PRISM international’s Fiction and Poetry Contests Extended to January 30th!

We’re pleased to tell you that the deadline for our Fiction and Poetry Contests has been extended for another week! So if you haven’t already entered, here’s your chance. You have until January 30th 2015 to submit your best stories and poems.

And in case you haven’t heard, we’ve doubled the grand prize for our Poetry contest to $2000! This equalises the prize winnings for both Poetry and Fiction, with the grand prize winners receiving $2000 for first place, with $300 for first runner-up and $200 for second runner-up.

Your work could be chosen by our amazing contest judges, Marina Endicott and Ken Babstock!

Marina Endicott 2014B

Marina Endicott, Fiction judge

What advice would you give to writers entering our Fiction contest?

Write again, write better. Do another draft, and another. (Advice I give myself every day.)



ken babstock


Ken Babstock, Poetry judge 

What are you looking for in a winning poem?

I’m going to try to go into the pile of poems consciously not looking for anything in particular. I’ll let the outliers announce themselves to me. This passive stance is a way of avoiding responsibility while also effectively mocking the haters out there.


Your entry fee also gets you a one-year subscription to PRISM or an extension of an existing subscription.

For information on the contest please click here, and if you want to enter right now you can! Right here, via Submittable.

If you have any questions, please contact

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PRISM 53:2 Sneak Preview – “Warren” by Trisha Cull

PRISM 53:2 is set to launch next week,  featuring work by Ayelet Tsabari, Liz Windhorst-Harmer, Mark Jordan Manner, and many others! Can’t wait? Here’s an excerpt from Trisha Cull’s essay “Warren,” which explores Cull’s relationship with her stepfather over the course of her life. 


You are dying.

You have Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. The cancer eats away at your stomach, bladder and lungs. Now there’s the tumour in your brain that may be malignant.

We’re waiting for results.

Years ago: home in the Fraser Valley (after you left Cranbrook the summer I turned nineteen) between semesters at university, you seemed to regard me with disdain, resentful that I was once again occupying space in your home, moving in on the time you spent with my mother.

The disdain was subtle yet penetrating. It was your general aura, the rigidity of your jaw while talking to me, a slight sneer only perceptible by me, hardly a grunt at the dinner table as you consumed your food deliberately and methodically, elbows jutting out from each side of the robust barrel of your chest, gaze set sternly straight ahead at the tablecloth or stack of sliced white bread.

I felt invisible to you, or inconsequential. You neither loved nor hated me.

You were indifferent.

Now, when I visit you, the air in the valley smells of manure. Streets are grey, few trees, two shopping malls, strip malls, one pub, too many churches, only one sushi restaurant, horses, and cows for slaughter in farmland outside of town. I look at the cows and wish to save them, the way I wish to save you now too.

At what point does a little girl, adolescent, or young woman grow to love her stepfather, who has been there since she was five?

That summer I was home from university, I escaped from the city on my bike and rode into farmland, to berry orchards and wheat fields growing waist-high. I walked through wheat, my fingers grazing brittle stems that tickled my palms, and listened to metal lines separating rows of berry bushes, the zap of wind and whistling of air.

Some afternoons I biked all the way to the small airstrip where two-engine planes take off carrying parachuters. I lay on the grass at the edge of the strip under a solitary poplar tree, making war against the darkness in my heart that would blossom into despair and cripple me for years.

I shaded my eyes and gazed into the cerulean sky, watched small figures jump from planes, chutes opening into reds, greens, and yellows, domes descending toward Earth like jellyfish descending through blue waters.

Pick up a copy of PRISM 53:2 to read the full essay! 

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In Theatre: PostSecret: The Show

PostSecret: The Show
Created by Frank Warren
Created and directed by TJ Dawe
Firehall Arts Centre, Vancouver


PostSecret has received a million anonymous secrets, the blog boasts half a billion visitors,  and has been compiled into six bestselling books – and now creator Frank Warren has teamed up with Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre to bring the voices of PostSecret to the stage.

PostSecret, for anybody who has managed to escape it’s huge popularity, is an ongoing project, created by Frank Warren in 2005, in which people mail their secrets to him anonymously, on a homemade postcard. A selection of secrets are then posted on the PostSecret website, or used for PostSecret’s books or exhibitions.

And now PostSecret has a show. With three actors, the secrets are given life, a voice, and in many cases, a fuller story. All of this is based on true secrets; it really is a “crowd-sourced narrative”. The actors are warm and personable, with Kahlil Ashanti in particular bringing out the humour of many secrets. Supported by live music from Mario Vaira (who also contributed some secrets), the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. In fact, this show did communicate the sentiment of PostSecret itself; audience members also contributed (such as “I’m a full-time yoga teacher and I think chakras are bullsh*t.”) and became involved. Supported by striking visuals – animations, images of postcards and short videos – the show covered the history and impact of PostSecret.

For this reason, the show is less a play than an immersive retrospective of PostSecret. While it’s true that actors bring life to the secrets, there is also nothing new or unexpected in what we are shown, and the animation and videos are heavily relied upon. The secrets themselves are honest, sad and often hilarious; but the high emotions and sentimentality became a little tiring. The voices of the secrets’ authors also became somewhat repetitive, though the anonymity of the contributors does make this a bit more understandable.

That said, for fans – and there were many in the audience – this is what PostSecret is all about. And I have to admit that in my years of theatre-going, I have never seen an audience shed more tears. It proves that PostSecret: The Show, like the project itself, is an extremely cathartic experience.

PostSecret: The Show runs at the Firehall Arts Centre until February 7th 2015. For tickets and more information, click here.

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“Possibly I have an allergy toward blunt and literal story telling”: an Interview with Eliza Robertson

 Interview by Alison Braid

This fall I was excited to pick up Wallflowers, Eliza Robertson’s beautiful debut collection of short stories. Published by Hamish Hamilton in 2014, it has garnered tremendous praise. The stories that make up Wallflowers have been widely recognized for their grace and uniqueness. “We Walked On Water” won the 2013 Commonwealth Regional Prize, and “L’Étranger” was a finalist in the 2013 CBC Short Story Prize. Eliza was the recipient of a Man Booker Scholarship and the Curtis Brown Prize for best writer while completing her M.A. at the University of East Anglia, and was shortlisted for the 2013 Journey Prize. I had the pleasure of seeing Eliza in a panel on ventriloquism and voice at the 2014 Vancouver Writers Festival. 


How did you come to writing? You moved from political sciences quite late in your degree at UVic—was there a particular turning point or influence that caused you to change your direction?

To clarify, I continued my political science degree, but added writing as a second major. The courses I loved most in politics encouraged risk-taking— I’m thinking of the theory classes at UVic instructed by Brad Bryan. Creative writing wasn’t a far cry from that. But I do recall a particular moment in second year… I was overwhelmed with midterms, and my brother was writing a poem by the fire. The next day I walked across campus and switched to fine arts.

In terms of the process of writing itself, do you have a routine? A place you write best? Time of day, special type of notebook?

I have a preferred routine, but it has been interrupted by life and travel the last few months. Ideally, I write in the morning. From home. With coffee. I listen to music when I write. Through headphones, not open air, even when no one is home. I think it helps me burrow inward or extract me from the real world. I type, generally, but now and then I write by hand… on my dad’s graph paper, because we have loads of it at the house in Victoria, and it allows me to write very small.

One of the ways in which I find the craft of your writing especially compelling is that there are no gimmicky twists, but instead slow realizations simmer under the surface, such as in the final story “We Walked On Water.”How do you feel this develops in your writing? Is it something that comes naturally in the first drafts, or do you find yourself working for it, playing it up in later drafts as you go along?

Hmm! It’s really not something I think about. I have been accused of being too subtle. Possibly I have an allergy toward blunt and literal story telling.

The characters and stories in Wallflowers are so diverse—and you very fittingly refer to the book as a piñata filled with all different sorts of candies. You also mention you noticed some commonalities between the stories, of birds and solitary characters. Any idea where these threads come from?

I suppose common threads are to be expected in any body of work. Look at the whiskey and cigarettes in Carver’s stories. Or the neurotic/sharp witted/tragicomic women in Lorrie Moore. I am really taken with birds and flight. So too with solitary characters. I find love stories hard to write.


Wallflowers not only features a huge variety of characters, but it’s also a mosaic of different places, and the sense of each place comes through very strongly in every piece. You’ve traveled a fair amount yourself—and lived in a number of different places. How do you feel situation plays a part in your writing, both in the stories themselves, and for you yourself as a writer?

Oh yes, place is important to me. Again, this has to do with facility, I think… For whatever reason, I find place easier to get to describe than characters. This may be because I’m nomadic myself, or because you can access a city through the five senses. Even if you see/smell/hear/touch/taste (!) a person, the bulk of their thought remains a mystery. I’ve never found streams of consciousness easy to write.

In another interview, you mention you like to keep your life separate from your writing. Does that ever slip? Looking back at the stories in Wallflowers, do you feel you relate to one of the characters more than the others, or feel your own voice coming through more strongly in a specific character?

The most autobiographical story in that collection is “L’Étranger.” I had a housemate who shared the same ‘ticks’ as the character Irina. But that story is a patchwork of life in England and France and pure invention. I would say parts of myself are in most of the characters, though I tweak and inflate those traits and mash them with other details.

You have an ability to give a sense of playfulness to your stories, even, or maybe especially, to the ones dealing with heavy material. How do you want your stories to resonate with other people? What do you hope they pull from them?

I don’t think I have expectations for what readers take away. I welcome any and all interpretations. I do like to play with form and language, though. For me that’s the fun part. Especially when I was starting out.

You speak to one of the strengths of the short story as a form as its ability to deliver such a range of emotions, tones, and styles in a way that the novel can’t. Do you have any such compilations to recommend?

One of my favourite collections of all time is Annabel Lyon’s Oxygen. Also: anything by Mark Anthony Jarman or Zsuzsi Gartner.


Alison Braid is a student at the University of British Columbia, where she is pursuing a BFA in Creative Writing. Her poetry has been published in The Claremont Review and shortlisted for the Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem.

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Twice the Poetry Prize Winnings = Twice the Fun (and donkeys, and Backstreet Boy Cruises, and…)

It’s a big year for PRISM international‘s poetry contest (Entries due January 23rd!). Founded in 2009, the poetry prize has always been the youngest and smallest of PRISM‘s literary prizes – but no more! This year the first-place prize for the poetry contest has been doubled from $1000 to $2000, in line with our non-fiction and short fiction prizes. We here at PRISM wondered what people might do with that extra $1000, and who better to ask than past winners? Here’s what a few of them had to say:

Jordan Mounteer, 2014 PRISM Poetry Prize Winner:775181_10151280061914132_752361172_o (1)

“If I had an extra $1000: It would go toward the piggybank reserved for my 30th birthday and the purchase of a donkey to accompany me while I traverse the Camino del Santiago in Spain. Or wine. Maybe wine. But like, really good wine. Which is, of course, the incentive and precursor for the best kinds of poetry ;)”

Jordan Mounteer is currently is planning his next adventure in Australia and beyond, and finishing up the final touches on a completed manuscript and (badly written) novel.

Deanna Young - Rémi Thériault B&WDeanna Young, 2013 PRISM Poetry Prize Winner:

“As a poet, I take $1000 very seriously. With that much extra cash, I would have paid someone to clean my house monthly for as long as the money lasted so that, when not at my day job, I could focus on the lofty matter of writing without being distracted by dust bunnies, a jaundiced toilet bowl, and worse.”

Deanna Young’s third book of poetry, House Dreams, was published by Brick Books in 2014.

Pamela Porter, 2011 PRISM Poetry Prize Winner:DSC_0016 (3) (1)

“With an extra $1000, I’d go watch grizzlies try to snag salmon. Or I’d buy a fancy new saddle for my horse. Probably would settle on grizzlies. My horse already has a saddle.”

Pamela Porter’s work has won more than a dozen awards, including the 2005 Governor General’s Award for her verse novel, The Crazy Man.

Around the office we, too, couldn’t help but start dreaming about a few utterly reasonable indulgences:

Clara Kumagai, PRISM Executive Editor, Promotions: octocup_clara (1)

“I moved to Vancouver (from Ireland) 18 months ago, and I’m still adjusting to the vastness of Canada. Now that the poetry grand prize has doubled to $2000, I’d spend the extra $1000 on a train trip from Vancouver to Toronto, so that I could experience traveling (almost) across a continent. Coincidentally, a return ticket costs about $1000 (for a normal seat, no bunk or food included). Or maybe I would spend it on another mighty enterprise that links Canada from coast to coast: Tim Horton’s doughnuts. They are only a dollar each! So after that I began translating costs into doughnuts (eg.$1 = 1 doughnut, 25c = 1 timbit). I could buy 2000 doughnuts! Or 8,000 timbits.”

Clara Kumagai’s short story “Waiting” appears in (the current) issue 37.4 of Room magazine.

Nicole Boyce, PRISM Prose Editor: Headshot (1)

“Three words: Backstreet Boys Cruise. I love to write and think and talk about the 90s, so I’d use my thousand bucks to take a reflective, three-day sail with 2000 waterlogged super-fans. If you’re in the boy-band-know, you’ll note that I missed this cruise because I didn’t have the extra money back in October 2014. But I’m confident that with luck and a “90s cruise” Google alert, a similar opportunity will present itself in the future.”

Nicole Boyce writes non-fiction, fiction and comics. She’s currently working on her MFA at UBC.

headshot-3 (1)Jen Macdonald, PRISM Executive Editor, Circulation:

“Buy Giller shortlisted books for all my friends, buy a computer or two for a school in Africa, pay down my student loans, rent a cabin in the woods so I can write undisturbed, rent my partner a cabin in the woods so I can write undisturbed, go on a tour of American authors’ houses, start a pizza pug delivery service…”

Jennifer Macdonald is working on her MFA at the University of British Columbia.

Rob Taylor, PRISM Poetry Editor: headshotweb

“I can’t pick! A few options: 1) A machine like Margaret Atwood’s LongPen, but which is only used to forge cheques by Margaret Atwood. 2) Entries into the PRISM poetry contest for the next 35 years. It’s like walking into the casino and putting everything on black, but with a 140-issue consolation prize! 3) Nicole’s really gotten me thinking about a Backstreet Boys Cruise. The second one would be called “(Everybody) Backstreet’s Back” and everyone would dress as monsters. How could I pass that up? 4) Food and rent. Yes, those are important too, I suppose.”

Rob Taylor is the author of The Other Side of Ourselves (Cormorant Books, 2011).

8012_10152189613411355_1706513761_nSierra Skye Gemma, PRISM Executive Editor, Finance:

I would buy 10 sessions (10 x $100 = $1000) with a Registered Massage Therapist to work on the nerve pain that runs down my right arm into the last two fingers on my right hand, making it painful to write. Hookers and blow.

Sierra Skye Gemma is a “serious journalist”, as evidenced by her writing above, and her ramblings on Twitter.

The deadline for PRISM’s poetry and fiction contests is January 23rd. There’s still time to enter! Glory, maids, doughnuts and Mummy Nick Carter await!

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The Tuesday Prompt: Worst Job Ever

Think about the worst job you ever had.

This is a fairly simple exercise because I think everyone’s had at least one that they’ve despised. If you have never experienced this… Well, that’s awesome and I’m jealous. But bad experiences can often make for good story. (This thought helps me about once a week). Good job = less interesting. There’s a bright side to everything.

Now, think of that job and write down the three things you hated most. Then try and think of at least one thing that you enjoyed (or found a little less bad). Write down the worst thing that happened, and then the best. When you’ve got this, just begin to write. Do this in first person, in direct address to the reader, and try to channel all the times you vented your frustration, boredom or absolute fury. Essentially, you are writing a rant. So, it’s pretty easy. It’s a good exercise to help find a voice, a setting, and a story.

Good luck! Don’t quit! Unless it’s your job, right after you finish writing this…

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