Open Season Awards: Winners for 2021

Announcing the winners of this year's Open Season Awards contest!

Matthew Hollett (poetry), "Merchant Vessels"
Zilla Jones (fiction), "Crossing"
Tanis MacDonald (creative nonfiction), "Mondegreen Girls"

Congratulations to all three writers, who have each won $2,000 in prize money and publication in our upcoming spring issue #214. Look for interviews with the winners in our upcoming April Malahat lite. Keep reading for comments from the judges, and to learn more about the contest winners!


Poetry contest judge Rebecca Salazar had this to say about Matthew Hollett's winning poem:

"A sonic tour de force, 'Merchant Vessels' is a history rich with alliterative rhythms that embody the Atlantic strait aloud. The poem’s fervent wordplay is at turns whimsical ('not most valuable but merchant vessel, a mellifluous vintage') and devastating ('The records say, sank at berth'). Time-travelling back through recent human history, this poem implicates the reader in the cost our transports will exact from the environment, and from future generations. I highly recommend reading this poem out loud, to let its full voice sing."

Matthew Hollett

Matthew Hollett is a writer and photographer recently transplanted from St. John’s to Tiotia:ke/Montréal. His work explores landscape and memory through photography, writing and walking. His first book, Album Rock (2018), investigates a curious photograph taken in Newfoundland in the 1850s, and he won the 2020 CBC Poetry Prize for Tickling the Scar, a poem about walking the Lachine Canal during the early days of the pandemic. His work has most recently appeared in Prism International and The Malahat Review.


Fiction contest judge Philip Huynh had this to say about Zilla Jones' winning story:

"'Crossing' is about an Akan woman from Africa, taken on a slave ship. Though she is unnamed, she is indelible to the reader because it is through her eyes that we see the world anew, in all its beauty and menace. Keys are described as 'little pieces of metal resembling fish.'  A captain’s foul breath is compared to palm wine. Something that seems as natural as dancing is treated as sacred, not to be engaged in blithely, or simply on orders to entertain. The tightly plotted, beautifully written story leads to a surprising yet inevitable conclusion. It is an extraordinary exercise of empathy."

Zilla Jones

Zilla Jones is an African-Canadian criminal defence lawyer, anti-racism educator, mother, singer and writer from Winnipeg, who has been writing since the age of three, but only began submitting her work in late 2019. Since then, she has been longlisted for the CBC short fiction competition, shortlisted for the Writers Union of Canada short prose competition and the Fiddlehead fiction contest, and won Honourable Mention in the Room Magazine fiction contest. Her work is published in Prairie Fire magazine. During the pandemic, she finished the first draft of her novel, The World So Wide.

Creative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction judge Lishai Peel had this to say about Tanis MacDonald's winning piece:

"'Mondegreen Girls' is a surprising, charming and original piece of writing which explores our complex relationship to language and meaning. As a reader, I am easily moved by writing that is emotive and raw, however, I’m much less likely to feel moved by writing that also makes me laugh. This piece had me laughing out loud, then totally compelled by its resonances of loss. Written with acuity and warmth, we are invited to glimpse a fleeting girlhood, the loss of a loved one, and a moment in time encapsulated by a shared reverence for music and misunderstandings of song lyrics. This essay was both stirring and evocative, masterfully working with humour to delve deeply into our human desire to seek understanding, while simultaneously running away from it."

Tanis MacDonald

Tanis MacDonald is an essayist, poet, and free-range literary animal. She is the author of a memoir in essays, Out of Line: Daring to Be an Artist Outside the Big City (Wolsak and Wynn 2018) and four books of poetry. Her most recent poetry book, Mobile (Book*hug 2019) was longlisted for the 2020 Toronto Book Award. She is co-editor (with Ariel Gordon and Rosanna Deerchild) of GUSH: menstrual manifestos for our times (Frontenac House 2018). Recent work has appeared in The Fiddlehead, Minola Review, Understorey, Watch Your Head, The Goose, and Hamilton Arts and Letters and in the anthologies Far Villages (Black Lawrence Press) and Against Death (Anvil Press). She is a Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.


All three winning pieces will be published in issue #214, spring 2021, circulating in early May.

We would also like to congratulate the Open Season Awards finalists for 2021:


Arthur Allen, C.M. Añonuevo, Laura Apol, Michelle Brown, Morteza Deghani, Avalon Moore, Jeff Parent, Suphil Lee Park, Patricia Young


Francine Cunningham, G.A. Grisenthwaite, Adam Haiun, Conor Kerr, Lisa Leyenda, Dinu Mahapatuna, Erica McKeen, Sadi Muktadir


Xaiver Campbell, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Patti-Kay Hamilton, Tamara Jong, Angélique Lalonde, Alison Pick


Thank you to all who entered for your support.

Many thanks also to contest judges Rebecca Salazar, Philip Huynh, and Lishai Peel, as well as our volunteers.