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Awards alumni reflect on their time at The Banff Centre

The pot was pretty sweet even before the latest prize was added, but the writing residency at The Banff Centre definitely put the CBC Literary Prizes over the top. The prize offers a writer exactly what he or she needs—uninterrupted time to work on their writing in a stimulating environment.

We thought we would check in with some former winners to see what they worked on during their time in the woods and to give further insight into what awaits our prize winners.

Winner of the 2012 CBC Poetry Prize for “Great Aunt Unmarried

"The residency at the Banff Center was, for me, a very memorable and rewarding element of the CBC prize. First of all, the mountains are overwhelmingly beautiful. My studio happened to be the old fishing vessel, Elsie K—it was a strange and wonderful thing to write for hours in this boat among the spruce. What I hadn't expected was the depth of conversations with other artists (including writers)—in hearing about dance, painting and composition, I felt like I was re-grasping the limits and possibilities of writing. The novel that I worked on includes a character who draws, and the library has a wonderful collection on the subject. I'm still working with ideas and impressions from that period."

Winner of the 2012 CBC Short Story Prize for “Mine

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"My CBC Canada Writes residency in Banff was a huge privilege. For two weeks I was spoiled. Spoiled for choices of where to do my writing—my beautiful hotel room, my seashell-shaped private studio in the woods, the Banff Centre cafe with its excellent coffee and stunning mountain views—spoiled for beguiling natural sights and sounds and tastes, spoiled for engaging company. I got lots of work done there, including final edits to my debut poetry collection and a new draft of a play that premiered in Vancouver in the winter, but maybe most valuable of all was the chance to meet exceptional artists from around the world. One friendship begun in Banff, with the terrific young British poet Helen Mort, has continued here in London, England, where I recently read some of my poems at the launch of a magazine that Helen co-edited. I also befriended several elk in Banff, friendships that I'm confident will continue for many years to come."

Winner of the 2012 CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize for “Holy Bald-Headed

"My two-week residency was an amazing gift and a beautiful, surreal experience. My cabin work space was beautiful. Forest light through cathedral windows created a gorgeous space for quiet focus. I was able to write what I knew would be the most difficult chapter of my novel, and untangle some structural knots as well. The Banff Centre is like a whole other planet. A misty, peaceful planet of mountains where time and space expand and benevolent aliens take care of you.  I was worried that I’d go crazy like The Shining all alone in the woods, but the Centre provides breaks from work and solitude—free dance and yoga classes, orchestra performances, and delicious food. 

"In town, there are giant glittering geodes, crazy candy stores, elk pizza, a fortune telling Zoltar machine, and the preserved skeleton of the famous Lake Superior Merman. In the magical Disney forest outside my window, I had visits from magpies, pine martins, and a family of deer. 

"It is always hard to find time for our writing, art and music. We grab tiny pieces of time and watch it vanish and wonder where it went. But The Banff Centre is an enchanted fortress where time expands extravagantly. You can melt inside it and write for hours and look up at the sky as the mountain weather transforms—Rain, sun, mist, clouds, lightning, hail, rain, sun. An entire season in one day, and all the time in the world."


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