Aboriginal writing contest



We are pleased to announce TWO winners of our Aboriginal Writing Contest!

Download the press release.

From nearly 60 entries, two outstanding manuscripts have been chosen as the winners of the contest and both will be published by Second Story Press. The jury of Second Story Press publisher Margie Wolfe, Aboriginal educator and researcher Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis, and Métis author Cherie Dimaline all agreed on two outstanding submissions: Stolen Words, a picture book manuscript by Melanie Florence, a single mom and author of Plains Cree and Scottish descent who lives in Toronto; and The Mask Who Sang, a middle-grade novel by Susan Currie, a primary school teacher and writer of Cayuga descent who lives in Brampton, ON.

About the winners:

Stolen Words is a powerfully affecting picture book for older readers about the intergenerational impact of residential schools. When a man’s granddaughter asks him how to say ‘grandfather’ in Cree, it unleashes a river of emotion when he admits that he doesn’t know his language anymore. Seeing her grandfather upset, she helps him to find his words again. 

“Melanie Florence uses slender language to deliver lush imagery in Stolen Words,” said juror Cherie Dimaline. “Addressing intergenerational colonization with poetic cadence and a strong storyline, Stolen Words is an honour song from our youth to the Elders.”

Florence is the granddaughter of a residential school survivor and experienced first-hand the impact it had on survivors and their families. She is also the author of Jordin Tootoo: The Highs and Lows in the Journey of the First Inuit to Play in the NHL (2010), which was chosen as an Honor Book by The American Indian Library Association, and Florence has also done freelance writing for several magazines.


The Mask Who Sang tells the story of twelve-year-old Cass, who lives with her single mother. When Cass finds an Iroquois mask hidden in the bedroom of her estranged grandmother’s house, she is inexplicably drawn to it. The mask seems to sing to Cass, showing her dreams of past traumas but also encouraging her to be brave when facing bullies. With the help of her friend Degan, the mask will lead Cass to uncover her and her mother's lost Cayuga heritage. 

“It is rare to find a manuscript that manages to entertain and charm while addressing such issues as racism and bullying in a positive and revealing way,” said Dimaline. “I was pulled into the story by the courage and depth of [Currie’s] characters and left both eager to effect change and enormously proud of my heritage at the end. This coming-home narrative is a unique find in literature and tremendously important to our story as Aboriginal nations.”

The story also draws from Currie’s own experiences, as she was adopted and discovered her Cayuga heritage later in life. She has since become very interested in issues relating to the loss of roots experienced by indigenous children who have become crown wards either through adoption or through long-term custody in the foster system. Currie is also an author; her 2001 novel Basket of Beethoven was nominated for the Silver Birch Award, Manitoba Young Reader's Choice Award, and the CLA Book of the Year for Children Award.

“We were able to sense what the characters were experiencing based on their ability to connect with modern Aboriginal life experiences and use of culturally authentic, vibrant details that were weaved throughout the storylines,” said juror Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis. “With limited literature about urban Aboriginal experiences, it is important as an educator to support opportunities to advance the field of Aboriginal children’s literature in order to infuse cross-curricular approaches to Aboriginal issues and how they still impact us today.”

A lasting impact:

The jury was so impressed by the quality of several of the manuscripts that the press intends to publish more than just the two winning submissions in the future. “I now see that this competition should not be a one-off,” said Publisher Margie Wolfe. “There are many wonderful stories and voices that need to be heard, so we will be looking to release titles from Aboriginal communities on a regular basis. We at Second Story Press are very excited, but the real winners will be Canadian children and young people.”

In December 2014, Second Story Press announced its Aboriginal Writing Contest to celebrate its 25th anniversary and to build on its already strong list of diverse children’s books. Canadian writers who identify as Aboriginal (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) were invited to submit their original manuscripts that reflected their lives, experiences, successes, and perspectives in a story written for children or teens. The announcement gained lots of social media attention, receiving almost 1100 likes and over 2800 shares.

Questions? Media Inquiries?

Email us: books [at] secondstorypress.ca

For Detailed Contest Rules & Regulations Click Here.

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