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Campus Life - Okanagan

College English professor a contender in online short story “Deathmatch”

Okanagan College Media Release

Sean Johnston Nov 2013Between Jan. 20 and March 9, eight short stories are going head to head in the 5th annual Deathmatch online short story contest. Hosted by Canadian independent arts magazine, brokenpencil, the competition pits selected writers against each other, including Kelowna author and Okanagan College English professor Sean Johnston.

In Deathmatch, site visitors to www.brokenpencil.com can vote once every hour for their favourite story, participate in the sizzling commentary, and then blog, tweet, and share their choice with friends. Johnston’s story is entered in the quarterfinals, running from Feb. 10 - 16. He is facing off against Vancouver writer R. Daniel Lester.

“I entered for the fun of the experience and because I wanted to get a few of my stories published in advance of my short-story collection being released this fall,” said Johnston.

“I’ve taught creative writing in workshop format for 25 years. Contests like this help me remember what it’s like to get feedback on one’s work -- something new writers are often sensitive about. It can be scary or hurtful, but it’s not personal. It can reveal things you’re not aware of, and really speaks to the element of risk taking in all writing.”

Johnston teaches English literature and creative writing at the College’s Kelowna campus, and is an active and widely published author. In 2013, his fourth book, “Listen All You Bullets,” was released. In fall 2014, Thistledown Press will publish his latest collection of short stories, tentatively titled We Don’t Listen. Previous works include The Ditch Was Lit Like This (2011), All This Town Remembers (2006), and A Day Does Not Go By (2002), winner of the 2003 ReLit Award for short fiction. Johnston is currently working on a draft version of another novel.

“My newest collection of short stories is a non-thematic collection of contemporary stories, with some experimentation and magic realism,” said Johnston. “The short story is my favourite form – it leaves no time for the comfort of a novel and is more likely to leave the reader with unanswered questions.”

Johnston also organizes the annual Okanagan College 3-hour Short Story Writing Contest, and is the co-editor of Ryga: A Journal of Provocations. He was the final judge in this year’s Ryga Award, an annual literary prize for the B.C. author of a work of literary merit that prompts examination and discussion of social and cultural issues.

The Deathmatch contest and brokenpencil magazine connect participants to the world of indie publishing, which is changing the face of literary publishing in Canada and fuelling exponential growth in the industry.

In 2013, Canadian Business magazine reported that over the last 25 years the number of Canadian-owned publishers has increased three-fold, with four times as many books being published. Each year in Canada, small presses, independent mid-size publishers, university presses, e-book publishers and self-publishers are churning out over 10,000 works by Canadian authors.

“There are more publishing opportunities now than there have ever been,” said Johnston. “Outside the mainstream of large publishing houses and major booksellers, there are many avenues for writers to gain feedback and new audiences – print is alive and well despite the internet.”


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