Canada Writes

The Short List

There were hundreds and hundreds of entries sent to Canada Writes from across the country—blogs, ads, movie pitches, songs and rants.

Twenty of them made the cut.

Next came the auditions.

Then there were 8....

What kind of person makes the Canada Writes short list?

Read their bios and meet them face to face!


WINNER Katie Sanders (Nelson, BC)
Katie Sanders

Katie Sanders, a pastry chef and part-time hermit, lives in Balfour, B.C. Balfour is so tiny that she tells everyone she meets that her home is in fact Nelson, B.C. so as to prevent the inevitable long and drawn-out explanation of how a person comes to live in such a place.

Katie is a morning person who believes firmly that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Her favourite pastimes include walking her dogs, reading great works of fiction and napping. She tries to drink as many cups of tea per day as possible and to eat bacon at every opportunity.

She has spent many years adventuring and exploring and would now love nothing more than to stay at home with a roaring fire on the hearth and write stories to keep the pets entertained.

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FINALIST Laurie Schwartz (Banff, AB)
Laurie Schwartz

Recipe for a writer:

Start with a wonderful childhood on a Manitoba farm. Stir in plenty of Muppet Show, Mr. Dressup and Bugs Bunny. Add a dash of travel at a young age. Stir curiosity. Allow creativity to rise, then punch down a career in the arts in order to develop resolve. Knead intellect in high school. Whip into a froth in theatre school. Pour into mould of urban conformity and let rest in a quiet corner of "joe-job" for about ten years. Pre-heat dream job in the mountain parks. Move to Banff and bake gently in the glow of creating educational theatre, adding random bits of experience until ready.

NOTE: there are many recipes for making writers, but with almost all of them, the writer improves with age.

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SEMI-FINALIST Kevin Flesher (Drumheller, AB)
Kevin Flesher

To whom it may concern:

Through a strange series of events involving an old Airstream, explosives, kimchi and lesbian cowgirls, Kevin has come to nest in Drumheller with his wife, two daughters and a dog named Pancake. He works at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, creating and delivering educational videoconferences for their award-winning Distance Learning program.

When he’s not out painting robotic dinosaurs or making cavewoman movies, he strums and croons for a pirate-hillbilly-swamp orchestra called the Plaid Stallions.

Besides being the official Town Crier of Edmonton and founder of the Canadian United National Theatre, he has found time to be lazy and unmotivated, except when prodded into action by hunger, lust, or an impending deadline. Although often dismissed as a delusional lunatic, he has been occasionally known to shed humble droplets of brilliance and is a zealous advocate of the ‘Ballistic Panspermia Theory’ amongst the barflies and boozehounds of the Badlands.

Why does he write?
What compels him?
What strange unearthly rhythms fuel his scribbles?
Nobody knows for certain, but it certainly does make one wonder.

Kind regards,
His Imperial Eminence, Reverend Trashy Drifter PhD.

P.S. Sorry about the other night.

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SEMI-FINALIST David Tracey (Vancouver, BC)
David Tracey

David Tracey is a writer and designer who actually believes greening the city will save the planet. He helps start community gardens in low-income neighbourhoods with the Vancouver Community Agriculture Network and shows homeowners how to turn lawns into farms. He is the author of "Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto" as well as a novel that some lucky publisher has yet to discover.

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Kurt Armstrong (Winnipeg, MN)
Kury Armstrong

My name is Kurt Armstrong and I live in Winnipeg, MB. I am an Assistant Publisher at Geez Magazine, a freelance writer, and a part-time stay-at-home dad. I've written for Geez, The Globe and Mail, CBC's Outfront, and I read and write in the wee hours of the morning, sipping cups of home-roasted coffee and always hoping my kids will sleep just a bit longer. Erika, my wife, is my muse.

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Cheryl DeWolfe (Victoria, BC)
Cheryl DeWolfe

Cheryl DeWolfe is a modern-day Renaissance Grrl; she writes, cooks, knits, designs plush toys, gardens, builds and maintains websites, and photographs everything. When she isn't creating something, she is immersed in pop culture and media. Cheryl has published haiku about coffee, zombies, and Y2K; essays; and a couple of hundred movie reviews. She co-wrote and co-starred in a Fringe play and is an avid blogger. She has a BA in History and Literature and also a Certificate in Entry Level Plumbing, neither of which put her on the path to her current career in an academic library, making digital copies of items from the collection for use online. Cheryl lives with her husband, daughter and cat in Victoria, BC.

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Len MacDonald (Inuvik, NT)
Len MacDonald

I’ve always believed I stood in the wrong line at university. At the age of 47, I find myself short-listed in a creative writing contest after having majored in financial accounting at university (Mount Allison) and subsequent to that completing a professional accounting designation (CMA). I’ve always joked that accounting was just something to fall back on anyway when times got tough. You know… death and taxes are the two certainties in life, and frankly, accounting is way more glamorous than mortician.

I started writing creatively as a hobby about five years ago. I write for myself and until now haven’t really shared much with anyone other than those closest to me, so I guess this is my coming out party.

Words are magic. The written word will outlast each and every one of us and everyone has something of value to tell the world. Someday I’ll finish that book(s) that’s in me. That’s my line and I’m sticking to it.

I’m a transplanted Cape Bretoner who has made Inuvik, NT home since 1997 and loves it. The North, and we’re North here, is Canada at its best.

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Josh Stubbs (Vancouver, BC)
Josh Stubbs

I have tried different forms of writing. I did stand-up comedy for awhile, wrote ad copy, did restaurant reviews and travel pieces, and worked in technical writing.

Last December, I finally managed to publish a work of fiction. I wrote a silly story about a pulp writer that uses search and replace to change books in the public domain into sci-fi novels. He changes the Bible and accidentally starts a religion. A small magazine in Ottawa accepted it.

A month later the editor contacted me to say they went belly up before the first issue.

At New Year's, I thought “I'll just start tossing this stuff up on the web. I'm only amusing myself anyway." I started a blog ( with the premise that each entry was an excerpt from one of 300 books by hack writer Ben Shakey. I get exactly 2 hits a day, when I check it, but it's fun.

Everything there is under the Creative Commons License. Do anything you want with it.

I live in Vancouver with my wonderful wife and son, two birds and a guinea pig.

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Sarah Tait (Victoria, BC)
Sarah Tait

Born in Calgary, Sarah moved to Nanaimo three years later with her mother the nurse and her father the journalist. Having a deathly fear of needles and blood, and being prone to fainting, she paid more attention to her father ’s line of work.

After several trips to Hong Kong as a teen, she became addicted to travelling. It was while travelling in her twenties that Sarah began writing, initially to stay in touch with friends and family. Soon her emails turned into rambling a social commentary on the world around her. She has often been told to write a book about her adventures and has been described as an “estrogen-infused Bill Bryson,” her favourite author…next to Jane Austen.

Sarah is a high school French Immersion, English and Socials teacher in Victoria, BC. Teaching in Quebec, South Korea, Scotland and living in a tent for five months in Normandy, where she gave WWII history tours, have given her enough stories to entertain her friends for years. Having been recently reminded how much she loves writing, Sarah now intends to dedicate her summers to publishing a book: fusing Austen and Bryson with a twist of Tait.

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Andrea Taylor (Ponoka, AB)
Andrea Taylor

Whenever Andrea is not riding her motorcycle, balancing motherhood and a relationship, spending time with friends, trying to appease her constant craving for fine art and music, jockeying for parking spaces in downtown Calgary in a woefully big company-issued truck, following current events, buried in a book, trying out new recipes, wine tasting in the Okanagan, pouncing on laundry loads at just the right time to mitigate ironing, or honing her CPR skills for the next time she has to save someone’s life, she enjoys writing.

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FINALIST Margaret Beach (East York, ON)
Margaret Beach

I always wanted to be Malibu Barbie, tanned and blond with a surfboard, hanging out at the taco stand where I would meet Keith Partridge -- my second crush.  (My first was Leonardo da Vinci, as portrayed in a PBS documentary which I mistook for current affairs. When it became plain to me that da Vinci was long dead, I ceased to aspire to anything I saw on television.)

I never became tall, though I was once blond. After many blistering attempts to fry myself brown, I have accepted I will always be more Snow White’s lesser sister than Malibu Barbie.

Now I am a dental hygienist. Its more fun than you’d think. I also teach anatomy and histology to hygeniuses-to-be. That’s really fun. Really!

Lastly, I am a small ‘a’ artist. I use small amounts of time to create small things. Such as a shelf to hold my salt cellar. I painted it with an image of Gandhi carrying a big bucket of shakers (a reference to his march to the sea to make salt) and a little poem, “Recipe for Salt God.”

After 22 years of happy marriage, I have three-plus-one children and a little dog. That all takes creativity. But my full-time job is the laundry.

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FINALIST Kaveh Mohebbi (Toronto, ON)
Kaveh Mohebbi

I am a Vancouver-born Iranian-Canadian, and also (as cliché as it might sound) a 25-year-old aspiring writer. Any form of writing fascinates me, as long as it falls within the world of fiction. I have no real interests in dabbling in journalism any further than I already have. In the past I have written several articles for online newspapers on a diverse range of topics, from meandering blogs to lifestyle and sexuality. I’ve written on it all! I’ve also written several short film scripts and even written, produced and submitted a film to the U of T Film Fest. A recent University of Toronto graduate, I’d like to direct my skills towards playwriting, novel writing and screenwriting. Screenwriting possibly best soothes my soul, as I am an avid film fan.

When I’m not reading or in writing workshops I enjoy playing guitar, hockey (goalie), and spending time shooting the breeze with my comrades. So far, the CBC Canada Writes competition has also been right up my alley!

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SEMI-FINALIST Charles Mancini (Dartmouth, NS)
Charles Mancini

Growing up in a household of lawyers and politicians, it was no great surprise that I ended up following my current career path, which is, of course, acting and theatre. So now I am wrapping up my BA at Dalhousie and hoping to grab the creative world by the horns. I hope to live in only semi-poverty, as opposed to absolute poverty.

I began writing at the tender age of eight, when I wrote my first chapter book about werewolves. I like to say I have matured since then. Others may beg to differ….

I have since written one-act plays, full-length plays and screenplays, only one of which was actually produced (and I produced it myself). It was part of the 2004 Atlantic Fringe Festival. The play was called “The Winter”. It was about a heroin addict. It was very depressing.

I hope to combine my two passions, theatre and writing, in a grad school of sorts at some point in the not too distant future (I’m very specific). Outside of the creative arts, I like running, biking, hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, and anything that pushes me to the edge of my physical limit.

Love to Dartmouth, my City of Lakes.

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SEMI-FINALIST Sarah Mian (Halifax, NS)
Sarah Mian

Making up stories has gotten Sarah Mian everywhere. From a budding juvenile delinquent in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia to turns in Toronto, Victoria, St. John's and London, England, she's emerged on the other side of the tunnel, back home and working for the RCMP. In former lives, she was a barista, film extra, waitress, substitute teacher, adult educator and folk singer, but always a writer first-- and she's seen and retold it all a hundred different ways.

Sarah's fiction and poetry have appeared in such places as The Vagrant Revue of New Fiction, The New Quarterly, The Antigonish Review and Galleon Journal. Her co-written play “Creatures of the Moment” was produced by Metamorphic Theatre.

She now lives across the harbour in Halifax and is jealous that when her Dartmouth friends come to visit, they can often convince the ferry captain to let them drive the boat home.

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Frank Boothroyd (Newport, NS)
Frank Boothroyd

Frank is a biology teacher at a private university prep school in Windsor, Nova Scotia.

Frank has written dull, scientific articles for the US Fisheries Bulletin and the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. He has also written an industry-oriented guide to live lobster storage that he wanted to call Holding Lobsters: Claws and Effect but didn't. He has won writing awards in the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters competition and from the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia. Recently, Frank wrote a series of humorous doggerel called “The Prince Edward Island Seafood Chowder Collection.” These short poems were marketed towards tourists visiting PEI. He sold three. Frank figures that the $12.50 he netted puts him among the top one hundred money-earning poets in Canada. He's also written a screenplay called “Brothers Wolf” - a feature-length comedy that has recently been optioned by a small Canadian production company. He is currently writing a popular science manuscript called “Had Darwin Been a Sports Fan: The Evolution and Ecology of Professional Athletes.”

Frank's favourite authors include Tom Clancy and A.A. Milne, and he often dreams about nuclear submarines being depth-charged with pots of honey. Perhaps that is why he is single.

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Diane Forrest (Toronto, ON)
Diane Forrest

Diane is a senior copy writer in the investment industry. She’s a pro who's written everything from corporate farewell cards to award-winning magazine stories. An alumna of Reach for the Top and a local pub trivia champ, she's an info hound who can spin varying theories on suitcase packing into a 750-word article. Her short plays have popped up at the Fringe and appear regularly at Toronto's Alumnae Theatre. In her spare time, she traps cats for Annex Cat Rescue and watches only television programs with violence, nudity and coarse language. Her proudest moment? Acing her graduation performance at clown school.

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John Gillies (Ottawa,ON)
John Gillies

My aura is currently robin's-egg blue with veins of Valentine and flecks of ire.Most of the world is sad and beautiful, so I try to balance it with funny and ugly.

My first poem sent me to the principal’s office. I still don't know what's wrong with the line “I think this is a stupid poem” because the truth never hurts unless it ought to.

Now I’m on the other side saying, “use your words” to the kids I teach.

I use my science degree to map unanswered questions and unquestioned answers. I use my teacher's certificate to practice origami.

I’ve written an unpublished novel, neglected poems, time-forgotten tales and unknown songs.

At night I toot sax, strum guitar, tickle ivories and sing my songs to as many walls as possible.

Wise people sometimes hire me to make words snap, crackle, and pop. A cereal with an open box.

Ottawa is a lovely small pond with nasty big fish. Paris is a nasty big pond with lovely small fish. I was born in the former, I swam in the latter and now I’ve found a free-flowing river.

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Rita Lianga (St. Catharines, ON)
Rita Lianga

VP of Membership for Garden City Toastmaster, attaining my CTM
Life Insurance Agent and Financial Advisor
Membership Chair for the St. Catharine’s and Area Arts Council
Dale Carnegie Business Coach
Past President Parkway Literary Guild
Stage Manager for Rochester Comedy Troup at Toronto Fringe Festival
Asked to be in the Leonard Cohen movie “I AM A HOTEL”
I played an ankle
I had a pivotal role
Rotary Club Member
Free radical
Taught Ballroom and Latin American Dancing, I have my Bronze
Lived in a coffin factory that had lots of lofts for struggling artists

Lived on a Boat, the Seneca, a 50-foot Schooner that won the Canada Cup in 1907 Have a 5-year pin for service with the King Edward Hotel
Looking for the book “Berserk” said to tell the story of a sniper in Berkeley, California
Am of Eastern European heritage, one of the Baltic States, Lithuanian
Come from a very large family
Poet, Singer Songwriter, Writer
I am A Wood Horse, a cat as in Leo the Lion and my Number is #1
I know I cannot find a (cent) sign on my laptop but there are only
Love Vincent van Gogh and Maxfield Parrish.

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Cory McAdam (Beaconsfield, QC)
Cory McAdam

A Torontonian by birth, a Montrealer by choice, and a translator by trade, I spend my downtime writing goofy milestone birthday songs and poems for family and friends. My early and present lives have been blissfully suburban, but I spent the nine years between high school and my university degree trekking in Nepal, learning German as an au pair in Hamburg, and studying French as a foreign student in Dijon (picking up where my Grade 9 French left off). The travel bug stayed with me through a career in the air and on the ground at Air Canada, and I finally settled first into freelance business writing and later translation in beautiful Beaconsfield, Quebec. With my days as a soccer mom now behind me, I’m an unapologetic Habs fan and closet creative writer…I’m just waiting for my “Harry Potter” moment to arrive. Luckily, I’m also patient.

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Doug Ralph (Ottawa,ON)
Doug Ralph

I would like to start off by thanking CBC for always showcasing the best that Canada has to offer. I do wonder why it took them so long to find me though.

I am by no means a struggling writer; it actually comes quite easily to me. I have a degree in advertising, and I aspire to be a great copywriter; however, I am currently studying YouTube and hope to one day have a career in video taping myself.

I work, but do not consider it a living. If you ask what “I do”, be prepared to listen to me list off things I do that I consider more important than my actual job. For example, I host a radio show called ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’. I’m working on the most influential album of my generation. I’ve turned my living room into a talk show set, which I use to film guests of my house. I also write a lot.

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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!

Canada Writes Blog

David Tracey (Vancouver, BC)
David TraceyWestern semi-finalist 09

If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, “Dave, you write such wildly creative things, where DO you get your ideas?” I’d have…let’s see…hang on… Okay, nothing.

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Read all the Canada Writes blogs.