The Jan Rehner Prize for Writing - Fall/Winter 2018

The Jan Rehner Prize for Writing was created in 2016 to honour University Professor Jan Rehner, a long-time member of York University’s Writing Department. For many years, Professor Rehner introduced and inspired students with the study of writing, teaching students at all year levels. A University-wide AND a National 3M award teaching winner, she was as at home tutoring one-on-one in the Writing Centre as she was in the lecture hall, and her careful, thoughtful feedback in tutorial and seminar has been greatly valued by her students for many years. Professor Rehner was also instrumental in the formation of the LA&PS Writing Department, helping bring together the Writing Centre and the Professional Writing Program in her capacity as program coordinator in 2012.

Professor Rehner teaches her students both to challenge dominant narratives, and to find their own voice as writers and persons. She encourages them to become critically aware of their society, and of their own writing process. This award was established in recognition of her ceaseless efforts to empower and embolden students as writers and citizens, and with the gratitude of the many students, colleagues, and friends met during her years of contribution to the Writing Department and to the University.

Competition Description

The Jan Rehner Prize for Writing is a student nominated, faculty-judged competition open to students who take Writing Department courses. A winner and an honourable mention from 1000, 2000, 3000 and 4000 level courses are chosen in May of each year.

Submissions in any style, using any form, or from any genre may be nominated so long as their content is primarily text-based. Life writing, film criticism, podcast transcripts, reports, formal essays, and other kinds of writing are all welcome. Nominated papers must have received a final grade of an “A” or better (e.g. 80%+) and must be submitted without identifying information. The submission’s assignment instructions are also required.

Both winners and runners-up receive an official transcript notation, a gift card, and the opportunity to have their paper published online and permanently available on York's website.

In F/W 2018, this competition was co-ordinated by Jon Sufrin, with much assistance from Writing Department faculty and students.

Papers are linked with permission from their authors.

Selection Process

Small juries composed of Writing Department faculty and upper-year students were each assigned the papers from a single year level. Care was taken to avoid conflicts of interest in the judging. Jurors considered the submission in context of its assignment, as well as the piece’s readability, style, and professionalism.

Jury Members

Andrea McKenzie, Keith O’Regan, Madelaine Pries, Alexandra Prochshenko, Ron Sheese, Jon Sufrin, Stephanie Wilcox.

F/W 2018 Jan Rehner Writing Prize Finalists

1st Year

Honourable Mention:

  • Ahsen Ayan. "Where We Belong."

  • WRIT 1700B, Writing: Process and Practice. Course Director: Jon Sufrin.

“Where We Belong” grapples with questions of home and place: what is “home,” and how does being forced to leave your country complicate that concept? The writer combines suspense and reflection to arrive at a thoughtful answer. We travel a layered journey through the author’s fear and need to escape from country, while considering how that emotional trek necessarily transforms the notion of home. This author’s idea will resonate with anyone who has had to leave “home,” better illuminating a significant issue of our era.

Winner:

  • Darren Mc Almont. “The Skin I’m In.”

  • WRIT 1004, Research for Professional Writers. TA: Keith O'Regan. Course Director: Stephanie Bell.

“The Skin I’m In” is a striking, engaging and well-argued podcast transcript that questions racial equality in today’s so-called “diverse” Canada. By referring to many contemporary scholars and activists, such as bell hooks, Desmond Cole, Afua Cooper, and others, the author exposes issues that black men face daily. Aside from the author's personal experience, the transcript contains news, interviews and popular culture references that many can relate to. It creates a big picture that, once again, reminds us of the question: “For how long will this kind of injustice prevail?”

2nd Year

Honourable Mention:

  • Gil Segev. "Homme Improvement."

  • WRIT 2004, Writing in Digital Cultures. Course Director: Andrea McKenzie.

This author’s submission—a proposal and a series of linked blog posts—immediately grips the reader’s attention by considering the topic of men’s makeup. A lively and interesting project pitch not only invites us to consider how men feel about wearing makeup in public, but also calls attention to the many failings of cosmetic companies marketing strategies. In their blog entries, the writer carefully and critically examines various ads and media campaigns, noting how their patterns reinforce makeup as either effeminate or bland, rather than as a tool for vibrant self-expression. Fortunately, ‘vibrant self-expression’ is exactly what this writer does, whether they are deconstructing ad campaigns, or critically assessing the connections between male cosmetics, toxic masculinity and homophobia. The result is resonant and informative prose, with thoughtful criticism that invites the reader both to reassess their own prejudices and to use the hyperlinks embedded within to learn more.

Winner:

This 200-word grammatically correct sentence is a powerful example of structure and content working together to convey emotion and message. The author constructs a poignant and complex narrative in few words, exhibiting an impressive understanding of rhetorical devices—including grammatical constructions such as parallel structures, absolute phrases and expanded determiners—to heighten the emotional impact of their story of struggle, determination and hope. The reader can feel the pain and resulting strength of the narrator as they reflect on how they overcame past hardships, as well as how they continue to do so every day. This long sentence is a concise and intelligently structured recount of an emotional experience that reads as an eloquent cathartic purge. The author leaves no doubt as to their ability to conjure the power of words and the power of grammar to weave a compelling story.

3rd Year

Honourable Mention:

“It Doesn't Feel Human” was a very worthy entry, and it was an easy decision to nominate it as our honorable mention. The essay uniquely blended personal and factual narratives, and was equally informative and well-researched. Both the structure and idea were thoughtfully presented and worked well together, creating a methodical breakdown of one of the most pressing issues on campuses today. Careful attention to social media's role in organizational crisis management is thoughtfully addressed and opens up novel means by which institutional stakeholders can be informed and learn from each other.

Winner:

This entry was an excellent, clear, and deserved winner at the 3rd year level. The level of research surpassed requirements and expectations, while the perceptive analysis expertly surveyed the pertinent material, academic and otherwise. This submission expanded an understanding of how media organizations can and should respond to events that demand and capture the nation's attention. As adjudicators we were left in no doubt as to the coherency of the main idea, and the compelling thesis was crafted in both a skillful and nuanced manner. “Indigenous Canadians' Representation: Mainstream VS Alternative” was in all facets a remarkable piece, and a true pleasure to read.

4th Year

Honourable Mention:

Travel literature must render the reader able to imagine a place they have never been; to sample, if only in their heads, all the locale has to offer the senses and the intellect. Sun Hussein’s beautifully written survey of Toronto’s underground music scene—where the author “can feel seen” – is a vivid, pulsating, visceral piece of writing. It knows to acknowledge who was here before, and on who’s land we reside. It knows creativity is to be found in comic book shops, poetry jazz, deep caves and dance clubs. And it knows that it is on the margins that the real, the inspirational and the moving (literally and figuratively) are to be found.

These are our places, Toronto places. Places where we can find and express our own Selves, no matter what their beautiful forms. “These Hands Make Music Too” reminds us that the authentic experience can be found near to home, if you know where to look.

Winner:

“Counterfeit Clothing Wars” beautifully balances personal story with factual background to create a compelling, in-depth feature article about local artists, “borrowed” designs, and the blurred lines of “ownership.” From first line to last, we are drawn into the artists’ lives and their battle against giant corporations who pirate original designs without credit and without compensation. Who’d have thought that a local artist would take on a Kardashian? And is it possible to “win” such a struggle? Vivid and compelling descriptions take us into the artists’ studios and lives, expertly woven with impeccable research and lucid explanations of complex issues. Similarly, the personal impact of such struggles is deftly parleyed into larger questions about copyright law, counterfeiting, and social media’s role. Distinctively and smoothly written, this timely and persuasive article enthralls while it subtly educates.

Recent Submissions

  • The Counterfeit Clothing Wars 

    Quenneville, Olivia (2018)
    “Counterfeit Clothing Wars” beautifully balances personal story with factual background to create a compelling, in-depth feature article about local artists, “borrowed” designs, and the blurred lines of “ownership.” From ...
  • These Hands Make Music Too 

    Hussein, Sun (2018)
    Travel literature must render the reader able to imagine a place they have never been; to sample, if only in their heads, all the locale has to offer the senses and the intellect. Sun Hussein’s beautifully written survey ...
  • Indigenous Canadians' Representation: Mainstream VS Alternative 

    Gill, Diljot (2018)
    This entry was an excellent, clear, and deserved winner at the 3rd year level. The level of research surpassed requirements and expectations, while the perceptive analysis expertly surveyed the pertinent material, academic ...
  • It Doesn't Feel Human 

    Manji, Zahra (2018)
    “It Doesn't Feel Human” was a very worthy entry, and it was an easy decision to nominate it as our honorable mention. The essay uniquely blended personal and factual narratives, and was equally informative and well-researched. ...
  • The Mission Before the Escape 

    Rizzo, Vincent (2018)
    This 200-word grammatically correct sentence is a powerful example of structure and content working together to convey emotion and message. The author constructs a poignant and complex narrative in few words, exhibiting ...
  • Homme Improvement 

    Segev, Gil (2018)
    This author’s submission—a proposal and a series of linked blog posts—immediately grips the reader’s attention by considering the topic of men’s makeup. A lively and interesting project pitch not only invites us to consider ...
  • The Skin I'm In 

    Mc Almont, Darren (2018)
    “The Skin I’m In” is a striking, engaging and well-argued podcast transcript that questions racial equality in today’s so-called “diverse” Canada. By referring to many contemporary scholars and activists, such as bell ...
  • Where We Belong 

    Absen, Ayan (2018)
    “Where We Belong” grapples with questions of home and place: what is “home,” and how does being forced to leave your country complicate that concept? The writer combines suspense and reflection to arrive at a thoughtful ...

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