On your mark, get set, write

Okanagan College is hosting its annual three-hour short story competition on Nov.1 at all four campuses.

Young writers in the Okanagan area will be flexing their improvisational skills in the 3-Hour Short Story Contest put on by Okanagan College.

The contest will take place on all four Okanagan College campuses Salmon Arm, Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton on Nov. 1.

This is the fifth year the contest is taking place and is open to grades 11 and 12 as well as students attending Okanagan College.

The only stipulations, aside from the three-hour time limit, are the stories need to include a secret phrase, which is only revealed just before the contest begins. There are no guidelines for length with past entries ranging from one to 15 pages.

“It calls on them to be spontaneous and creative and push themselves to see what they can do within that time constraint,” said Corina Chong, English professor at Okanagan College and event organizer.

Secret phrases from years past include burning fields, red shoelaces and punctured air mattress. The writers will take the general phrase and run with it, creating a unique and original story.

“It’s totally up to the student to decide how they are going to incorporate that phrase. Some students will make it a central part of the story and others will have it appear as a brief mention,” Chong said. “One of the things we look at while judging is how creative the student has been in trying to incorporate that phrase smoothly.”

Stories are judged by the creative writing professors from the four Okanagan College campuses. The judges ensure that they won’t be judging work from one of their own students by sending stories to the different campuses.

The judges will then come to a consensus about which stories are the best from each campus, then the four convene to decide the overall winner out of the four.

Out of the last four contests, two of the winners have been high school students.

“Those involved are definitely positive about the experience. The response has been really good,” Chong said.

Around 70 students took part in last years contest, including winner Mary Bevan from the Kelowna campus.

“The surprise phrase and the three-hour time limit meant no one was more prepared than anyone else,” said Bevan. “We were all starting with a blank sheet.”

The contest is free of charge, but has a limited amount of entrants it can accommodate. Four $250 tuition credits will be given out to the winners from each campus. The grand prize winner will take home an extra $250 in tuition credit and have their story printed as a book by Kalamalka Press.

For more information visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/3hourwriting