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2015-16 Short Story Contest Winners Announced

Winners CollageWe are very excited to announce the winners of the 2015-16 Alpha Textbooks Short Story Contest.

The art of writing fiction is a challenge that takes years to master, and everyone who submitted is on their way there. The team at Alpha Textbooks offers BIG congratulations to all the young writers who rose to the challenge and submitted their work. It takes a lot of courage and craftiness to write fiction. You all did a great job.

There was some stiff competition! We received story submissions from 200 students in nine school boards and 14 private schools. Entries came in from as far north as Thunder Bay, right through the province and down into southwestern Ontario, in Hamilton and the Niagara regions.

First place winner in the middle school category is Nathan Nambiar, a grade seven student in Mississauga, for his touching story about a boy who remembers his deceased father through images found on an old smart phone. Nambiar was closely followed by Katrina Lefebvre, “Futuristic Jeopardy,” and Anika Tan, “Red Button.”

First place winner in the high school category was Laura Collie, for her story, “The Wall” – a telling narrative about the complicated and fraught relationship between a mother and daughter in the face of cancer. Collie was followed closely by Kay Wu, “Innocence: A Story,” and Abby Traina, “The City’s Secret Glass.”

Visit the contest website for winner photos and bios.

First place winners will be re-working their stories for publication in the Claremont Review, they also receive four passes to the AGO or Medieval Times (depending on their category), and two ROM passes. Second place winners receive two passes to the ROM, plus two movie passes; third place winners are also going to the ROM.

We want to thank the contest’s generous sponsors including the Claremont Review, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Medieval Times, the Royal Ontario Museum, Pizza Pizza, and a private donor (who wishes to remain anonymous) for the Cineplex passes.

These great sponsors helped make the contest a success. They helped enrich the lives of young people across the province.

We want to offer another big applause to all the schools from where students submitted and/or teachers participated. You are obviously doing a great job.

Congratulations goes out to Bishop Strachan School, Blyth Academy, Brantford Collegiate Institute, Great Lakes Christian High School, Greenwood College, Hagersville Elementary, Hillfield Strathallan College, Hudson College, Lasalle Secondary School, MacLachlan College, Maitland River Elementary School, Marymount Academy, Newton’s Grove School, North Toronto Christian School, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Mercy School, Pretty River Academy, St. Charles Garnier, St. Edmund Campion, St. Elizabeth Seton School, St. Gerard Catholic Separate School, St. Gertrude, St. Joan of Arc Catholic Secondary School, St. Luke Catholic School, St. Mark, St. Mildred’s Lightbourn School, St. Patrick High School, Statford Northwestern Secondary School, Sterling Hall, The Country Day School, University of Toronto Schools, and Westmount Secondary School.

A raffle for four more AGO passes will be held next week, that will include the shortlisted students and the second runners-up.


the Claremont Review’s Annual Writing & Art Contest is on

Last fall, we teamed up with the Claremont Review (tCR) an international magazine for young writers based out of Victoria, BC. tCR generously helped out the 2015-16 Alpha Textbooks Short Story Contest, by offering a space for our winners to be published in the journal. Judging for our contest is in the final stages, but tCR has a great contest of its own.tCR 2016 poster

tCRs Annual Writing & Art Contest is open to teens (13-19) anywhere in the world. Not only are winners published, but they are awarded a handy sum of cash too. Jody Carrow, tCR editor-in-chief, told Alpha Textbooks “just this year [they] doubled the prize money, which makes the amounts very significant[,] $1000 for first” place, and a new $500 prize for visual arts. Second and third place young writers get $600 and $400 respectively. Winners are selected in both poetry and fiction categories.

Carrow mentions that the magazine receives entries from all over the world. Winners have come from Canada and the United States up until now, but she “expects that to change as [they] get more entries from youth around the world (Korea, Vietnam, India, the UK, Columbia, etc.).” The stories are kept anonymous throughout the judging process to keep the contest results free of bias.

When it comes to the volume of contest entries, Carrow says that she finds herself “in awe of how many young people still want to write”:

I am continuously amazed by the range of unique perspectives on age-old topics such as love, loss, identity, what makes a meaningful existence, relationships, the future…

To read so many heartfelt explorations of the human condition gives me hope for our collective future (even when, actually, ESPECIALLY when the writing is dark) because the act of writing means one hasn’t given up; it means that people still care to grapple with this great, messy, glorious event called Life.

What sets tCR apart from other magazines is that it offers feedback or mentorship to all youth who submit to the magazine. Unfortunately, because of the sheer volume of contest entries, the magazine editors cannot offer feedback on contest submissions. However, young writers are invited to rework their stories or poems and resubmit for general publication, or they can try submitting a totally different piece. Even if the works-in-progress aren’t published, the feedback process helps youths become better writers, bringing them one step closer to their goal.

Mentorship and feedback is essential to the longevity and quality of a young writer’s experience not only because when they take the time to read and consider it they become better writers, but the exchange creates a relationship that is always available to them. Our editors are committed to remaining mentors for young writers long after the initial exchange of feedback. Anyone who sends us work will get feedback from us and the writers/artists know they can write to us anytime with questions or concerns they have.

The contest deadline is March 15, 2016. Visit the Claremont Review‘s contest page for more details.

Read Alpha’s full interview with Jody Carrow.


the Claremont Review, along with the generous support of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, and Pizza Pizza, made the Alpha Textbooks 2015-16 Short Story Contest possible. Thank you.

BookSwap Celebrates Earth Week 2015 with Tree Planting

Howard PlantingFor Earth Week 2015, our sister company, BookSwap, braved a cold and windy day to participate in spring tree planting with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) Living City program.

For over a decade, BookSwap has been donating trees for annual spring reforestation by the TRCA. The trees are donated on behalf of the schools and school departments who purchased $250 dollars or more in books with BookSwap for that previous year. That means almost every school and department that orders books from BookSwap has a tree planted on their behalf.

Teens coming to plantIn the last two years, BookSwap participated in the actual planting. This year BookSwap went out to Valleywood Fernbrook Park, along the Etobicoke Creek Trail in Caledon, Ontario. A group of approximately 40 students from a local high school came out for the plant, too. Using the training, guidance and support provided by the TRCA, the trees were planted quickly and well.

“It was really cold out there,” said BookSwap communications manager Cris Costa. “The freezing cold winds surprised most of us. So we got down to business and planted as fast as we could. Then it felt like the trees were planted it no time. It was fun.”

ShovelsWe want to congratulate the TRCA’s Living City program, all the teens in Caledon who helped out, and the schools who had a tree planted on their behalf. You’re doing great work for the environment and our communities. Keep it up!

Congratulations to Kaitlyn Gardiner and Celestial Santiago for their 2014 Alpha Textbooks Short Story Contest win!

Kaitlyn Holding up Prize 2014

Kaitlyn, middle school winner

In September 2014 we launched our inaugural short story contest. The contest was open to all Ontario students in middle school and high school. Two prizes of an iPad mini were up for grabs, one for the middle school category and one for the high school category.

We would like to congratulate Celestial Santiago, grade 12 student at St. Edmund Campion Secondary School in Brampton, and Kaitlyn Gardiner, grade seven student at St. Julia’s CES of Mississauga, who both won the prize. Both students are from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board – a chance coincidence.

We brought back our short story contest after a long hiatus, and we’re glad we did. Inspired by our history of community building and educational initiatives, we hoped that the contest would promote the importance of literary skills and reading.

Over the summer our team worked day and night, contacting school boards and independent schools to share the contest information. Much to our delight, we received over a hundred submissions, and some really great stories.

Our panel of five volunteer judges, Ontario teachers, read the stories anonymously. From the initial batch of stories they created a shortlist.

The final selections were close; the judges expressed that it was hard to choose between the stories on the shortlist. Winners were selected by the most number of nominations followed by the rank of their nomination.

All runners-up and honourable mentions are available on the contest webpage.

Feedback from the students and parents was great. Students loved the opportunity to try their hand at the art of writing, and many felt inspired to continue to write more.

Since Alpha Textbooks values reading as an important part of learning, we want to encourage our communities to engage with literature in every way possible. The challenge of writing stories is both thrilling and important to cognitive development. We look forward to hosting the contest for many more years.

Alpha Textbooks sponsors Throw the Book at Cancer fundraiser event, donates $550 in funds and goods

Alpha Target during setup.

Alpha Target during setup.

On November 2, Alpha Textbooks attended the Throw the Book at Cancer, a fundraiser held at Toronto’s Granite Club. Organized by a committee of Toronto parents and caring citizens, Throw the Book is in support of gynecologic oncology research at the Odette Cancer Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Alpha’s donation of funds and in-kind goods totalled $550.


The Alpha Textbooks team created a giant target and distributed hundreds of books, which guests threw at the target. Each guest had two attempts to hit the bull’s-eye. For every bull’s-eye, Alpha Textbooks donated one dollar to the cause. We also matched any additional funds donated by participants.


It was a busy and fun activity. There was a line-up of participants before the main events of music and readings.


Guests ready to throw the book!

Bull’s-eye hit! Guests lining-up to throw the book.

Refreshments were served during the event. Everyone in attendance heard some great writers read and speak on their work, including Steven Galloway (The Confabulist), Wayne Grady (Emancipation Day), Ania Szado (Studio Saint-Ex), and Joshua Max Feldman (The Book of Jonah).


Congratulations to Throw the Book at Cancer for raising close to $40,000.