Books

6 lessons David Bergen has learned from 25 years writing fiction

The 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist reflects on what he's learned over the course of his career.
David Bergen accepts the Writers' Trust Matt Cohen Award on Nov. 7, 2018. (Writers' Trust of Canada/Tom Sandler)

David Bergen is on the shortlist for the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his short story collection Here the Dark.

In Here the Dark, Bergen delivers short stories that interweave across space, exploring faith, loss and complex moral ambiguities. From Danang, Vietnam, to Honduras and the Canadian Prairies, the book collects narratives about place and heart. Here the Dark includes the story that won the 1999 CBC Short Story PrizeHow can men share a bottle of vodka.

In 2018, Bergen received the Writers' Trust Matt Cohen Award, a $25,000 award that recognizes a writer for their dedication to pursuing writing as their sole profession. When accepting the award, Bergen outlined the lessons he has learned from spending 25 years working as a writer.

Here's an excerpt from his speech.


1. Find a good first reader who won't put up with any bullshit. I found that in [my wife] Mary, with whom I have lived for 40 years.

2. Don't take anything for granted.

3. Always be thankful for that moment when a story lands and the back of your head tingles and you know that you have caught something and you pray that it will flourish.

4. Know that this might never happen again.

5. You're never as good, or as bad, as people say you are.

6. Writing is play, and play is the path to the inner world.


Following his win Bergen spoke with the host of CBC Winnipeg's Marcy Markusa about the award and his decorated literary career.

Author David Bergen speaks with CBC Manitoba's Marcy Markusa about his Writers' Trust Matt Cohen Award win.

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