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Nico Branham Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Student Nonfiction Writing Contest Winner

Hon. Hilary M. Weston and the Writers’ Trust Reveal 
Winners of Student Writing Contest

Annual writing contest attracts literary nonfiction entries from students across Canada

June 9, 2015
Toronto – The Writers’ Trust of Canada has announced the winners of the 2015 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Student Nonfiction Writing Contest. Drawing from the prestigious Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction guidelines, the contest aims to inspire young writing talent to pursue their craft. The grand prize is $2,500 and a trip to Toronto, as well as $1,000 for the winner’s school.

Nico Branham, an 18-year-old from Templeton Secondary School in Vancouver, won first place for “Outside the Window, a Billion Stars Are Moving Past Me at the Speed of Light,” which compares real life to the scripted. It impressed the jury with its “contemporary tone, creative structure, and its unabashed erotic and intellectual honesty.” In addition, she is invited to attend the 2015 Hilary Weston Prize gala in fall 2015 in Toronto, where she will be honoured amongst the prize finalists and publishing industry professionals. Branham’s essay will be published online by Maclean’s magazine.


A second-place prize of $500 was awarded to 17-year-old Alexandra Sweny from Aurora High School in Aurora, Ontario for her personal account, “What It’s Like to Live with Someone with Depression.”


Third place and $250 went to 17-year-old Janice Esguerra, a classmate of Branham’s at Vancouver’s Templeton Secondary School, for “Open-Eyed,” which examines the worldview of a child too young to know better.


In addition, the three winners each received a set of 2014 Burt Award for First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit Literature-shortlisted titles for their personal and school libraries.

The Writers’ Trust received 400 submissions from grade 9 – 12 students across Canada. Submissions were between 1,000 and 2,000 words on a topic of the author’s choosing and classifiable as literary nonfiction. Winners were selected by a jury consisting of past nonfiction prize finalists JJ Lee, Noah Richler, and Merrily Weisbord.

“I am thrilled again to support and encourage the writing of young Canadians through this essay contest,” said prize sponsor Hon. Hilary M. Weston. “The quality of work submitted has deeply impressed us all, and I hope that each student who has taken part uses their participation in this prize as an impetus to develop their creative passion and talent.”

The first placed essay, “Outside the Window, a Billion Stars Are Moving Past Me at the Speed of Light” by Nico Branham, can be read at All three winning essays can be read at

About the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction

This $60,000 prize is awarded for literary excellence in the category of nonfiction, which includes, among other forms, personal or journalistic essays, history, biography, memoirs, commentary, and criticism, both social and political. Finalist works will, in the opinion of the jury, demonstrate a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style, and technique. The 2015 shortlist will be announced in September.

Hilary M. Weston Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonficiton Student Nonfiction Writing ContestAbout Hon. Hilary M. Weston, CM, OOnt

Hon. Hilary M. Weston served as the 26th lieutenant-governor of Ontario from 1997 to 2002. As the Queen’s representative in Ontario, Mrs. Weston was responsible for the Crown’s constitutional and representational roles in the province. Since leaving public office, Mrs. Weston has continued to pursue her diverse interests. She led Renaissance ROM, the largest fundraising campaign in Canadian cultural history, transforming the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. She is a trustee of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and serves on the board of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Mrs. Weston is also a corporate director of Wittington Investments and Selfridges Group Ltd. She has also served as deputy chair of the board of Holt Renfrew, promoting Canadian designers in the retailing business.

Mrs. Weston founded the Ireland Fund of Canada and remains a patron of this non-denominational organization promoting peace in Ireland. Her interests in homes and gardens resulted in the publication of In a Canadian Garden (1989) and At Home in Canada (1995). She served as first chancellor of the Order of Ontario, was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2003, and is the recipient of six honorary degrees.

About the Writers’ Trust

The Writers’ Trust of Canada is a charitable organization that seeks to advance, nurture, and celebrate Canadian writers and writing through a portfolio of programs, including literary awards, financial grants, scholarships, and a writers’ retreat. Writers’ Trust programming is designed to champion excellence in Canadian writing, to improve the status of writers, and to create connections between writers and readers. Canada’s writers receive more financial support from the Writers’ Trust than from any other non-governmental organization or foundation in the country.


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