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Short Story Prize

The Shortlist: Q&A with Salvatore Difalco

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. 

Salvatore Difalco lives in Toronto where he works as an Italian translator. His story, "Look How Pretty", is shortlisted for the 2011-2012 CBC Short Story Prize. 

1. Tell us about yourself
Hamilton born, I've resided in Toronto on and off since 1980, with a recent hiatus in Niagara Falls where I worked as a counsellor in a maximum security youth prison. These days I earn my keep translating.  

2. What do you usually write?  
I've written in just about every form, but lately I've returned to poetry.

3. Have you submitted to the competition before?  
I have not.

4. What is your story about? 
My story is about a woman with Lewy-body dementia, a merciless illness.  

5. What was the inspiration for your story? 
My mother, a beautiful, vital woman, was stricken with the illness some years back. I've always wondered what that reality was really like for her. i.e. losing piecemeal her essential self, her memories, her emotional and cognitive connections, how terrifying, how strange.

6. How long did you work on the story? How many drafts did you write? 
I originally wrote another story about the same theme, from the perspective of the children. I worked on it for weeks, scrapping it several times, and never could get it right. Then one afternoon I thought about my mother's voice and how as she got sicker and more disoriented she spoke in these heartbreaking monologues, trying to hold her reality together, before the illness completely destroyed her ability to speak and think. I simply put myself in her shoes. The story came out in one blast, pretty much as it is.

7. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? 
In high school, after a short story by John Updike—"Wife Wooing"—dazzled me.

8. Who's your favourite Canadian writer and why? 
My favourite Canadian writer, without a remote second, is Farley Mowat. Lost In The Barrens romanticized winter for me. As a kid I used to pretend that whenever my Sicilian family ate meat we were eating caribou.

9. What's your favourite short story ever written and why? 
"The Killers" by Ernest Hemingway. I've read it a thousand times and never tire of those tight white faces and ham and eggs and Sam the cook and Ole Andreson waiting to die in his room. Details. I love the story's grim little details.

Salvatore Difalco is the author of Black Rabbit & Other Stories (Anvil), and The Mountie At Niagara Falls (Anvil), a collection of microfiction.   

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