Results of the 2016 Spine Online Writing Awards

Georgia Award for Best Blog

Judged by: Rhonda Douglas

Rhonda Douglas is the author of Welcome to the Circus: Stories  (Freehand Books, 2015). Her writing has been published across Canada and has won numerous awards. Rhonda has received a Masters degree in Management from McGill University, and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Colombia. Originally from Newfoundland, Ottawa is now her home-base. She is currently the Poetry Editor for Arc Poetry Magazine. Rhonda also works full-time in the international development arena.(



Winner: Ben Filipkowski
Crash Course in Kurosawa

This is a talented writer. I know that because there's almost nothing that interests me less than Kurosawa films, yet I found myself reading to the end of this blog with quite some enjoyment. Great first lines ("I can't unsee things") and a compelling voice that carries the reader through. I think this writer has a significant career ahead of him
-- stay with it!



Honourable Mention: Sean Lalonde
Step-N Up 4 Tayla

I very much enjoyed this blog about being a young step-father. The tone is casual yet intimate, just right for both the content and the potential audience. There's an interesting narrative thread connected with Tayla's world that had me wanting to read even more. Great headlines as well.
Well done!


Honourable Mention: Monique Veselovsky
Life Lessons From Abroad

Great to read a blog that knows how to walk that line between the personal and the political on a social justice topic. Very engaging and enlightening. Hope this writer sticks with the social justice field -- the world needs more of that.




Wingdings Award for Best Opinion

Judged by: Colin O'Connell

Colin O’Connell has taught Business and Professional Writing at the college and university levels. He has also served as a Senior Marketing Communications Manager for some of the largest telecommunications companies in the world. Colin is the author and editor of several books, as well as numerous scholarly articles. He has a Ph.D. in the Humanities.


Winner: Bryan Mackay
The Elephant in the Room and the Party

Bryan Mackay’s opinion piece shows a remarkable political maturity in analysing what’s next for the Republican Party. His prose is lucid and precise even at times laconic. It’s as if he were observing the Trump phenomenon and what it means for the Republican Party with the disinterested gaze of a seasoned political commentator. At no point does Mackay’s analysis slip into hyperbole or patronizing irony; it remains what it is – clear and fine writing.

Honourable Mention: Monique Veselovsky
When You Give, Who Benefits?

Monique Veselovsky offers us a powerful piece on the hidden presence of corporate self-interest in the charitable landscape. In what can legitimately be seen as a mini-piece of investigative journalism (by way of an opinion piece), Veselovsky shows that the profit motive is alive and well in the selling of pre-packaged food donation bags. The “take” per bag might be small but, over time, corporate profits mount. In sum, Veselovsky delivers a fine piece of social justice writing where hand wringing and sentiment take a back seat to compellingly demonstrated facts.


Comic Sans Award for Best Humour

Judged by: Nadine McInnis

Nadine McInnis is the author of eight books, including her most recent collection of poetry, Delirium For Solo Harp. She’s published widely in magazines in Canada and is a past winner of a CBC literary award and the Ottawa Book Award. She joined the faculty of Algonquin College in 2006, after working as a policy analyst in the federal government, where she focused on the publishing industries in Canada.


Winner: Matthew Versace
Humanity Breathes Its Last, All Is Lost

This gentle spoof on the catastrophized voices of science, technology and media is really brought into focus by the the poor individual who enters the story with a visit to his doctor.  The cacophony of disaster is cut finally by the promise of a trivial cat story, the latest craze in popular media.  The essay captures the inundation of the information age by never letting the reader forget the individual who must find his or her way through impending disaster.


Honourable Mention: Ben Filipkowski
An Open Letter to the Prime Minister About Open letters

This essay is sophisticated in style, noteworthy as much for its use of language as for its content.  The double meanings and gentle humour provide a critique of change in political style from our last PM to our current one.  The “open letter” is the perfect symbol for this change, with all the pent-up need to communicate implied.  Writer, reader, voter, commentator may finally merge after our last federal election. 


Century Gothic Award for
Best Review

Judged by: Jen Bailey

Jen Bailey is a writer of novels, short stories, and picture books with a passion for rhythm and sound. She received her MFA from Vermont College of
Fine Arts, where she specialized in writing for children and young adults.


Winner: Blair Scott
Impersonating Emotion, by Jack Blare

Ms. Scott’s review attends not only to the themes present in the work but also to the techniques the poet uses to elucidate them. She situates this work in a larger context – that of raising awareness about mental health issues and drug addiction.


Honourable Mention: Michael Houle
Expanding  Horizons

By providing readers with the larger context into which this game was birthed, and drawing comparisons to similar games, readers quickly get the sense that Mr. Houle knows games. He succinctly describes the challenges a gamer would face and how smoothly Cities Skylines runs on the whole.


Times Award for Best Fiction

Judged by: Sheree-Lee Olson

Sheree-Lee Olson worked for many years as an editor at The Globe and Mail. She is also an artist, and the author of award-winning short stories, poems, and the novel, Sailor Girl. 


Winner: Alec Greenfield
Man Into Coyote

Alec Greenfield's "Man into Coyote" is a charming modern-day fable that also manages to be very funny. A treat.


Honourable Mention: Jennifer Fryer
Sweet Release

"Sweet Release" by Jennifer Fryer effectively recreates the inner world of a psychopath. Well written and utterly chilling.


Helvetica Award for
Best Personal Essay

Judged by: Jeannie Marshall

Jeannie Marshall has worked as a freelance journalist in Berlin, Madrid, New York and also her hometown, Toronto. Before moving to Italy, she spent five years as a features writer in the Life section of the Toronto-based National Post. In 2002, she moved to Rome with her husband. Her most recent work, Outside the Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products, is about the increasing industrialization of children’s diets and the effect this is having on their health and on traditional food cultures. 


Winner: Rina Gibbons
For the Love of a Pumpkin

Very well written. Very moving. Of course, the subject matter itself is powerful, but she tells the story in a way that is compelling, interesting and actually informative. There’s research and work behind her words. Really sophisticated.





Honourable Mention: David Haddad
Four Harper's Lane

I recognize the impulses from my old much more boring youth, but oh my god. I’m glad David Haddad survived. In fact, I appreciate the ending. There is something gleefully honest in David Haddad’s story of his voyage to debauchery. There is absolutely no moralizing in his telling of the story. I hope he realizes there are plenty of experiences to be had without getting wasted, but I liked the fact that he was willing to go ahead and say that it was fun. I’m really glad he and his friends are not my neighbours, but I appreciate the honesty. He doesn’t say I’m sorry for my bad behaviour and I’m now on my best behaviour. He doesn’t disavow his past. It was refreshing.