Ariesha Mais writes in a notebook with a pen.

You know you may have a future as an author when the very first time you enter a story into a writing contest it wins first place.
For incoming Humber College student Ariesha Mais, that’s exactly what happened.
Mais, who’s finishing her final year at Pickering High School, will be attending Humber in the fall for the new Honours Bachelor of Creative and Professional Writing (BCPW) program as part of the inaugural cohort. During an introductory session about the program, she learned about the province-wide fiction and creative nonfiction writing contest for high school students being offered by BCPW in partnership with The Humber Literary Review (HLR).
Intrigued, she decided to enter. Her short story Mr. Lockton’s Library clearly was a hit with the judges as it came in first.
With the win, she receives $750 and will have her work published in a special online supplement of the HLR.
“This really showed me that I’m on the right track,” said Mais, who had thought about studying geology but ultimately decided to enter the BCPW program to pursue her passion for the written word. “I’ve never been published before so I’m very excited.”
Meaghan Strimas, professor and BCPW program coordinator, said the contest was to give emerging writers encouragement while celebrating the program’s launch.
“Encouraging emerging storytellers and creating publishing opportunities for them is something that is very important to me and this program,” said Strimas, adding they received submissions from students across Ontario. “I still remember publishing my first work when I was in high school. That recognition empowered me, and it gave me greater purpose and direction — all things I needed, so badly, at the time. I will never forget that start and that support.”
Strimas along with authors Naben Ruthnum and Zoe Whittall were the judges.
“I was extremely impressed by the level of work we received and the maturity and skill of the writing,” said Strimas, an award-winning author. “It gives me such hope for the storytellers who are to come.”
When it came to Mr. Lockton’s Library, the judges remarked how well structured it was and the authenticity of the world that was built, something that’s not easy to do. With a compelling story arc and relatable characters, Strimas said it was a truly excellent piece of writing.
Other winners include Mitzi Reann Chua (second place and $500), Olivia Quain (third place and $350), Pablo Palacios (fourth place and $250) and Bator Toth (fifth place and $150). All the winners will also be published in the special HLR supplement.
Palacios will also be attending Humber in the fall for the BCPW program.
The program, which is still accepting applications for its inaugural semester, is designed to allow students to transform their passion for writing into a fulfilling career. As students develop creative writing skills that strengthen their storytelling abilities, they also learn how to craft targeted messages for social media platforms, manage creative projects and write and edit web copy.
It also includes an industry-connected work placement and the benefit of one-on-one mentorship in the final semester.
Strimas said the program is unique in how it encourages creative writing but also teaches writing skills that translate to the workplace.
“It offers the best of both writing worlds,” said Strimas.
That uniqueness appealed to Mais in helping her to decide about her post-secondary education.
“When I found out about the program, it was exactly what I was looking for. It has both creative and professional writing, and I can apply these skills to my career,” said Mais. “When I took a campus tour in March, I just loved the atmosphere, and I knew I wanted to go there. I’m really looking forward to the future and what’s to come.”