Sophie McGowan, Caris Simmons win The First Page student writing challenge
Students imagined how present-day trends have played out in the year 2170
Burnaby, B.C.'s Sophie McGowan, 12, and Calgary's Caris Simmons, 17, have won The 2020 First Page student writing challenge, a national speculative fiction writing competition for Grades 7 to 12 students in Canada.
Students imagined how present-day trends — from climate change to artificial intelligence and gene manipulation — have played out in the year 2170.
The 20 finalists and two eventual winners were chosen from over 2,000 entries submitted in the fall of 2020 — 1,601 entries were collected from the Grades 7 to 9 category and 403 entries from the Grades 10 to 12 category.
Award-winning YA and children's author David A. Robertson chose the two winners from 10 finalists in the Grades 7 to 9 category and 10 finalists in the Grades 10 to 12 category.
"I love it when a simple concept has such complexity underneath the surface. Pollinator is at once evocative, poetic, and succinct. And thematically and structurally, this story took a different approach that was ironic, and meaningful," said Robertson. "I loved the whimsical tone and how rich the imagery was; contrasting a smear of yellow pollen against the black stripes down the drones' centres was particularly effective."
"In writing, timeliness is important, but difficult to catch. Chasing 1% is a sophisticated meditation on the division of class through a literal separation; one class above, the other below. But as with any good story, it goes deeper than that, addressing, as well, a division of age, starkly contrasting not just the "haves and have nots" but the entitlement of one generation against the "grit" of another," said Robertson.
"The literary skill was impressive; a seamless use of alliteration lent itself to one of many beautifully poetic passages, and the final image of cigarette smoke mingling with pollution was stunning."
Grades 7 to 9 category finalists
- The Earth Odyssey by Enya Fang, 13, from Surrey, B.C.
- Finding Home by Anne Gibson, 12, from Bedford, N.S.
- The Son Leaves in November by Sasha de Leon, 14, from Winnipeg
- The Tainted Land by Annabel Li, 14, from North Vancouver
- In the Storm by Hao Lun Li, 13, Coquitlam, B.C.
- Pollinator by Sophie McGowan, 12, from Burnaby, B.C.
- Les Avions en Papier by Irisa Rao, 13, from Victoria B.C.
- Last Soul on Earth by Madison Schettler, 14, from Winnipeg
- Timeless by Sherry Xiong, 13, from Surrey, B.C.
- Interdependent by Katie Yu, 14, from Iqaluit
Grades 10 to 12 category finalists
- A Weeping Warrior by Nida Almas, 17, from Windsor, Ont.
- Lobster by Samuel Budge, 15, from Ottawa
- Mission Genesis by Clayton Burrows, 17, from Sechelt, B.C.
- Happy Rebirthday by Jessie Chen, 15 from Toronto
- Destination Simulation by Jasmine Farah, 16, from Bowen Island, B.C.
- Everything We Want by Natalia Koss, 16, from Vancouver, B.C.
- Goodbye April Rowan by Enya Law, 15, from Toronto
- Above the Orange River by Cole Petersen, 18, from North Vancouver
- My Future for Our Future by Saadia Saqib, 16, from Winnipeg
- Chasing 1% by Caris Simmons, 17, from Calgary
The First Page student writing challenge will return in the fall of 2021.