Canada Writes·Writing Tip

Not sure how to write your life story? Start with the small stuff

Entering the CBC Nonfiction Prize? We got writing advice from Canada Reads 2020 finalist Jesse Thistle.
Jesse Thistle is the author of From the Ashes. (CBC)

The 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize is open for submissions. You can submit your original, unpublished writing up to 2,000 words for a chance to win $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and have your work published on CBC Books. The deadline to enter is Feb. 29, 2020.

To inspire and support you along the way, we are publishing a writing tip each week on CBC Books. You can also subscribe to our writing tips newsletter for even more tips.

This week's tip is from Jesse Thistle, author of the memoir From the Ashes. From the Ashes will be defended by George Canyon on Canada Reads 2020.

"Do it in small fragments. If you have an emotion from a song that you remember from when you were 17, just write it down. Even if it's a couple of lines or a poem or the way that your wife hugs you or the smell of your grandmother. The sound that cigarettes make when someone pulls on them.

We're just these small fragments of time and emotion and experience. Your larger narrative will come out if you do that.- Jesse Thistle

"Write it all down, because that's your experience. It'll make sense if you collect enough of these small fragments of your life. Because that's all we are, really. We're just these small fragments of time and emotion and experience. Your larger narrative will come out if you do that."

Jesse Thistle is Métis-Cree, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He is an assistant professor in Métis Studies at York University in Toronto. He won a Governor General's Academic Medal in 2016 and is a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation Scholar and a Vanier Scholar. Thistle's first book is called From the Ashes

Canada Reads will take place March 16-19, 2020 and will be hosted by Ali Hassan. The debates will be broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC Gem and on CBC Books

The Canada Reads 2020 contenders


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