York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri told students at the annual President’s Creative Writing Awards ceremony that he hopes they will continue to follow their passion for writing long after they graduate.
“It is great to see that York has so many incredibly talented students,” said Shoukri. “I am always impressed by people who have artistic creativity.” In addition to having so many “gifted leaders on our campuses,” York has a “phenomenal creative writing community,” he said.
Right: President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Stefan Ellison, winner of the screenplay award, and Rishma Dunlop
As English and education Professor Rishma Dunlop said, “Our students are a source of pride to York University.”
Some 16 students were honoured at the reception for their writing in everything from poetry and stage play to screenplay and short fiction through the Office of the President, as well as for their creative endeavours through the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and private donors.
Dunlop said in the five years she has been coordinator of the Creative Writing Program “it has become increasingly clear to me that our Creative Writing Program is immensely successful because we deliver experiential education in small classes that nurture potential and talent, and the evidence of our success is abundant.
Left: From left, Rishma Dunlop with co-winners of the stage play award, Alexi Aslanidis and Robbie Woods, Professor Patricia Keaney next to the second co-winners of the stage play award, Mark Jordan Manner and Jessica Bebenek, and Mamdouh Shoukri
Our graduates have gained admission to top creative writing and English graduate programs in Canada and internationally. They have published books and been recognized through many literary awards.”
The following is the list of this year’s award-winning students:
Winner: Estefan Ellison for Around the World with Buddy and Manfred.
Judges – Marie Rickard and David Sobelman, who called the work a “lyrical, highly ambitious feature-length animated children’s musical.”
Winner: Jack Hostrawser for Chores.
Honourable mention: Mark Jordan Manner for How to be Good People.
Right: From left, Mamdouh Shoukri, Mark Jordan Manner, Jack Hostrawser, Rishma Dunlop and Michael Helm
English Professor Michael Helm, who judged the fiction category with contract faculty member Ray Robertson, called Hostrawser’s entry “a remarkably assured story for so young a writer.” The story’s elements are at “once both fully contemporary and ancient. The writer takes the ways of a very particular world, the ways of farm work, of young love, Facebook connections and family tensions and names them,” said Helm. “The result is as real as any tool we might take up or any living thing we might hold.”
Manner “takes readers deep into a family desperately at odds with luck. By turns darkly funny and moving, the story draws us into the love of one brother for another, who goes missing after a childhood misadventure,” said Helm.
Winners: Justin Walmsley for “J” and Raymond Kocur for “Birthday Cake”.
Left: From left, Mamdouh Shoukri, Justin Walmsley, Raymond Kocur and Rishma Dunlop
Judges, English Professor Priscila Uppal and Dunlop, called “J” a “sophisticated experimental take on identity and the abecedarian form,” while “Birthday Cake” was a “tightly written, gut-wrenching poem on a child’s view of adultery.”
Winners: Robbie Woods and Alexi Aslanidis for Imperfect Moment and Mark Jordan Manner and Jessica Bebenek for Like Nature.
“Imperfect Moment did something for me that play scripts rarely do,” said English Professor Patricia Keeney, who judged the stage plays with theatre Professor Rob Fothergill. “It kept me reading through its nearly 200 pages.” Keeney described the stage play as a “contemporary coming-of-age parable” with “deftly interwoven symbolism.”
Like Nature, said Keeney, is a “dark and disquieting comedy” and an “accomplished piece of off-beat, edgy dialogue where more is unmasked than the characters seem willing to recognize.”
The following awards were presented by York’s Creative Writing Program in the Department of English, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies:
Winner: Ekraz Singh.
Right: From left, Mamdouh Shoukri, Ekraz Singh, Rishma Dunlop, Martin Singer, dean of York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies
The bpNichol Award is named after the experimental poet who taught at York in the 1970s and early 1980s before his untimely death in 1988. The award is for a graduating student who has developed the most over the course of the program.
Sorbara Award in Creative Writing
Winners: Sarah Flemington and Jessica Bebenek.
Left: From left, Mamdouh Shoukri, Sarah Flemington, Jessica Bebenek, Rishma Dunlop and Martin Singer
The Sorbara Award is sponsored by Gregory and Kate Sorbara and their six children, all of whom have a strong dedication to the creative arts and music. Gregory Sorbara, a former Ontario finance minister, is a graduate of York’s Glendon College and Osgoode Hall Law School. This award was established to provide financial assistance to students with proven talent and commitment in the area of creative writing.
Judith Eve Gewurtz Memorial Poetry Award
Winner: Sarah Flemington
Honourable mentions: Matthew Walsh and Jessica Bebenek.
Right: From left, Mamdouh Shoukri, Professor David Goldstein, Matthew Walsh, Sarah Flemington, Jessica Bebenek, Michelle Gewurtz, Shalom Gewurtz and Rishma Dunlop
The Judith Eve Gewurtz Memorial Poetry Award was established and presented by York humanities Professor Margo Gewurtz in memory of her daughter Judith, honouring the best poem by a creative writing major who is completing their third year of study.
Sylvia Ellen Hersch Memorial Award
Winner: Justin Walmsley.
The Sylvia Ellen Hersch Memorial Award was established in memory of Seymour Hersch’s late wife, who graduated from York with a degree in creative writing. The award offers financial assistance to a fourth-year student majoring in creative writing with proven talent, achievement and commitment in the area of creative writing. Faculty members in the program nominate fourth-year students based on their academic work for the session.
Babs Burggraf Award in Creative Writing
Winners: John Nyman and Danica Fogarty.
Left: From left, Mamdouh Shoukri, Danica Fogarty, John Nyman, Rishma Dunlop, Michael Helm and Martin Singer
The Babs Burggraf Award in creative writing offers financial assistance to a fourth-year student majoring in creative writing with proven talent and achievement in the area of short story writing. Faculty members in the program nominate students who have submitted short stories as part of their academic work for the session.
Stanley Fefferman Prize
Winner: Charlene Grant-Stuart.
Right: From left, Mamdouh Shoukri, Charlene Grant-Stuart, Professor Priscila Uppal and Rishma Dunlop
The Stanley Fefferman Prize is awarded for the best all-round achievement in the second-year Introduction to Creative Writing course and for the best original portfolio of coursework.