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Creative Nonfiction Prize

The Shortlist: Q&A with Brendan McLeod

There are five names on the shortlist for this year’s CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize. But before we announce the winner, we want to let you know a little about the writers whose personal stories rose to the top. 

Brendan McLeod is a Vancouver-based writer and musician based. His story, “Psychosomatic”, is shortlisted for the 2011-2012 CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize. 

Brendan McLeod.jpg
1. Tell us about yourself.
I work as a writer and musician in Vancouver. I travel a lot for work, and have been lucky enough to see a lot of the country that way. When I’m home, I usually hole up and write, often at coffee shops, where I try to be nice to the baristas so they don’t get sick of me and/or kick me out. I don’t have many hobbies, though my Dad says I should get some. I’ll go with hiking. Though now my girlfriend will probably call me a liar and point out we never go on hikes. Which is true.  

2. What do you usually write?
I'm just finishing my new novel. Which is exciting! If only to me. On tour, I do a combination of songs and stories and performance poems. I also have a play and a novel out.  

3. Have you submitted to the competition before?
I think I did about ten years ago, though I can't remember what story I used. Obviously nothing very memorable.  

4. What is your story about?
The eternal human dilemma of worrying about unforeseen pregnancy. 

5. What compelled you to tell this story?
A terrible need to overshare? I don't think I felt compelled. I'm usually just writing about what happens in my day in some form or another, and this is the way it came out.  

6. How long did you work on the story? How many drafts did you write?
A few drafts. One immediately following the events, and a few later on, when I had more perspective.  

7. Did you tell the people implicated in your story that you were writing/had written it? If so, how did they react?
I haven't spoken to anyone about this yet, though I will soon. 

8. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Pretty early, I think. In grade four, I wrote a story called "The Beaver Without Teeth". It was about a beaver who lost his teeth, and so he couldn't chop down trees. One day, he gets shot at by a hunter and whips around in surprise and knocks a tree down with his tail. I think the point was that we can always overcome any obstacle. Which is probably a stretch in the case of the beaver, but it's a nice sentiment. A bigger problem was that I illustrated it myself, and I’m the worst drawer in the world, so the beaver ended up looking a lot like a log. But overall, it was a good try. 

9. What other nonfiction writers inspire you?
Mary Karr. David Foster Wallace. David Sedaris. Mainly Mary Karr. Her trilogy of memoirs is probably one of the top five things I've ever read. 

10. How does it feel to be shortlisted for this prize?
Amazing. It’s always a great feeling when something you write resonates with another human being, be it a judge or my Mom. So I’m very happy someone liked it. 


Brendan McLeod is a writer and musician based out of Vancouver. He is the author of the novel, The Convictions of Leonard McKinley, and the play, The Big Oops. He is founding member of The Fugitives, a music group recently nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award. He is a former Canadian SLAM poetry champion and World SLAM runner-up. He teaches spoken word at Langara College. He's just finishing up his second novel. His website is www.brendanmcleod.ca.

Photo credit: Evil Patrick Shannon

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