Short Story Prize
Meet the reader: Craig Francis Power
As we prepare to unveil the shortlist for the CBC Short Story Prize, we're asking the readers for the competition what it's like to read 500 short stories in search of the best. Here's Craig Francis Power on the excitement of finding a fresh voice.
Tell us about yourself. Where do you live and what do you write?
I live in St. John’s, Newfoundland, with my partner, the author and theatre artist, Sara Tilley. I write fiction, both short and long, and have written art criticism for several periodicals both in Canada and abroad. I also write “scripts” that relate to my video art practice, but they aren’t very traditionally literary.
What's your day job?
I’m a part-time server in a fine dining restaurant here in St. John’s.
What's your literary street cred?
My first novel, Blood Relatives won the Percy Janes First Novel Award, the Fresh Fish Award for Emerging Writers, and was a finalist for the 2010 BMO-Winterset Award. In 2011, the book won the ReLit Award.
Why did you want to be a reader for the 2011 CBC Short Story Prize?
Seemed like it would be fun. I like reading, particularly when it’s a paid gig.
What do you like about short fiction?
The concision, immediacy, the open-ended quality, and specificity of detail/voice that the form demands are highly appealing when done successfully. I envy good short fiction writers’ ability to hit you so quickly.
Where did you read the short story entries?
Various places. But mainly in the Canoe, euphemism for the couch.
When you're reading hundreds of stories and trying to choose the most exceptional ones, what are you looking for?
Freshness. Something you notice before too long upon reading so many entries is that the good ones jump out at you right away, while the rest kind of exist in a jumble. The ones that have a fresh take on voice, or form or whatever, are like a lightning strike right from the hand of god. It’s like, Boom!
Can you describe a couple of the stories that struck you as stand-outs?
"Getting Lost But Good Lost" really blew me away. Upon reading the first couple lines, I was like, this person doesn’t even sound like English is their first language. And lo and behold, that’s just the point of view the story is told from. I mean, at first I didn’t know if I was gonna get through it. Which is just the sort of challenge the author has intended for us. It really confronts a reader with their own assumptions about reading English literature, while simultaneously telling a compelling story. There are just the most beautiful lines in there that don’t make any kind of literal sense in the way we’re trained to understand “good writing," yet meaning is conveyed through a very sophisticated play with the language. It was really well done, and quite astonishing I have to say.
I found "Cocoon," while in an entirely different voice, to operate similarly, which I guess goes back to ‘freshness’. There’s a tension between the narrator’s voice and the narrative which really makes the work compelling.
Having read all these stories, do you have any tips, any dos and don'ts, for short story writers?
I’m loathe to give advice to other writers, but the best thing to do is to read as much short fiction as you can get your hands on.
What did you enjoy most about the experience?
I really enjoyed getting to sample some of what’s being written in the country.