Winter Write-Off 2021

Our toques are off to the folks who participated in the first Winter Write-Off, offering us humour and a chance to exercise our wit during the dull winter months. Sponsored by the Convergence Writers’ Weekend, with support from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance, the Columbia Basin Trust and Turner Zion United Church of Canada, this contest invited local residents to try their hand at classical haiku, tomfoolery (aka faux-ku) or word coinage.

The motherlode of writing talent in the once-Silvery Slocan occasioned joy—and consternation—for the Winter Write-Off judges, Tom Wayman, Kelvin Saldern, Jan McMurray, Art Joyce, and Anne Champagne. Tom observed: “Any contest is more a judgment of the judge’s brain (or lack thereof) than the quality of the entries. We had to place the laurel (or cedar, in this case) wreath on somebody’s noggin, damn difficult as that task was.” And so they chose the following crafty, clever and creative offerings.

Haiku Winners

Table set for one/ three pine siskins at feeder/ a dinner party!

Penned by Jana Schellenburg (formerly of Silverton and New Denver), this poignant (and funny) reflection on the current lockdown (a common theme in submissions) swept top honours in the Haiku-like Tomfoolery contest.

In the Classical Haiku section, Rosebery resident Tyler Austin Bradley took first prize with his poem evoking a strong sense of Kootenay winter:

Woodsmoke curled sky/ hoarfrost thick on hemlock boughs/ marten tracks in snow.

Gary Wright of New Denver captured both visual and aural impressions in his offering, which placed as runner-up in the Classical division:

Ravens throw a call/ like bamboo chimes in winter/ the small birds scatter.

And Angie Elsmore, also of New Denver, succinctly outlined pandemic guidelines while identifying a flaw in the current health authority rulings, to flatten the competition for runner-up position in Tomfoolery:

COVID etiquette/ no sneezing, coughing, touching/ please feel free to fart. 

Finally, in a special mention, someone using the nom-de-plume Tiffany Veritas captured perfectly the obsessive nature of haiku composition:

Haiku, now, at 3 AM?/ what is it about contests/ must try to sleep now.

Word Coinage Winners

The Feeling That Winter May Never End


  • Winternity—Devin Pattison, Argenta


  • Snonogosonomo’mow—Rick Gailbraith, Kaslo
  • Januaweary (followed by Februweary)—Greg Turner, Edgewood
  • Iceolating—Helen Sheloff, Winlaw
A Name for What We’re All Living Through


  • Pandemonic—Claudia RdV Burton, Queen’s Bay


  • Covidicus—Ty Klassen, Nakusp
  • Snowcial Isolation—Donna Butt, Kaslo
  • Bubblegumption—Rick Gailbraith, Kaslo
  • Corona Pandora—Elisabeth von Ah, Slocan
The Mental or Emotional State Engendered by Watching or Reading the News Compulsively


  • Spindigestion—Greg Turner, Edgewood


  • OCTV—Tiffany Veritas, Rosebery
  • Pandemania—Chris Brower, New Denver
  • CUO-CUO (Constant Unease Over Continuously Uncertain Outcomes)—Heather Wurtele, New Denver
  • Toxic Schlock—Greg Turner, Edgewood

A special shout out to Bruce Cottingham of New Denver, who made up his own category:

Kootraneous: the unconscious ability to act with generous community-mindedness while nurturing self-absorbed complacency; as in kootraneous, a common regional condition.

All the winners had their names and entries printed in the Valley Voice; all winners received gift certificates to local businesses. Since three of the winners also donated their prizes to local charities, this was a total win for the community.

Many thanks to all participants. We look forward to next year!

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