2023 Winners

Congratulations to all 2023 Short Grain Winners!


1st prize ($1000)
John Geddes,
"Home Position"

2nd prize ($750)
Camie Kim,

3rd prize ($500)
Trent Lewin,
"Ata Vica"


Honourable Mention

"The Train"
by Murgatroyd Monaghan

"Little Auk"
by Roni Muench


1st prize ($1000)
Sadie McCarney,
"The Distance"

2nd prize ($750)
Moni Brar,
"It is Not a Line"

3rd prize ($500)
Mike Sluchinski,
"pemmican stories (where 20th street meets the river)"

Honourable Mention

"The Worst Job"
by John Geddes

"Desire Path"
by Hannah Senicar

Judges' comments


Leona Theis

Fiction Judge’s Comments

Dear Writers,


Thank you for sending your moving, intriguing, shapely and finely detailed stories. As I’m sure other judges have found, there is not enough room among the final five for all the fine work I would have liked to name as finalists.


Here are the first-, second- and third-place winners, as well as two honourable mentions:


“Home Position” is remarkable for its economy of language, showing how much a half-page scene, or even a small gesture and the brief but loaded response to it, can say about a person, a town, a relationship. For the unnamed narrator, an obituary triggers an examination of a long-ago friendship. It’s a common enough trigger for memory, but what follows is unexpected and, in the end, unsettling. In a voice that’s honest about his own shortcomings (though not necessarily quite ready to come to terms with those shortcomings), the narrator navigates the tensions between regret and rationalization; between those who leave and those who stay; between the half-wild and the half-tame.


“Quicksilver” is a tender and profound story that enveloped me gradually, and stayed with me. This writer’s voice, with its intimate tone and wry asides, drew me in. I admired the sure handling of craft and movement between past and present as well as the echoes of meaning from scene to scene. We wait impatiently to escape to the future, and one day we see it has arrived — and will keep on arriving. Trees grow, children grow. They take their own turn at impatience. I’m grad this writer was bold enough and patient enough to tell an apparently quiet story, and restrained enough to let the story speak for itself.


When, and how, does a family sense they’ve arrived in a country that’s new to them? How many years does it take, and how does that moment look and feel? In “Ata Vica,” those questions — and their unlikely answers — arrive on a stream of vividly evoked sights, sounds, smells and tastes — chunks of radish that taste like an infection, the slap of a grandmother’s slippers on tile, the reek of exhaust. These bring me into the world of the story, as does the poignant portrait of a father who reaches for cool with his sunglasses, his stubble and his lifeless set of sandals. 


Two stories earned honourable mentions.


By bringing together a handful of individuals who have little in common beyond the fact that they occupy the same rail passenger car as it sets out from Toronto and travels through boreal forest and onto the plains, “The Train” shows how quickly a makeshift but caring community can be built from scratch. These individuals, who’ve only just met each other, are all dealing with their own private troubles and crises — including one especially dramatic and immediate crisis. A series of finely tuned scenes shows how they open up to and look after each other in spontaneous and tangible ways.


“Little Auk” has the feel of an extended prose poem. In a striking harmony of form and content, this story of wayfinding, disorientation and care follows a nurse at work in a northern community and, later, on her return to what were once familiar surroundings. Line by line, images and events speak to fragments of lore that speak to emotional states that speak to spirits both summoned and spontaneous. Questions hover above the lines, among them, “What does it mean to be cured?”


Daniel Scott Tysdal

Poetry Judge’s Comments

Judging poetry is hard for teachers because we can see a glimmer in everything. What if you cut this or expanded that? Started here? Or ventured in this direction? Judging poetry is also challenging for teachers because, as teachers, we are perpetual students. Every poem offers a lesson, serves a spur to experiment and explore.


The standout poems, then, are the ones that knock us out of our roles as teachers and students and leave us awestruck, move us to reread, and reread again. The three winners and two honourable mentions I’ve selected had this effect on me. They returned to me in flashes throughout the day. Urged me to spend more time with their brilliance and wonder. “The Distance” renders a very contemporary example of a relationship on the cusp through a marvellous array of honesty, music, and original imagery. “It is Not a Line” powerfully exposes the complex brutality and vitality—the genuine and sham identities—of a geo-political line in taut articulations and remarkable turns. The artfully attentive and immersive “pemmican stories (where 20th street meets the river)” reminds us that time might be a river but for storytelling beings this river is part-pond, part-rapids, part-whirlpool, and it flows in many directions at once.


Thank you to these poets, and to all the poets who submitted work, for the lessons and perceptions, for the comfort and provocation, for your stirring and spurring words. 


Our Funders

Grain is grateful to its funders: Sask Lotteries, Canada Council for the Arts, and the financial support from its private donors.
Grain is published by the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild.