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Canada Writes Wants Your Creative Nonfiction


Get your creative writing juices flowing. Canada Writes, part of CBC Books, is looking for this year's best in creative nonfiction. The annual literary competition awards CBC's Creative Nonfiction Prize to the best submitted true story told through the use of literary techniques. These types of work include a personal essay, biography and memoir.

The winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize receives $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, publication of the story in Air Canada's enRoute magazine and the Canada Writes website, a two-week stay at The Banff Centre's Leighton Artists' Colony, plus time on CBC Radio.

There are also four runner-up prizes where each author will receive $1,000 from Canada Council for the Arts and publication on the Canada Writes website.

You can submit as many stories as you like, but each has to be between 1,200 and 1,500 words.

Last year, the Creative Nonfiction Prize went to Hilary Dean of Toronto. Here she is talking about her story:

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Take a look at an excerpt of Hilary's winning piece Holy Bald-Headed:

I am sitting in the back seat of my grandparents' car, holding a glass jar very tightly. Inside the jar is a humongous cicada; its beetle body is so pretty and green like melted emeralds. I hold onto it super carefully so my cicada won't get bashed all around, even though it's been dead forever and the science fair is over. I won second prize in the primary division and they gave me a blue ribbon and announced my name on the PA and now everyone thinks I am a genius. You can ask me anything about the life cycle of the cicada and I will tell you. I am an expert on it.

The back seat of this car is giant like a church bench and I'm sitting in the middle so I can hear my grandma talking and when she stops I will ask her for another candy mint. She has the exact kind like they give you at restaurants and there's like a million of them in her purse so I don't get why she's so stingy about them.

"You shouldn't eat too many candies, Hilary. You'll start to put on weight."

"She's tiny like a bird, Peg," says my pop. "Put on weight, holy bald-headed."

Pop doesn't talk very much when he drives; he is a serious driver. He is wearing his driving hat. But he listens to my grandma and he says mm-hm in the pauses and he reaches his arm backward and hands me the whole tin of mints.

My grandma turns her head to look at me sideways and she smiles at me. Her lipstick is called coral and the soap in her bathroom smells so good but you're not allowed to use it. It's just for smelling.

"We have a present for you!" she says, and I am hopeful but suspicious. Grandma's presents are sometimes weird, like one time at Christmas she gave me and my cousins these boxes wrapped up really pretty with giant silver bows and then inside they were empty and we were like, Why did you give us boxes of nothing, Grandma? And she said, This year, I'm giving you my love because I love you but you can't put love in a box! And we all had to say thank you and kiss her, even though she ruined Christmas.

My grandma hands me a little box and inside it is a beautiful, beautiful ring. The most perfect ring I have ever seen. It's a segment of a butterfly wing, blue and brown, under a clear glass dome that magnifies it. It's too big for me but I will wrap wads of cloth Band-Aids around the bottom until it fits. I will forget to take it off at Michelle's pool party and water will leak inside and turn the whole thing black and I will be devastated.

"Thank you, Grandma! Thank you, Pop!"

"Mm-hm. Mm-hm. You're welcome."

"You're a good girl," my grandma says. "You're a good girl and you're smart and you're pretty and your pop and I are very proud of you."

I am sixteen when my grandma dies and Pop becomes very sad and aimless without her. He spends his time visiting my dad at work and practising his putting but mostly he drives around and my parents worry about this.

"He's eighty-two," says my mom. "His reflexes aren't what they used to be."

"He did pass the eye test," says my dad, "but sometimes he gets the trembles in his hands. I'd just feel better about the whole thing if he wasn't driving anymore."

So get writing! You have until February 1, 2013 to enter. For all of the rules and regulations of CBC's Creative Nonfiction Prize, head to the Canada Writes website.



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