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CBC Short Story Prize

CBC Short Story Prize: Chad Pelley, Shashi Bhat and Thomas Wharton

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 final 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. 

Chad Pelley

Tell us about yourself. 
I used to lead a normal life, until 2014 started. Now I run The Overcast: Newfoundland’s Arts & Culture Newspaper. I've spent fourteen hours a day for the last three months setting this business up, and now, running it. It’s a ton of fun though, and very rewarding work. Issue one is on stands now, and we’re hard at work on issue two. 

If I get a break from the paper, I'm still chained to my computer, writing fiction or recording some new songs. All this makes me sound either very dull, or very ambitious, but I'm neither of those things. I'm just really passionate about writing, and promoting the work of others.

What are you working on now? 
I've just finished tweaks on a collection of short stories, called Four-letter Words. Every story features someone longing for something they’ll never have again. Some are funny, some are sad, some are weird. 

Also, I'm halfway finished a new novel, called Cold Wind Blowing, about a recently divorced man whose son goes missing, as a massive snowstorm cripples a small town in Newfoundland.  With the storm raging, the police can’t help him find his son. This storm may or may not end in time for the town to stay calm and not turn on each other. All that drama is only for the sake of a story, at its core it’s a novel about what makes relationships tick and tock.

What is the best writing advice you've ever received?
The only reason to write fiction is because you want to write fiction. There is no other good reason. If you want money, get a very boring job, if you want to change the world, go into politics, if you want fame, try any of the arts other than literature. But if you want to write fiction, write fiction. There’s really nothing else in the world I've encountered that’s half as life-affirming as writing a novel.

Photo credit: Joel Upshall

Shashi Bhat

Tell us about yourself. 
I live in Halifax, where I write and teach fiction writing at Dalhousie University. I have a cat named Zelda, after Zelda Fitzgerald, because both are beautiful and a little crazy.

Can you describe a couple of the entries that struck you as standouts? 
Jumbo was one of my favourites. The language is skillful and has an impressive authority to it. It uses the second person perspective without self-consciousness. The anthropomorphizing of the elephant just got me.

Snap, another favourite, is intelligent, profound, precisely worded, compressed and complex. It has beautiful rhythms that give it an ease on the page. It would be a nice one to hear aloud. 

What are you working on now? 
Currently I’m working on a series of magical realistic short stories. One is about a giant who works in the library. He whispers and tiptoes to avoid disrupting the library quiet, until one day, when he gets trapped in the elevator. I want these stories to be quick and light and a bit strange.

What is the best writing advice you've ever received?
Recently I came across a quote attributed to Chekhov, that I think just says everything about good writing: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass

Thomas Wharton

Tell us about yourself. 
I was born in Alberta and have lived here all my life. My first novel, Icefields, won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book, Canada/Caribbean division. My second novel, Salamander, was short-listed for the Governor-General’s Literary Award and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. My collection of short fiction, The Logogryph, published in 2004 by Gaspereau Press, won the Howard O’Hagan Prize at the Alberta Book Awards, and was shortlisted for the IMPAC-Dublin Prize. My most recent book is The Tree of Story, the third of a fantasy trilogy for younger readers called The Perilous Realm.

Can you describe a couple of the entries that struck you as standouts?
Stories like "A Kind of Prayer" and "Longshot" stood out for me primarily because of a compelling, believable, individual voice. I was drawn in and immediately convinced by the voice of the story's narrator, someone who clearly had something important to tell me.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
“Put into a story everything you know, not everything you can think of.” Advice from one of my writing teachers, Rudy Wiebe.

Photo credit: Sharon Wharton

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


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