Open Season Awards: Winners for 2024

Dominique Bernier-Cormier (poetry), "Anything Other Than Itself"
Jody Chan (fiction), "Last Words to a Shooting Star"
Aldyn Chwelos (creative nonfiction), "The Pathfinder"

Congratulations to all three writers, who have each won $2,000 in prize money and publication in our upcoming spring issue #226. Look for interviews with the winners in our April Malahat lite newsletter. Keep reading for comments from the judges and to learn more about the contest winners!


Poetry contest judge Kayla Czaga had this to say about Dominique Bernier-Cormier's winning poem:

"With its expansive imagination and authentic voice, and in practically perfect couplets, 'Anything Other Than Itself' captures the wild and excruciating experience that is adolescence, the constant transformations admit moments of insight and impulsivity. But the poem doesn’t stay there; like the clouds it depicts, it shifts and grows, glancing back at the rainy Pliocene and forward towards our increasingly burning province. In an uncertain and often bleak present, this poem reminds me to seek hope and joy."

Dominique Bernier-Cormier

Dominique Bernier-Cormier is a Québécois/Acadian poet. His work won The Fiddlehead’s Ralph Gustafson Prize in 2017 and Arc’s Poem of the Year Award in 2023, and has been a finalist for a National Magazine Award, CV2's Young Buck Poetry Prize, and the Montreal International Poetry Prize. His first book, Correspondent, was longlisted for the Raymond Souster Award in 2018. His second book, Entre Rive and Shore (Goose Lane, 2023), is a multilingual collection of poems, essays and translations that explore bilingualism and Acadian identity. He is a high school teacher in Vancouver, on the traditional and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səlilwətaɬ.


Fiction contest judge Deepa Rajagopalan had this to say about Jody Chan's winning story:

"'Last Words to a Shooting Star' is a story about the loss of Mei, narrated by three people, who have each lost a friend, a grandchild, and a child. It begins deceptively, as if the depth of what you are about to feel has been felt in the first paragraph. About a page into the story, you realize these words are about to rearrange you. Grief, as the third narrator says, 'refuses my neglect; she insists on space.' The author has not only allowed grief to linger, giving it shape and meaning, but also lets you truly see Mei, in all her joy, madness, and pain.

It takes brilliance and skill to tell such a story in the second person without disorienting the reader even momentarily. By allowing three narrators to sit with a loss so profound, the story centres the guilt, the rage, and the permanence of those 'who have to go on living.' With precise and poetic prose, 'Last Words to a Shooting Star,' at just over 2400 words, does the work of a haunting 300-page novel."

Jody Chan

Jody Chan is a writer, drummer, community organizer, and care worker based in Toronto/Tkaronto. They are the author of sick (Black Lawrence Press), winner of the 2021 Trillium Award for Poetry, and impact statement (Brick Books). Jody is a performing and teaching member with RAW Taiko Drummers, an editorial board member of Midnight Sun Magazine, and the 2023-2024 Artist-in-Residence at the University of Toronto’s Queer and Trans Research Lab. They can be found at dog parks, in libraries, and online at They believe community is an action. They believe in radical imagination as a learnable and necessary skill. They believe in collective liberation.

Creative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction judge Michelle Poirier Brown had this to say about Aldyn Chwelos' winning piece:

"'The Pathfinder' is a show of artistry. It is a love story with the all the circumstance of fiction and the lyric satisfaction of poetry. The piece is a beautifully executed metaphor, the SUV of the title not only the vehicle through which the story is realized but also the narrative container. The story is told in the second person and backwards with double negatives throughout. With these specs, you would think it could never work. But it does. The craft I wanted to see is present in spades. The detail is evocative and spare. Motifs (curvature, ice) repeat, almost below the line of perception, supporting the distinct voice. I would sometimes linger over a double negative only to conclude 'this could not be said any other way.' miyo-atoskêwin. well done."

Aldyn Chwelos

Aldyn Chwelos is a writer, journalist and former full-stack developer living on Lekwungen territory in Victoria, BC. Their work in all these domains centres on community, story, and change.

Chwelos has been published in Reader's Digest Canada, Canadian Geographic, and Hakai Magazine. They are also Managing Editor of the Climate Disaster Project, where they share stories and solutions from disaster-affected individuals and communities.


All three winning pieces will be published in issue #226, spring 2024, circulating in May.

We would also like to congratulate those who were shortlisted for the 2024 Open Season Awards:


Morgan Cross, Heather Fraser, Maureen Harris, Danielle Hubbard, Sadie McCarney, and Kyeren Regehr


Sherry Cassells, Molly Clarke, Katie Harms, and Kailash Srinivasan


Sharlene Lazin, Kevin MacDonell, Visnja Milidragovic, Jennifer Robinson, and Shelley Wood

Thank you to all who entered for your support of our contest and the magazine. Many thanks also to contest judges Kayla Czaga, Michelle Poirier Brown, and Deepa Rajagopalan, as well as all of our valued staff and volunteers.