Short Story Prize
The Shortlist: Q&A with Brooks McMullin
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.
Brooks McMullin lives in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and is an English teacher at three universities. His story, “Pax”, is shortlisted for the 2011-2012 CBC Short Story Prize.
1. Tell us about yourself
I live in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan in the jack pines across the river just north of the city. I’m 58, and teach English at three Saskatchewan universities.
2. What do you usually write?
I have written novels, short stories, feature-length movie scripts, and recently have put together a one-hour television drama, eight episodes.
3. Have you submitted to the competition before?
I don’t think that I’ve entered before. Most of my stories were far too long for this competition.
4. What is your story about?
The first-person narrative takes place during a Good Friday Catholic service, involving the Stations of the Cross. An altar boy offers the reader his frustrating and fearful views on things immediately within the church, outside the church and from memory. He creates stories within stories. He wishes he were elsewhere; he wishes he were playing ground hockey. Progressing through the stations the boy’s reverie offers a glimpse at his town, his friends, and his home. This little world he describes draws an indirect comparison to the passion of the cross.
5. What was the inspiration for your story?
I was trying to find a voice that would tell a much larger story, a coming-of-age story set in a similar time and place. I did come up with something, a novella, and this story seemed a way in to that longer piece, though the voice in the longer piece is different.
6. How long did you work on the story? How many drafts did you write?
This story went through several drafts and revisions to make it as tight as I could get it. Then another ending occurred to me in a recent revision, and I thought I would try that.
7. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always liked writing and reading. The two just seemed to go together.
8. Who's your favourite Canadian writer and why?
I don’t have a favourite Canadian writer, but when I think back to the beginning when I tried writing, and was reading writers to see how these writers did what they did, I remember Morley Callaghan’s Stories. I remember first seeing “snow” in I think it was “A Girl with Ambition”. I think it was city street slush, not snow, but this little detail opened my eyes to a literature that could be Canadian. It was freeing—not freezing.
9. What's your favourite short story ever written and why?
I have many favourites. “The Boat” by Alistair MacLeod is one; “Sweethearts” by Richard Ford is another, and stories by Norman Levine. There are images and ideas from these stories which have had a lasting effect on me, how I think about life and how I think about the craft of a story.
Brooks McMullin has an MA in Contemporary American Literature from the University of Saskatchewan. He has studied screenwriting at the Sundance Retreat in Utah, and was a quarter-finalist in 2006 Zoetrope screenwriting contest for a feature-length script, Coal War. Brooks has been published in a number of Canadian literary magazines, and in his spare time he paints landscapes and trains Labrador Retrievers.