Sarah Gilbert: Introducing Winter Tales
Last summer, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Governor General's Awards and the CBC, we asked ten writers to write a story about winter.
This fall, the stories started coming in.
Seeing a brand new story pop up in my inbox was exciting. I felt like I'd subscribed to a deluxe new service: original writing by special delivery.
These weren't just any writers, but authors whose work I knew and admired. No slouches, they'd won Governor General's Awards for their writing. They knew what they were doing.
I'd feel a little thrill as I clicked open the email, read the story, then stand up and shout, even if no one else was around: "Listen to this! You have to read this!"
These stories are surprising at every turn.
Greg Hollingshead, Dianne Warren, Peter Behrens and Judith Thompson all begin with the notion of winter and each of them go somewhere different. A frozen lake, a Mexican beach, a Victorian hospital, a safe refuge behind the dryer.
Jack Hodgins sends us to the bottom of the Puntledge River, Kate Pullinger to chilly Melbourne, George Elliott Clarke to a fancy Parisian hotel, and David Gilmour to a winter resort in 1960.
Douglas Glover evokes the otherworldly quiet of a neighbourhood blanketed by snowstorms, and Diane Schoemperlen experiences the bliss of a cold day enjoyed from the living room couch.
I learned that every writer has a different way of working. Jack Hodgins sent me his story early and then emailed new versions every week or two, tweaking a word here and a phrase there to get it just so. Many writers tinkered with their writing up to the minute of recording. Judith Thompson fell off the radar. When I asked if her piece was ready yet, she replied, "Uh-oh, I thought the deadline was months away!" Twenty-four hours later, she sent me a dynamite monologue, fully formed.
Occasionally, when I asked about changing a word for clarity, my query was met with a perplexed silence. These are people for whom Every. Word. Counts. I deferred.
Hearing the writers read their stories is another surprise. Their voices bring an urgency and humour to the piece, a texture to the picture they're painting. Cristal Duhaime's sensitive sound design in the pieces airing on The Sunday Edition (starting this Sunday, November 6) picks up on these nuances and draws you into the world of the story.
I'd like to thank all ten writers for their Winter Tales. Now, it's my pleasure to share them with you. Check them out, as of Sunday. Listen to this! You have to read this!
PS: While the Governor General's Awards are a mainstay of Canadian literature, we also wanted to hear from writers who haven't won it (at least not yet...). So, after our 10 GG-winners wrote a Winter Tale for our series, we asked them to tip us off and recommend a writer who's not be as well known as they deserve to be. We invited these ten authors to come up with a blog entry on writing. The result, an exciting bunch of writers to watch out for...and some great stories on the writing life. Stay tuned!