Grand Erie Student’s Short Story Takes Top Prize

MONDAY, JUNE 27, 2022

Cavelle Sproule’s short fiction piece Eight, Ten, Twelve was awarded the top honour at the recent Laurier Stedman Prize celebration, a contest open to secondary students across the region, recognizing outstanding creative writing. 

Above: Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School student Cavelle Sproule with her Laurier Stedman Prize recognizing outstanding creative writing.

“I was trying desperately to get to sleep one night when a wave of inspiration hit me, days before the submissions were due,” said Sproule, a Grade 12 student at Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School, on her writing process for the piece. “I had been in a writing rut for an eternity and was being aggressively pulled from it at 1 a.m. on a Tuesday – I wrote out the story, then trashed the whole thing, came up with a new idea, spit it out as fast as I could, and then fell asleep sitting up.” 

The next day, Sproule had friends read her story to see if they thought it was worth pursuing. They loved it, and encouraged her to submit it. She spent hours editing – her favourite part of the process – reading her words with a voice in her head to determine what sounded most natural.

“I love the way changing one or two words can give a sentence a whole new meaning, or how changing comma placement completely alters the tone,” said Sproule, who has aphantasia, which makes it difficult to visualize imagery. “I need incredibly detailed descriptions of things to have the faintest idea of what they may look like, so I try to incorporate imagery into my work whenever possible.”  

Hosted by the English program at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford campus, the prize is awarded after a panel of academics and award-winning authors reviews submissions and shortlists finalists. Cash prizes are awarded to first, second and third-place finalists. The award honours Mary Stedman, a name synonymous with generosity and love of the written word in the city of Brantford, funded through an endowment and estate gift to Wilfrid Laurier University. 

"These young, creative writers are the people who are going to help us remember our past, decipher our present and imagine our future."

Janet Franklin


“These young, creative writers are the people who are going to help us remember our past, decipher our present and imagine our future,” said Pauline Johnson CVS English teacher Janet Franklin, who’s fostered and encouraged students’ creative writing abilities at the school, and is herself a recent award recipient, receiving this year’s OSSTF D23 teaching award for overall excellence. “The Laurier Stedman Prize reminds us that the arts in general, and creative writing in particular, have value that is fundamental to a healthy society. Storytelling is not a skill that has to be transferred to other disciplines – it is a fundamental skill on which all other disciplines are based. Everyone has stories they want to tell and that need to be heard. If we ignore a person's story, then we diminish them as a human being and we deny ourselves a chance to improve.”

Eight, Ten, Twelve is certainly a story that needs to be heard, though the subject matter may be difficult. 

Eight, Ten, Twelve is about the thoughts and feelings that come with being a victim of sexual assault, and the intense feeling of crisis that comes with this; though it’s a fictional story, the stories are real experiences that people I know have been through, and things that people continue to experience daily,” said Sproule. “The feelings she [the protagonist] describes – a feeling of helplessness and lack of control – are universal. The things that have happened to you do not define who you are. They will always be part of your story and will shape you, but they don’t have to control you.” 

Grand Erie was well represented with several creative writers including Cailyn Mann of Brantford Collegiate and Vocational School who took second prize, and Aria Taylor of North Park Collegiate and Vocational School, Sophie Vandenbrink of Pauline Johnson CVS, and Rylin Ward of Waterford District High School receiving third-place honours. 

“Every person who takes the time to read one of the stories with an open mind should learn something about the world in which we live,” noted Franklin. “The writers are leading their readers to new insights and trying to inspire them to take action to make things better. We should look at story writing as the embodiment of the Board's mission.”

Sproule’s story can be found here. Please note, it contains depictions of sexual and gendered violence and suicide. The Sexual Assault Centre of Brant’s support line is available 24/7 at 519-751-3471 or the National Suicide Hotline at 1-833-456-4566 for support anywhere in Canada.