Short Story Prize
The Shortlist: Q&A with Pamela Ferguson
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.
An actor and a writer, Pamela Ferguson hails from the Prairies, but calls Toronto home. Her story, “Autumnal”, is shortlisted for the 2011-2012 CBC Short Story Prize.
1. Tell us about yourself
I live in Toronto, but I spent almost eight months last year in my hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which was both lovely and strange. I’m an actor, and sometimes a teacher, but in the last decade I’ve spent a lot of time in the corporate world, mostly in marketing and communications.
2. What do you usually write?
I’ve been working on a novel for many years, but I write a lot of short fiction, and I write for theatre. I’m very interested in writing for television. I always have a lot of projects on the go—probably too many!
3. Have you submitted to the competition before?
Yes, I have entered this competition at least three or four times in the past.
4. What is your story about?
“Autumnal” is about one season in a woman’s life and the people (mostly men, in this case) who pass through it. Another writer I know told me he likes to write about missed connections, and I think that is also true of this story. I suppose it’s about the things that isolate us from others and the rarity of a true and lasting spark between two people.
5. What was the inspiration for your story?
After being away for so long, I really savoured my favourite season in Toronto and was reminded of autumn’s beauty. I still think of September as a fresh beginning—I always want to buy new clothes for school and I love that first crisp fall day. But there’s something melancholy about everything dying that makes me a bit wistful, too. And my friends and I have shared a lot of hilarious and painful dating anecdotes over the years, so I had all of those stories at my disposal.
6. How long did you work on the story? How many drafts did you write?
It was actually a fairly quick process. I probably worked on the story for three weeks. I wrote a first draft, which got some harsh criticism from my writing group, and then I made revisions. The hardest part is the word count, but I think it forced me to be better. More specific. No fat.
7. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I was always writing and reading a lot (thanks to my dad), but it was my Grade 7 teacher, Cole Kirby, who actually told me that I was a writer, and I’ve identified as one ever since.
8. Who's your favourite Canadian writer and why?
That’s an impossible question! I used to go to Margaret Laurence House in Neepawa, Manitoba every summer—she’s definitely an influence—but one of my favourite Canadian books is Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro. It was pivotal to my development as both a young writer and a young woman.
9. What's your favourite short story ever written and why?
I love “The Painted Door” by Sinclair Ross. It’s haunting—I get goose bumps just thinking about it! And he’s from Saskatchewan, too.
Pamela Ferguson is a founding member of Bloor West Writers—a fiction workshop—as well as an alumna of the Sage Hill Writing Experience, and a past writer-in-residence at the Wallace Stegner House. She received an honourable mention in the 2011 Author for a Day contest sponsored by the IFOA and the Humber School for Writers. Most recently, Pam returned from the adventure of a lifetime in South America.