Canada Writes

Canada Writes Blog

Laurie Schwartz (Banff, AB)

Laurie Schwartz

Western Finalist 09

(April 27, 2009) Toronto. A far cry from the crisp mountain air of Banff. A thrumming mass of humanity fuelled by caffeine and street meat. The final showdown of Canada Writes 2009.

The main thing that I will take home from this experience (aside from a swell prize) is pride. Not so much for myself, but for the amazing talent that we have all across this country. It was thrilling to meet all of the other finalists. In true Canuck fashion, we were all genuinely supportive of each other, and commiserated about the crazy thing we were putting ourselves through.

Even more thrilling to shake hands with some of my CanCon heroes: Terry O’Reilly, Darrell Dennis and Geri Hall. Too bad George Stroumboulopoulos couldn’t be there. I know he wanted to. I know it.

I was also proud of the GO! team for their cool in the face of a circuit board meltdown moments before we were supposed to broadcast the finals live. Brent, Nana and Pete went to heroic measures with “name that tune” to keep our studio audience with us while the technical crew scrambled to fix the mysterious problem.

Sharpen your pencils for next year, Canada! It’s worth it.

(April 6, 2009) Tick...tick..tick...crap!

It’s amazing how time can seem to stretch or condense in times of stress. During the sixty-second writing challenge at the Canada Writes semi-finals in Vancouver, I had the strange sensation of both at the same time. Part of my brain was racing, grasping for a comic line, while another part was watching a mental car crash in extreme slow motion.

Lucky for me, it all came out alright. The crowd laughed, the judges were pleased, and the space/time continuum resumed its normal operation.

Where do all the ideas come from? I have no bloody clue. You just have to trust that they will be there when you need them. At least with the hour-long challenges you have a chance to review and edit - really craft the language - but seriously...sixty seconds? Jeez.

Now we finalists get to do it all over again in Toronto! I have enormous respect for my fellow contestants, because I know EXACTLY how insane this game is.

(March 6, 2009) If there’s one thing I love, it’s a deadline. You procrastinators out there know what I mean. You’ve felt it: the diamond clarity of focus born in the heat and pressure of a deadline. Through all of my years in school, I nearly always cranked out papers the night before the due date. This had nothing to do with laziness: it was all training for THIS MOMENT.

A few weeks ago, I heard about Canada Writes while sipping Saturday morning coffee, and my friend said, “You write funny stuff, you should send something in.” Of course, I ignored this advice until a couple of hours before the contest closed. It’s my method.

The timed writing for the audition was a lot like bungee jumping. While safe on the ground you imagine you’ll do a graceful leap, but perched on top of the platform with an elastic band tied around your ankles, your heart goes like a trip-hammer and every cell in your body screams “NO!!!”

But you do it anyway.

I mean, a free trip to Vancouver - huzzah - pretty sweet, right?

How do you prepare for Canada Writes? I’ll figure that out later.

Hey, Brent Bambury... let’s GO!

How It Works

  1. Write In!

    Out of hundreds and hundreds of entries, just twenty Canadians made it to the Short List and won themselves an audition with Canada Writes. Then eight semi-finalists were picked to play in the Eastern semi-finals and Western/Northern semi-finals.

    Read their winning songs, blogs, ads, rants and movie pitches!

  2. Tune In… or Join Us!

    On March 14th and April 4th, tune in to GO! on CBC Radio One at 10 am (10:30 am NT) for the Eastern and Western/Northern semi-final games in Halifax and Vancouver. The finals will be held in Toronto on April 18th. Or join us at any of the three shows to root for the contestants in person. Go to for tickets.

  3. Play Online!

    The Canada Writes 09 Online Challenge is now over. Thanks for playing!


(Toronto, April 25, 2009)

Canada Writes Finalists

It was a very tight race in the end. Our four finalists fought it out by blog, song, ad and a three-line story. First, they each drew a blog topic, from “the best hundred dollars I ever spent” to “one fact I would like to ‘un-know’”. Challenge number 2 was to re-write a song by Queen, with Valerie Stanois from the musical We Will Rock You bringing power vocals to their surprising new words. Then judges Geri Hall, Terry O’Reilly and Darrell Dennis sent Kaveh Mohebbi through the infamous Trap Door. Challenge number 3 was the radio ad. Clever ads for Cornhobbler’s Crematorium and Juice Bar (obviously not a real business) and Christmas greetings from the makers of Flank Chainsaws won Katie Sanders and Laurie Schwartz a last chance at writing glory, but it was Margaret Beach’s turn to go through the Trap Door. Finally, Laurie and Katie had to come up with the first two lines of a three-line story… on yellow writing pads on their laps…and in 90 seconds….

After weeks of effort and tension and achievement -- from the writing contest in January, through the auditions, the short list, the semi-finals and the finals – it was all over in a couple of minutes. Katie pulled ahead by a crucial point -- and became the winner of Canada Writes 09! Listen to the show! Read the blogs!

Canada Writes Judges

For more photos, go to

Winner of the Online Challenge! Ontario's Heather Smith is the winner of this year's People's Choice Award. Her winning entry was a re-write of the ABBA song 'Waterloo.' Take a look!