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CBC Short Story Prize winner on the writing residency of her dreams

Becky Blake won the CBC Short Story Prize in 2013 for "The Three Times Rule." As part of her prize she received a writing residency at The Banff Centre—a breathtakingly ideal setting for creation and collaboration. She lets us know about her time there.


The Banff Centre in winter. Magical. Upon my arrival, there were exclamation marks in the sky. I took so many pictures that day that when I looked at them together they seemed to form a flipbook. The storyline? An elk on a far-off mountaintop striving to reach the summit and then disappearing over the crest. 

For a city girl like me, adapting to life in a national park was daunting at first. A laminated poster in my writing cottage warned about possible bear and cougar attacks. “With a bear, play dead. With a cougar, fight back.” What if I mixed up these rules? For a couple of nervous days, I was distracted by any nearby motion. Then, I started to relax. The only animal I’d seen at close range was a weasel. 

“More likely a pine marten,” a local said. 

A pine marten? I’d never even heard of that. 

Walking to and from my writing cottage daily, I marvelled at the stately mountains hemming in my journey. Surrounded by so much quiet beauty, I soon discovered I could write for longer and longer each day. At night, I dined with musicians, puppeteers and filmmakers. One composer I met described starting a piece of music in medias res, dropping the listener suddenly into the centre of a melody. I told him this was exactly how I liked to begin my short stories, and we both went away and thought about this connection between our work.

My stay at The Banff Centre made me realize that, as a writer, I’m part of a larger family of artists. It was a productive and inspiring two weeks—an experience decorated with exclamation marks from start to finish. 

Photos courtesy of Becky Blake.

You too could win a writing residency at The Banff Centre. To find out more, or to submit your own short story, click here



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