Open Season Awards: Winners for 2019

Announcing the winners of this year's Open Season Awards contest!

Rami Schandall (poetry), "Timepiece"
Janika Oza (fiction), "Exile"
Lishai Peel (creative nonfiction), "Letters To My Mother"

Congratulations to all three writers, who have each won $2,000 in prize money. Keep reading for comments from the judges, and to learn more about the contest winners!


Poetry contest judge Shane Book had this to say about Rami Schandall's winning poem:

"To read 'Timepiece' is to experience both the tumbling feeling of Time’s non-linearity and the relentlessness of Time’s passage. This is a work of elegant images, linguistic feints, tonal filigree, and scraps of narration—all stitched together with a serious precision."

Rami Schandall

Rami Schandall, winner of the 2019 Open Season Award for Poetry.

Rami Schandall is a writer, artist, and designer who has lived and practiced in Toronto since the turn
of the century. She used to live on the coast — two coasts, in fact. Now far from any sea, she studies lake and sky and cityscape. A great cat in the heart of the city purrs while the poet dreams. She writes amid the ceaseless rumble, poetry, and a novel set in the northern reaches of Vancouver Island. “Timepiece” is her first published work.

Look for an interview with Rami Schandall in our upcoming March Malahat lite.


Fiction contest judge Carmelinda Scian had this to say about Janika Oza's winning story:

"In 'Exile,' the young character tries to make sense of her world, a Uganda of brutal dictators, violence, injustice, and expulsions of the Indian population. This is a story of how displacement shapes character.  Although, by the time we meet the protagonist, she resides safely in Canada, she continues in the belief that the world is formed by phantom hierarchies of value, colour, and beauty.  The 'dictator' throws out her family because they don’t look like him; her mother doesn’t allow her to keep the stray dog she brings home because he’s ugly and damaged and not 'golden.' She learns at a young age that exile has many forms.

The writing is simple, yet organically melds setting, metaphor, the intricacies of family, politics, the inevitability of fate, and the individual’s need to connect, belong, and be loved, creating a human drama that is resonant, immediate, and unforgettable."

Janika Oza

Janika Oza, winner of the 2019 Open Season Award for Fiction.

Janika Oza is a writer, educator, and graduate student based in Toronto. She was a 2018 VONA/Voices fellow and a scholarship recipient from GrubStreet in Boston. Her fiction, poetry, and non-fiction have been published in a number of journals including The Columbia Review, Into The Void, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Goya Journal, and Looseleaf Magazine, among others. She is currently working on her first novel. Find her at  

Look for an interview with Janika Oza in our upcoming March Malahat lite.

Creative Nonfiction

CNF judge Kyo Maclear had this to say about Lishai Peel's winning essay:

"Alluring both on the surface and in its depths, 'Letters To My Mother' conjures a mother through her absence and a daughter through her attunement to a home’s changing weather. The piece is remarkable in the intimacy of its observations, its unwavering restraint and quiet precision. It’s a fierce quiet rattling with candour and risk, treating the difficult subject matter of maternal abandonment, family dislocation, and mental illness with deep courage.

The text gathers force and textural vitality through its evolving epistolary voice, which begins with a beguiling jumble of phonetic spellings. As the story progresses, the segmented form draws attention to the empty spaces surrounding the story—including information withheld or unavailable.

In some music, if you listen very carefully, you will hear interludes of silence lending the surrounding sounds greater punch and power. Writing is not only words, it is also the space around words. 'Letters To My Mother' opens space around the writing for meaning to resonate and echo."

Lishai Peel

Lishai Peel, winner of the 2019 Open Season Award for Creative Nonfiction.

Lishai Peel is an award-winning poet, creative consultant and community animator with roots in diasporic oral tradition. She has spent a decade creating and facilitating storytelling and writing programs in schools throughout Canada and has also worked extensively as a poetry coach with Toronto Public Health, The Toronto Public Library and Unity Charity. She is the co-founder of Ink Veins: Young Women's Writing Collective and the co-author of a graphic novel, Why Birds and Wolves Don’t Trade Stones.     

Look for an interview with Lishai Peel in our upcoming March Malahat lite.

All three winning pieces will be published in Issue #206, Spring 2019, circulating mid-April.

We would also like to congratulate the Open Season Awards finalists for 2019:


Julie Berry, Susan Braley, Barry Dempster, Alisha Dukelow, Paola Ferrante, Rhonda Ganz, Matthew Hollett, Lisa Mulrooney, Alycia Pirmohamed


Anne Baldo, Mark Bondyra, Victoria Hamilton, John Hart, Linda Kingston, Jill Widner


Kate Black, Christina Brobby, Barbara Hilden, Lars Horn, Sita-Rani MacMillan, Alison Wearing