How Becky Blake wrote the story that won the CBC Nonfiction Prize
As the winner of the 2017 CBC Nonfiction Prize, Blake receives $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, will get to attend a 10-day writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and will have her story published in Air Canada enRoute magazine.
In her own words, the Toronto native tells us how she wrote her winning story — which beat out 1,400 submissions to take home the grand prize.
For the food of love and vice versa
"A friend of mine gave me a writing prompt to write something about love and food. I immediately thought of my first love, because food was a big part of our relationship. I've always wanted to write something about him because he was really important to me. It was an unforgettable relationship. Even though I forgive my young self, I have always felt bad about breaking his trust. Writing this piece helped me understand why that might have been so important to him and it is is sort of an apology to him as well."
Hunger pains, memory pains
"The hardest thing to remember is the chronology. It gets lost over a long period of time but you always remember the intense moments. I was thinking about how first love is our first taste of many things, of becoming close to another person. I wanted to explore my memories including tastes of various food that we ate. When I started exploring that, I remembered all the jobs I had were cooking jobs and just how much literal hunger was present for both us, was part of our relationship. A lot of the sections of this piece are moments that I always remembered. I have always remembered him eating the potpourri in my parents' living room — that's an unforgettable image that I'll definitely remember for the rest of my life."
Finding freedom from fear
"Nonfiction scares me the most. It's the most revealing and the most important to get right. I'm very interested in how it affects the reader differently when they know something is true. The veracity of that somehow has the potential to have a different impact on the reader because they're imagining not just what it would be like, but it also goes a little deeper when the reader imagines what it would be like if it was truly happening to them. It's more risky, but I'm at an age where I care less about what people think. I want to set some things down that are important to me because you never know what's going to happen."
The write timing
"I need to be alone to write because I often read out loud to myself. I also like to write in the morning because I believe that when you approach your work with a clean slate your imagination is both stimulated by dreaming but also wiped clean of the previous day. If I have a lot of writing to do in one day, I will often have a nap part way through so I can trick myself into believing it is morning again."
Becky Blake's comments have been edited and condensed.