By Andrea Tomkins –
The winners of this year’s Awesome Authors Youth Writing Contest, which ran from December 2013 to February 2014, were announced at a special event at Ben Franklin Place on March 25.
Prizes were handed out to honour Ottawa-area youth between the ages of 9 and 17 who submitted poems and/or short stories in French and/or English.
Bella Crysler, 13, was the only winner from Kitchissippi. Her poem, “The Girl Behind the Sunglasses,” received an honourable mention in the 12-14 poetry category, and it’s about bullying.
Crysler is quick to point out that she hasn’t been through the kind of situation she describes in her poem, but chose to submit a poem about it because “it’s a big issue right now.”
“It’s about bullying, but not the physical bullying, it’s about more of the intimidation, the feeling of being unsafe,” says Crysler. “Bullying scars you, physically and mentally,” she adds.
Crysler, who is a student at Broadview PS, hopes that her poem will raise awareness about bullying and get more people talking about it.
Kitchissippi author, Tudor Robins, was one of the judges of the youth writing contest. The Ottawa Public Library holds the contest annually, with sponsorship from the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library Association (FOPLA).
“It was a huge honour to be given the chance to be a judge,” says Robins. “It showed a major commitment to writing that we received 200 English short story entries.”
Robins notes it was “quite difficult to make the judging decisions, as there were so many stories that had particular areas of strength,” and that the winning entries were very strong across the board in terms of language, plot, and character development.
Robins, who is a big supporter of the young writers and has led workshops at the OPL, instructed participants “to think hard about the strengths in their stories, and the areas they needed to work on, and to use that thinking and reflection to become stronger writers.”
Crysler’s submission, along with the other winning stories and poems, will be published in pot-pourri, a bilingual anthology, something that wouldn’t be possible without the support of FOPLA.
“FOPLA is able to sponsor the contest – and donate over $250,000 to the library each year – thanks to the hard work of over 300 FOPLA volunteers who sell used books in our bookstores and book sale shelves in 20 library branches and at special book sales,” says Jasmine Ball, of the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library.
All money raised from the sale of pot-pourri is used to support the Ottawa Public Library and the Awesome Authors Youth Writing Contest. For more information about the anthology – or to purchase a copy – go to ottawapubliclibraryfriends.ca.
The Girl Behind the Sunglasses
She hides behind sunglasses
Waiting to pounce with bitter words
To take your pride
And stash it away
Behind the tinted lens
Doesn’t know who she is
But she wants who you are
She snatches with talons
Manicured and hidden well
So be careful
If you listen hard enough
You can hear her echo back
The words she’s heard before
Now passing through different lips
She’ll take your smile
And make it just like hers
Forever dull and dim
No meaning or sincerity
She has no inside
Hollow eyes and missing heart
Abandoned and deserted
Stay away from the girl behind the sunglasses
Or your heart might be there to stay
With a lipstick covered liar
And a shadowed evil gaze
She’ll claim you if you don’t watch out
She has a shell that’s deceiving
Flawless and unnatural
A different kind of beautiful
So don’t let her get to you
And take away your heart
With words merciless as fists
And glares that slice
Without a second glance
Don’t listen to the girl behind the sunglasses