CBCBooks on  Twitter CBCBooks on Facebook

CBC Short Story Prize

CBC Short Story Prize: Barry Webster, Elisabeth de Mariaffi and Richard Van Camp

Reading hundreds of stories in a short period of time is not an easy task, but it’s one we at Canada Writes and the CBC Literary Prizes regularly ask Canadian writers to do. This year 12 writers were called upon to use their reading skills and put together the longlist for the CBC Short Story Prize

Here is the second of four posts introducing them. They will share with us why certain stories resonated with them, and let us in on some of the best writing advice they've ever received. 

Barry Webster 

Tell us about yourself. 
For years I wrote short stories for magazines, and then my first collection The Sound of All Flesh was published in 2005. After that, I stopped writing short fiction and concentrated only on novel-writing. I still enjoy reading short stories; oddly I think I am one of the few who prefer reading short story collections to novels. My first novel, The Lava in My Bones, was published in 2012 and, like a story collection, it makes use of multiple narrators and various points of view. 

Can you describe a couple of the longlisted stories that struck you as standouts?
“Scorpion Tattoo” has such a momentum and force running all the way through it. The story feels so urgent and compelled, like the relentless power of the Niagara River whose presence is felt throughout the story and becomes a major player at the end. “Lot Nine” is wonderfully complex. The story has a number of different tones or moods. The comic scenes about the minute details of an art auction alternate with poignant images of a long-dead parent and her mysterious lover. The writer segues back and forth seamlessly.  

What are you working on now? 
I tend to work on more than one thing at a time, usually contrasting projects. The Lava in My Bones was a fable-like magic-realist novel and while working on it, I was also writing a realistic historical novel about the fall of the Berlin Wall. I am still working on that project but have also started a novel about music and how it shapes human identity. I find working on contrasting projects keeps me inspired.
What is the best writing advice you've ever received?
In 1992, I met with a well-known Canadian poet who read my work and was very enthusiastic. I was starting to send stories to magazines and he said to remember that “The nature of all arts is NO.” What he meant was that rejection is part of the game for all artists, no matter who they are or what they are doing. You can’t please everyone all the time. You just have to expect to get some flak now and again.

Photo credit: Maxime Tremblay

Elisabeth de Mariaffi

Tell us about yourself. 
I grew up in Toronto, but moved to St. John's, NL, in 2012—although I'm writing this from a hotel room in Vancouver. Makes me sound pretty Canadian. 

Can you describe a couple of the longlisted stories that struck you as standouts? 
I really loved the voice in "Nous and Réné Levesque"—the speaker is a grade-school girl and the author really hit the right combination of faux-worldliness and a kind of earnest lack-of-comprehension about how adults interact. 

What are you working on now? 
I have a novel coming out in early 2015, so I'm doing some revisions on that right now. The Devil You Know is set in Toronto at the moment of Paul Bernardo's 1993 arrest—something that rings too close to home for rookie reporter Evie Jones. I grew up in Toronto in the late 80s and early 90s, so I've had to kind of cast myself back in time to remember what that was like. 

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
My thesis advisor in poetry was the incomparable Dionne Brand, and her advice to me then was: Just say what you're going to say. I think it's sound advice. Don't complicate things. Tell the story. 

Photo credit: Ayelet Tsabari

Richard Van Camp

Tell us about yourself. 
I'm the luckiest man in the world: I get to write the stories of my dreams and I am now at a stage in my career where I get to help others with their writing. I love it!

Can you describe a couple of the longlisted stories that struck you as standouts? 
"The Hyena" amazed me with where it took me right away. I think about that story every single day now. “You and Me on a Boat and You're Smiling” left me in tears. “The Conservatory” was just so crafted with something more than words. All of these were spells that I never wanted to leave. 

What are you working on now? 
I'm working on four new books: a new collection of short stories, two graphic novels and a biography. I'm also working on seven new movie projects in various stages of development. All I need is seven million dollars and I can get these seven projects with seven amazing directors going.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Lee Maracle told me in 1992 that the best part of fiction is you get to do what you would never dare dream of doing in your real life with your writing. You can find what's been stolen and you can fix what's been broken. I'm grateful to Lee Maracle because that's exactly what I do every day when I write. Mahsi cho! Thank you very much!

Photo credit: Mark Mushet

The shortlist for the 2014 CBC Short Story Prize will be announced on March 10. To see which stories made the longlist, click here >>


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.

set count down final date: 11/01/2014
set count up final date: 11/01/2014
show ENTER NOW menu 0