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Trent University Student Wins Fiction Contest

Sara Berniker started writing seriously three or four years ago and at the time, committed to writing every day - whether she had an idea or not.

This dedication - to write a minimum of 2,000 words a day - and devotion to the craft is undoubtedly behind her recently announced first place prize in Playboy's 20th annual College Fiction Contest. Ms. Berniker, who will start her fourth year at Trent University in September, will receive $3,000 (U.S.) and the opportunity to work with a Playboy editor before her story "Aqua Velva Smitty" is published in the fall. This is the first time in the contest's history that a Canadian student has won top prize.

For Ms. Berniker, who has had a number of stories published in horror anthologies for $25 or $30 (U.S.), the prize is significant.

"I feel like this could start opening doors for me," says Ms. Berniker. "Writing is the one thing I do that I would give up everything else to be able to do."

Ms. Berniker, who describes her writing as "really dark," recently completed ENG 375 - An Introduction to Creative Writing - with Professor Orm Mitchell. Only 12 students, from among 30 applicants were admitted to the class.

Prof. Mitchell lauded the achievement of his recent student, noting that he wasn't surprised she had taken the top prize in an international writing competition. Her talent and enthusiasm for writing shone through as they read and work-shopped stories during the year-long course. "Sara is very dedicated to her craft," said Prof. Mitchell. "She's good with dialogue and has some interesting plot twists. Sara's got that kind of stick-with-it dedication and I think she'll go far."

Ms. Berniker is considering a master's degree in creative writing following her graduation from Trent. She has written six novels and dozens of short stories. Ms. Berniker says the win, and having her story published in Playboy is a "stratospheric jump."

"I'm still so surprised," said Ms. Berniker, whose story was chosen from among approximately 800 submissions. "It's such a big contest... a springboard for the future."

Posted June 25, 2004

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