Jane Ozkowski On Winning the Broken Social Scene Story Contest

When I was in grade five I won a cake in a raffle. The school secretary announced my name during the morning announcements, and at the end of the day one of the older kids brought the cake into my class. All the other kids in my grade gathered around me to take a look at it, and I felt that this was the start of something wonderful. I’d never won anything before in my life, not a race or a spelling bee or a coloring contest, but now I’d won an entire cake. Surely my luck was changing.

As it turned out, though, I didn’t win anything again until over a decade later when I won the Broken Social Scene Story Contest in 2013. By then I’d started avoiding anything that had the word contest or competition or ultimate fighting championship in the title. I was never raised to be competitive. Both my parents have degrees in recreation and leisure studies, and while other kids were on soccer teams or studying for math competitions, I spent a large part of my childhood trying to make my own shoes out of craft supplies.

When I initially heard about the Broken Social Scene Story Contest, I wasn’t going to enter. A few days later, though, I came up with an idea for a story, and the contest deadline was a good motivator to get it written.

I never expected I would actually win the contest. The story I wrote was about a girl trying to find a job while the earth flooded everyone around her turned into fish. In fact, when I told my then boss about the concept for my story, her response was to ask me which drugs I’d been taking.

I entered the contest anyway, and much to my surprise I found myself a few months later at a very hip party full of all my music heroes, listening to Leslie Feist and Brendan Canning announce my name as the winner of the contest.

Since winning the Broken Social Scene Story Contest, Anansi and Groundwood have really welcomed me into their not-so-little publishing family. The editors at Anansi were eager to read my first manuscript once I’d completed it, and they passed it on to the wonderful people Groundwood with high praises and an extraordinary belief that it could be something. My first book, Watching Traffic, was published by Groundwood in August of 2016, and there’s no way any of this would have been possible if I hadn’t entered the Broken Social Scene Story Contest.

About the Golden Anniversary Contest

Is your New Year’s resolution to be published by Anansi in 2017? This year we are celebrating 50 years of publishing very good books and looking for a brand new voice to celebrate with us. Send in your previously unpublished short story on the theme of Golden Anniversary. One winning story will be published as an ebook under our Anansi Digital imprint, and the winner will receive $500 in cash and $100 to spend right here at houseofanansi.com! Enter the contest here.

About Watching Traffic by Jane Ozkowski

Jane Ozkowski Watching Traffic

Emily has finally finished high school in the small town where she has lived her whole life. At last, she thinks, her adult life can begin.

But what if you have no idea what you want your new life to look like? What then?

While Lincoln gets ready to go backpacking in Australia, Melissa packs for university on the east coast, and a new guy named Tyler provides welcome distraction, Emily wonders whether she will end up working forever at Pamela’s Country Catering, cutting the crusts off party sandwiches and stuffing mushrooms. Is this her future? Being known forever as the local girl whose mother abandoned her in the worst way possible all those years ago? Visiting her spacey grandmother, watching nature shows on TV with her dad and hanging out with Robert the grocery clerk? Listening to the distant hum of the highway leading out of the town everyone can’t wait to leave?

With poetic prose and a keen eye for the quirks and ironies of small-town life, Jane Ozkowski captures the bittersweet uncertainty of that weird, unreal summer after high school — a time that is full of possibility and completely terrifying at the same time.

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