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Thornhill resident Natalie Simonian wins short story contest

May 3, 2018
Laura Finney

Thornhill resident Natalie Simonian is not transgender.

But that did not stop her from writing a short story, Translating Carter, about a young transgender student struggling to tell her father the truth.

Simonian said she was inspired to write the story after brainstorming ideas with her family.

“I asked my family members, what is a topic that is in the news, that people are talking about, that would grab someone’s attention, make a difference, make an impact,” she said. “My sister suggested writing about transgender youth.”

Check out the CFUW, YRMG short story contest winning entry

And it worked. Her story was selected as the winner of the eight annual Canadian Federation of University Women and York Region Media Group Short Story Contest.

She admitted she was a bit nervous about writing about a topic without any personal experience.

“I hope I did it justice,” she said. “I hope it is well received in the transgender community.”

But she said she was able to draw from her own life experience as a young woman. And, as a writer, she said she said she is able to feel empathy toward others.

Simonian just finished her third year at University of Toronto, St. George campus, where she is taking physiology and human biology. She decided to enter the contest after her mom read about it in the Thornhill Liberal last fall.

“She knows I’m a good writer and thought I would be a good fit for the competition,” she said.

When Simonian found out she won, she was shocked.

“I was in complete disbelief,” she said.

Simonian said she has always enjoyed writing.

“At one point I thought about being a journalist, but ultimately, I am more interested in science,” she said, but added writing helps her relieve stress.

This annual contest was open to York Region and Bradford West Gwillimbury residents aged 22 and younger.

A unique feature of this contest was that all entries began the same way, with the same sentence. This year it was: “Only one person knew the truth.”

Over 160 writers entered the contest. Judges carefully selected the top ten finalists, and from there they chose the top three.

The second place story was The Last Day by Richmond Hill resident Anne Evangeline Wynne from Glendon College and the third place story was It’s all in the Name by Richmond Hill resident Joana Kim from Bayview Secondary School.

One of the judges, Stouffville author Jennifer Dance, addressed the top 10 finalists during a reception on April 25 at the Aurora Public Library.

She offered some insights for writers, including the importance of learning how to take and receive criticism.

Criticism can hurt, she explained. It can make writers jaded and angry but it can also make writers better.

“Do not take rejection and criticism personally,” she said. “Look at criticism as a tool, weigh it carefully.”

Another tip she shared, was to read stories out loud to an imaginary audience.

For more information, visit cfuwauroranewmarket.com/Writing-Contest.html and for more information about Dance, visit jenniferdance.ca/.