5 things you should expect when writing short stories, according to Eden Robinson

The Son of a Trickster author and 2018 CBC Short Story Prize juror tells you to expect the unexpected when writing.
Eden Robinson is a juror for the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize. (Chris Young)

Eden Robinson's latest book, Son of a Trickster, is a finalist for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Son of a Trickster is a fantastical coming-of-age story about a teenage burnout visited by strange apparitions, and was recently defended by Anishinaabe comedian Ryan McMahon on Turtle Island Reads. Her first novel, Monkey Beach, was shortlisted for a Governor General's Literary Award and Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2000.

Robinson is serving as a jury member for the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize, alongside Heather O'Neill and Kevin Hardcastle. Together, they will determine the winner, who will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their story published on CBC Books, and have the opportunity to attend a 10-day writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

For all those already hard at work on a 2018 CBC Short Story Prize submission, Robinson shares five things about expecting the unexpected. 

1. You're going to make a mess

Eden says: "I have a very yappy muse. When I was writing Son of a Trickster — which began as a short story — I thought, 'I'll just overwrite and trim it back when I come to the final draft.' I let it run wild, let my muse friend run along anywhere it wanted to go. It's what I usually do for my first drafts, they're usually quite messy."

2. You'll try lots of different things

Eden says: "I tried a number of different narrators when writing Son of a Trickster. When I landed on Jared, he just had so much heart. The more I wrote him into the story, the more I wanted to learn about him. And so, my 10-page short story became a 50-page novella and by the time it hit 100, I thought, 'You know, this might be a novel.'" 

3. You'll be scared — but you should do it anyway

Eden says: "Sending your work out is scary. It is scary for all of us. Especially in the beginning, when you are not used to rejection or criticism. I spent a lot of time being rejected by different literary journals. Then, the next short story I entered into a fiction contest won!"

4. You'll learn to make word limits a strength

Eden says: "Short stories are amazingly succinct. You can be lyrical, you can have muscular prose, but what stands out is the artist's vision of their world — how deeply and how much you can get into it given the constraints of the word count." 

5. You'll find a friend in deadlines

Eden says: "Deadlines are fantastic! They are your friend. You have until Oct. 31 to submit to the CBC Short Story Prize. It doesn't seem like a lot of time, but it is doable. You can do this!"

Eden Robinson's comments have been edited and condensed. 

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