Open Season Awards: Winners for 2022

Kaitlin Debicki (poetry), "Kahkhwí:yo"
Sara Mang (fiction), "The Circular Motion of a Professional Spit-Shiner"
Bahar Orang (creative nonfiction), "You try to write a love story"

Congratulations to all three writers, who have each won $2,000 in prize money and publication in our upcoming spring issue #218. 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 Conor Kerr had this to say about Kaitlin Debicki's winning poem:

"After reading through all the beautiful entries I kept going back to 'Kahkhwí:yo.' The sensuality of the images that are so carefully placed brings out this primal desire for survival through awakening as we move with the wahta into the spring. I kept thinking of the way that there is such a desire built into the words for the land, for syrup, for life. How it's somehow a poem that carries sexuality into a different realm. One where the act of harvesting is written so passionately that it leaves the reader tongue-tied, mind twisted, staring out at trees and all the lifeforce that they carry for us and wondering where one stands in the presence of creation. This is such a unique take on the relationship that we have with the land around us and the perspective that the poem gives us speaks more to the idea of becoming nature. This is a poem that I will devour over and over again while it brings me back to life after a long winter. I think it has the power to bring everyone back to life. "

Kaitlin Debicki

Kaitlin Debicki is Kanien’kehá:ka, Wolf Clan, from Six Nations of the Grand River. She is a mother, a language learner, and a tree and forest devotee. As an assistant professor and secret poet, Kaitlin lives an Indigiqueer life in Hamilton, Ontario with her daughter, her mini schnauz, and her ADHD. 


Fiction contest judge Zilla Jones had this to say about Sara Mang's winning story:

"This story is about the female body: the things it is subjected to by others, the things it does to itself in response, and the way it expresses its trauma and resilience through art and creativity. The juxtaposition of the freedom of mime against the rigidity of military life creates a really unexpected and unique telling. The character of Joyce is empathetically drawn and the simplicity of her friendship with Roy is refreshing to read. This is a very timely story that masterfully depicts the artistic process as a way that the mind can come to terms with the atrocities visited upon the body."

Sara Mang photo credit: Claire Power

Sara Mang is a storyteller from Labrador. Her work has appeared in journals across Canada, the US, and the UK, and in 2021, she received a nomination for a National Magazine Award in fiction. Sara is an alumni of the Bread Loaf Writing Conference, the Banff Centre Writing Studio Program, The Disquiet Literary Program in Lisbon, and UBC’s MFA program in Creative Writing. She currently lives in Ottawa with her husband, three children and coonhound.

Creative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction judge Erin Soros had this to say about Bahar Orang's winning piece:

"The title 'You Try to Write a Love Story' is both descriptive and imperative: in other words, the sentence can be a statement of what a narrator in the second person is aiming to do, but also a command to us, the readers, you for example now alone reading words on a page and breathing this moment in history, this imperial extractive atrocity offered as today’s script, and yet you long to live and love somehow in small shared steps free of it. Try, just try. You try. And this fluctuating risk in narration and possibility, this event, what is described as happening and also what is yet for you to make, one unknown moment, love story hovering to be written as lived, or in other words not writing, not script but attempt forward without it, moving toward while doubt emerges in rhythm that almost satisfies, language as intimacy and erotic pulse, momentum and then encounter that doesn’t take place, not quite not yet not here, or only on the page—with the words tree, or children, sky, your own flesh—real still only between readers and leaning us toward what could happen beyond what has been written—this love story that I too (admit it) want to live, this dare, can you do it, can you even try?—it held me. Start to finish, from the challenge to therapeutic discourse to the engagement with Frantz Fanon’s own imperatives, from a rapturous viewing of a colonial film that disappears the fact of colonialism to a night departure away from the sparkle and promise and disappointments of a party. What uncertain gesture toward the love story of your own being can you make? This writer closes their last paragraph and leaves you with your own parallel freedom, never apart from history but neither sentenced to it, thread running through time’s garment and feel it now: tugged loose."

Bahar Orang

Bahar Orang is a writer living in Toronto. Her first book is Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty.











All three winning pieces will be published in issue #218, spring 2022, circulating in May.

We would also like to congratulate those who were shortlisted for the 2022 Open Season Awards:


Heather Birrell, Lindsay Cavanaugh, Jake Kennedy, Sneha Madhavan-Reese, Samantha Martin-Bird, Jordan Mounteer, K. R. Segriff, Adrian Southin, Kenny Tanemura


Carolyn Chung, Fraser MacPherson, Deepa Rajagopalan, Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Justin Ruppel, Barbara Tran, Rida Zaidi


Adèle Barclay, Megan Falley, Rowan McCandless, Alison Powell, Jane Shi, Courtney Webber


Thank you to all who entered for your support.

Many thanks also to contest judges Zilla Jones, Conor Kerr, and Erin Soros, as well as all of our valued volunteers.