Creative Nonfiction Prize
"Fingerling" excluded from the competition
To our loyal Creative Nonfiction lovers,
We wanted to tell you that, following consideration of information that came to light as a result of comments made by our online audience over the past few days, the jury has made the difficult decision to exclude “Fingerling” from consideration for the Canada Writes, Creative Nonfiction Prize.
While beautifully crafted, and showcasing the abilities of a talented emerging writer, the story includes some factual discrepancies. Given that fact, it is the view of our jury that “Fingerling” no longer meets the definition/criteria for Creative Nonfiction used for the competition, which states that “the events must be real and the facts true”.
We understand that this decision will generate a conversation across the country about this long-standing question of what is Creative Nonfiction, and we will continue to listen to this conversation as it unfolds. Below, you'll find a statement by the story's author, Leslie Beckmann.
The Canada Writes Team.
Statement from Leslie Beckmann:
Creative Nonfiction is a hard task-master, and the personal essay particularly so. I have understood that a CNF essay must be more than a literary recounting of personal events: it requires the writer to reach for a more universal truth about our own strange, sad, lovely human condition and then share what we think we might have found.
The problem, for me at least, is that life rarely provides the elements of what I think might be some kind of wisdom in their proper sequence. I am a mother to a 12 year old; I am also a grown woman and my own mother’s only child. Becoming a mother gave me insight into my own mother; having a child gave me insight into myself as one. Most importantly, I have actually had each conversation in each segment of Fingerling. I have been both mother looking down the toilet after the disappearing fish and daughter calling from overseas after a dive. I have been both mother and daughter, sad after a lab dissection and discussing it with mother or child: I the holder, 25 years ago, of the scalpel over the foetal cow, my daughter the same pained scalpel-holder, facing a pig heart two years ago. And I have been both pregnant daughter and miscarrying mother, literally asking and answering the haunting question “why am I an only child?” So for me the component pieces of “Fingerling” are "real and true" : what has been altered is which “I” is speaking - myself as mother, myself as child - in order to turn the recursive personal journey towards understanding into a linear one for others to read.
It was never my intention in doing so to stretch the bounds of CNF beyond the breaking point, to mislead anyone, or to spark a divisive debate: I was attempting only to process the unordered chapters of an old and personal hurt with honesty. I would like to offer my apologies to Canada Writes, the jury, and the readers for the difficulty my approach may have caused and I would like to express a deep gratitude to those who were moved enough to post their appreciation for the piece, despite everything.