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CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize

Patricia Webb: "I never impose boundaries on my writing"

Port Moody, BC-based writer Patricia Webb has a long and somewhat loaded history with the CBC Literary Prizes. She was long-listed for the CBC Poetry Prize in 1998... and then dropped out of the writing community entirely and stopped trying to get published. But she never stopped writing. Sixteen years later, Patricia is a finalist for the 2014 CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize for "Second Time Around," an unflinching look at the toll a repeat diagnosis takes on a relationship. We caught up with Patricia to discuss that "hallelujah" moment when you finish a piece of writing and the map she's currently using when she loses her way.

What inspired you to tell this story?
It floated up to the surface one day while I was reading my journal. 

Was writing it healing in some way? How did you feel after writing it?
Healing is a complicated word. On some level, it seems to imply that I was sick. But if you’re asking, was it a rich experience? The answer is yes. The answer is almost always yes.

As for my feelings, it’s a bit of halleluiah moment whenever I finish anything. It’s even more momentous if I re-read the story later and find I still like it.                 

What made you decide to tell it this way, jumping back and forth through time?
To work the medical data in smoothly (there was a lot at first) I had to give myself free reign with the dates. I noticed that this non-linear approach had a jarring effect and I began playing around, manipulating the flow of years to adjust the tension in the story. I was hoping, in some small way to replicate, for the reader, the experience of living with recurrent cancer.    
What is the power of creative nonfiction? 
I want to say, the creation of a new and shared memory, but only because at the moment I think it sounds pretty snappy. I’ll probably regret this.      
What other things do you write?
I never impose boundaries on my writing.    
What was one book that hugely influenced your life? How?
Lately, Breathing the Page by Betsy Warland. It’s a pared down, Zen-like volume, almost a meditation in places. Betsy prompts you to think about who you are as a writer, and your relationship to the page. They’re good questions to ask. The ever-changing answers have helped me better understand my process. The writing techniques contained in the core of the book have changed the way I approach my work, especially when I get stuck, or lose my way. 

Photo credit: Peter Hilborne

Patricia Webb is a writer, poet and artist. She lives in Port Moody with her husband, artist Peter Hilborne. She is currently re-writing her first novel, working on a collection of short stories, a children’s book, and a poetry manuscript.  


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