladesh.

While we will not give away the dark ending, we can say that this story gives an original (albeit tragic) meaning to the words universal language.

“My high school had a writing club.  One of the activities we did was to give each other prompts,” says Dian, when asked how she came up with the plot.  “One of my great friends [who is] also in the club loved Latin music … and my prompt was actually a song lyric she loved.”

The setting for the story is also based on a suggestion.

“I really panicked when I first got this prompt, because fantasy was my comfort zone, and I had actually never written a story set in real life,” says Dian.  “I had no idea how to approach this, so I went on bbc.co.uk and read through the front page.  The headline at the time was the turmoil in Bangledesh, the violence occuring especially caught my eye.”

Dreaming of being a writer, Dian is currently rewriting her novel House of Many Falls.

Sasha Hopkins (3rd prize poetry, 9-11 years old)

Sasha Hopkins

Sasha Hopkins

Sasha Hopkins is currently a Grade 7 student at Hopewell Avenue Public School.  Two years ago, however, she penned the funny and witty poem The GIANT Cookie – To: Lucy, which recounts the funny anecdote of how she ate her friend’s cookie.

Which raises the obvious question: Was this piece based on a real incident?

“Yes it was,” Sasha tells Apartment613.  “I got inspiration for the poem after I had been baking with my good friend Lucy and I meant to save her a cookie when they cooled down but they looked too good and I ate them all.

Now 12-years-old, this ambitious student is already busy building an impressive resume.  She not only writes in English and French, but is also working on a school newspaper with movie reviews, book reviews and an editorial section.

When asked what her future plans are she replies with confidence, “I want to be a business person and ‘own Bay Street’.”