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Short Story Prize

The Shortlist: Q&A with Alix Hawley

There are ten names on the shortlist for this year’s CBC Short Story Prize. But before we announce the winner, we want to let you know a little about the writers whose stories rose to the top. 

Alix Hawley is a fourth-generation resident of Kelowna, BC, where she lives with her family and teaches at Okanagan College. Her story, “Tentcity”, is shortlisted for the 2011-2012 CBC Short Story Prize. 

1. Tell us about yourself
I live in Kelowna, BC. I’m 36. I’m a college professor by day, and a mother of two young children by day and by night.

2. What do you usually write? 
Fiction. My collection, The Old Familiar, was published by Thistledown Press in 2008. It appeared about three minutes after my son’s early arrival. So much for the book launch. I’m working on another collection, and I’ve nearly finished a novel (think wild frontier, with feelings).

3. Have you submitted to the competition before? 
Yes. I was happy to have made the longlist in 2009.

4. What is your story about?
Rodent infestations, burning houses, adultery. The usual suburban amenities. Yes, there is a swimming pool.

5. What was the inspiration for your story?
The story is vaguely based on the Okanagan fires of 2003. I’m fairly certain, however, that its explanation of how they started is a lie. And that most of the people in town have hearts less black than those of my characters. But you never know.

6. How long did you work on the story? How many drafts did you write?
I wrote and submitted this story last year, to no avail. After a workshop with my excellent writer colleagues Sean Johnston (also longlisted!), John Lent, and Corinna Chong, I killed it, gutted it, squinted at the corpse awhile, then beat it up a little further, to the tune of about four major drafts.

7. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Being allowed to use the typewriter on occasion as a child was like entering an opium den. I think that did it.

8. Who's your favourite Canadian writer and why?
Alice Munro, for her understanding of the human mind. I’d be afraid to look her in the eye, though.

9. What's your favourite short story ever written and why?
Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” (1955). Deadpan, dead-on, deadly precise. One of the best-ever portraits of the weirdness that is everywhere.

Alix Hawley studied English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Oxford, the University of East Anglia, and the University of British Columbia. She is the author of 
The Old Familiar (Thistledown Press), a short-story collection. 

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