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Where are they now?

Where are they now: Challenge winner Maggie Panko

As we approach the first anniversary of Canada Writes, we're checking in with our inaugural "Hall of Famers"—the winners of our first year's worth of writing challenges. Next up: Maggie Panko, the winner of our April Fool's Apology Challenge held last April.

image-panko.jpgWhat's new with you these days?

Preparing for back to school. I'm a high school teacher. 

How's the writing coming along? Any new writing projects? 

I'm writing poetry these days. It's a relatively new genre for me and I've got a lot to learn. The exploration is freeing. I was spurred on by the CBC poetry contest and now can't seem to go without it.

How did winning the April Fool's Apology Challenge (and the praise of 22 Minutes host Mark Critch) affect your writing and your self-confidence as a writer?

I put a lot of stock in comedy, and have yet to meet the individual who isn't funny in one way or another. When we laugh (or refuse to laugh) says a great deal about who we are. 

Unlike some of the longer challenges, my entry was just a tweet, so winning didn't affect my writing, but it was an affirmation of my connection to humour. It was an honour to get that from Mark Critch.

The image you presented—someone digging through their tuna salad sandwich in a Tim Horton's—is vivid and specific, to say the least. How did it come to you?

A friend is very serious about Roll Up The Rim. She finishes her coffee, her pupils glow red for a split-second, and she r-r-r-rolls. I wondered: if Tim's told her she had to dig through a tuna sandwich instead, would she? 

Are you a prankster by nature?

Yes. Every April's Fool's Day, I play a joke on my homeroom class. I'll invent a ludicrous current event or outrageous final exam requirement. Then I teach it with a straight face, chalkboard instructions, a handout. Students always catch on, but they'll play along to see how far we can take it with the rest.

Have you entered any other Canada Writes challenges since, or kept up with what's been going on?

Canada Writes is a great way to see more of our massive national talent pool, from professional advice to new writers. I definitely keep up. But I haven't entered any challenges since.

What about the CBC Literary Prizes? Have you thought about submitting?

Yes! I was offering feedback to a student poet who was getting ready to enter the poetry contest. She asked me if I was submitting. "No," I replied. "Why not?" she asked. Good question. 

What have you been doing with your iPod Touch?

Listening to music. Snapping pictures. Looking at the night sky. There are lots of free astronomy apps. 

As a tried and true Hall of Famer, any advice for other writers wanting to take a Canada Writes challenge?

Enter! If you win, you get a prize. If you don't, so what? I entered a few others and didn't win. But I followed the Daily Picks leading up to the prize announcement. 

A pick for the True Winter Tales Challenge, by Christine Selinger, took my breath away. I had to read it out loud to others. First my girlfriend. Then a few colleagues at school. They were all moved too.

Christine Selinger didn't win the prize, but her victory was incredibly significant. Read her piece and you'll see. Much better than scoring a coupon crammed under a throwaway coffee cup rim. 

You might be given an iPod. You might not. That won't be the most important thing. Not if the piece counts regardless. That next amazing piece—prizewinning or not—might well be yours. Don't not write it.

Read Q&As with other Writing Challenge Hall of Famers:

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