Writing In Colour

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.

Martin Luther King, Jr., Massey Lectures, 1967 (Lecture 5)

We with our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest. […] But the trees also commingle their roots in the darkness underground, and the islands also hang together through the ocean’s bottom.

William James, “The Confidences of a ‘Psychical Researcher,’” 1909

The Department of English at the University of Waterloo invites grade 11 students in Ontario who are Black, Indigenous, or students of colour to submit an essay of between 500 to 1000 words to the 2024 Writing in Colour: English Grade 11 Essay Colloquium Award. The topic for this year is connections

Students with the top selected essays will be invited to take part in a colloquium at the University of Waterloo consisting of a seminar, workshop, and tour of the school. At the colloquium, one paper will be selected to win a $1000 prize. The author of the winning paper will also be offered an opportunity to meet with some members of the university community who could be helpful to their future ambitions.

Your essay can be narrative, descriptive, persuasive, or expository, and can discuss any aspect of the topic of connections. You can discuss connections that are important in your present life, connections you once had, or connections you hope to have. The connection you write about can be with another person, a group of people, a culture, language, place, or time, or even with a non-human being or object.

You might consider any of the following prompts to help you brainstorm your essay topic: 

  • Why are individual and social connections important?
  • How do connections create, or provide an understanding of, community?
  • How are connections created, celebrated, strengthened?
  • How are connections weakened, blocked, or appropriated?
  • Are important connections primarily individual, or are they social and cultural?
  • What are the influences that affect connections?
  • How can we negotiate multiple, perhaps conflicting connections?
  • How can we re-establish connections with others when they are strained or lost? What is the effect when we can’t manage to re-connect?
  • How do the connections that we make—or fail to make—influence how we think of ourselves?

The deadline to submit essays is March 1st, 2024.

Please direct questions to the English Department Awards Committee (Bruce Dadey, Kate Lawson, and Megan Selinger) at englaward@uwaterloo.ca

Submission Instructions

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Should the paper be submitted electronically or printed and mailed?
    • Please submit your essay digitally via our contest portal.
  • What format should the essay be in?
    • Please use either .docx or .pdf format.
  • What is the word count limit for the essay? Can it be under 500 words or over 1000 words?
    • Ideally, you want to stay as close to that word count range as possible. However, a few words under (or over) will not disqualify your paper. A references page (if your work does use references) would not count toward your word count limit.
  • Can I submit more than one essay to the contest?
    • Submissions are limited to one entry per person.
  • I’m not in Grade 11, can I still submit?
    • You must be registered in Grade 11 to be eligible for this award.
  • Do I need to register for this award?
    • By submitting an entry, you will automatically be considered for the award and colloquium. Invitations to the colloquium will be sent out in April.
  • Do I need to answer one of the specific questions on connections listed above?
    • No. Those are just there to help generate ideas and to demonstrate the wide range of topics that fit the scope of this year’s theme. You can use the ideas to help you think about the essay, you can answer one directly, or you can talk about the theme in some other way. So long as your paper engaged with the year’s theme, it will be accepted as a valid submission.

Submission Instructions

The 2023 Writing in Colour Colloquium

The 2023 contest focused on the theme of displacement. Colloquium participants were Burlington Central High School student Noor Grewal, Aileen Jun from Lauren Heights Secondary, Garth Webb Secondary student Farah Khader, and Hyewon Lee and DeyJah Simon-Blair, both from Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute. Farah Khader's paper, "What Am I If Not Capable?" won first prize. 

For more information on the 2023 colloquium, see Writing in Colour Essay Contest and Colloquium in our departmental blog.

The 2022 Writing in Colour Colloquium

The 2022 contest focused on the topic of culture. Colloquium participants Alice Crosby, Diya Dugh, Shaian Harris, Aishwarya Puttur, and Dylan Verheyen visited a UWaterloo English class, participated in a writing workshop, and discussed their essays in the Writing in Colour colloquium. Shaian Harris's essay “I Love My Crown” won top prize.

For more information on the 2022 contest, see the Grade 11 Writing in Colour Colloquium post in our department's blog.