Ponoka protégé wins Canadian short story contest

The largest short story contest in Canada has named its victors.

The largest short story contest in Canada has named its victors.

Recently, Tom McMillan, a communications specialist and former Ponoka resident, received the news he’d won first place in the Toronto Star’s 2012 short story contest.

“I was thrilled. You enter story contests but you never think you’re going to win,” McMillan said.

The story, aptly named Survivors, centres on an astronaut struggling to cope with the grief of losing her stepson.

McMillan heard about the contest several years ago and finally decided to enter this year for a chance to partake in the Humber School for Writers correspondence program in creative writing.

McMillan beat out 1,940 other competitors, including 25-year-old bartender Olivia Anastasia Arnaud, who received second place, and 32-year-old writer and researcher Deepa Shankaran, who placed third.

He received $5,000 and another $3,000 for tuition to attend the 30-week Humber School. For the duration of the program McMillan will be paired with a published author and will have a chance to work on the novel he’s started.

McMillan got the idea for Survivors from an event when a shuttle exploded and left astronauts stranded. However, McMillan wanted to incorporate new elements into his story.

McMillan usually writes when he can find the time after work or on weekends and this time was no different.

“It came together quicker than I thought.” McMillan names his wife as his biggest influence; he takes her feedback into consideration.

This was the first writing contest McMillan has entered.

Despite his victory and talent it wasn’t until his final year of high school that McMillan became interested in writing.

“When he was in Grade 12 he decided he wanted to be a journalist,” his father, Pat McMillan, said.

McMillan received his bachelor of science in political science from the University of Alberta and his masters in journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa.

Writing for school was something that McMillan enjoyed when he was younger but in his spare time he was more of a reader.

“I think it’s very, very excellent,” Mr. McMillan said, referring to his son’s winning short story. “We’re very, very proud of him. My wife cried.”

McMillan has had other short stories published in Defenestration, The Feathertale Review and the Maple Tree Literary Supplement.

By Amelia Naismith

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