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Short Story Prize

The Shortlist: Q&A with Clea Young

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. 

Clea Young lives in Vancouver and works for the Vancouver International Writers Festival. Amazingly, her father Terence has also been shortlisted for the 2011-2012 CBC Short Story Prize. The name of her story is "Dock Day”. 

1. Tell us about yourself
I’m 34 and I live in Vancouver with my husband and son. I’ve been on maternity leave for a year, but for four years before that I worked as the Writers Services Coordinator at the Vancouver International Writers Festival. I work with great people and have the privilege of meeting authors from all over the world, not a bad gig for an aspiring writer. I’ll be returning to work in May.

2. What do you usually write? 
I write short stories mainly, and the occasional poem.

3. Have you submitted to the competition before? 
I submitted in 2010 and found out I’d made the long list shortly after my son was born. It was good timing. I was feeling overwhelmed as a new mom, worried that I might never write again, and the news that my story had made it that far reminded me not only that my writing wasn’t half bad, but also that I could be something else in tandem with being a mom, if I used my time well.

4. What is your story about?
I liked the idea of watching two very different worlds - the kid world and the adult world - unfold in such close proximity. It’s also about communication, summer, and the potential for accidents even on the most seemingly perfect days. I’m a bit neurotic that way.

5. What was the inspiration for your story?
Even though the children in the story don’t get as much space as the adults, it was their lawless yet hierarchal world that started me writing. I was also experimenting. Initially the characters in the story didn’t have names; I wanted the dialogue, each character’s voice, to be different enough that the reader didn’t need names. I failed miserably at that. Finally, I wanted to write from an omniscient point of view, and while I dip into both the boy and girl’s POVs briefly, for the most part the story itself isn’t attached to one character.

6. How long did you work on the story? How many drafts did you write?
I worked on it over a couple of months while my son napped. The first draft came quickly, and fortunately the 4 or 5 revisions weren’t too torturous. 

7. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I think I knew for a long time, but when I was accepted into the MFA program at UBC, I couldn’t pretend otherwise to the world.

8. Who's your favourite Canadian writer and why?
For the sake of tidiness I wish I could name a definitive favourite, but I just can’t. Working for the Writers Festival, especially, I’ve come to realize just how many amazing writers we have in this country. But, okay, I’ll name a few. Alice Munro, of course. I’m a Lisa Moore fan. And recently I read new collections by Rebecca Rosenblum and Jessica Westhead that got me excited about writing again, when I was in a bit of a slump.

9. What's your favourite short story ever written and why?
Nope, no clean-cut answer here, either. One of the joys of reading short stories, for me anyway, is finding a new favourite, one that makes me fall deeper in love with the form. I will say that when I started writing fiction, Lorrie Moore’s collection Birds of America made quite an impression one me, in particular the story “People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk.” The premise is grim—a baby diagnosed with cancer—but Moore’s writing, the wry and precise way she conveys the mother’s confusion and hysteria, has stuck with me.

Clea Young’s stories have appeared in
Event, Grain, The Malahat Review, Prairie Fire and Room, and have been twice nominated and once shortlisted for The Journey Prize. She was long listed for a CBC literary prize in 2010. 

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