Books·How I Wrote It

How David Huebert turned winning a CBC Literary Prize into a stunning short story collection

The 2016 CBC Short Story Prize winner discusses how he wrote his debut short story collection, Peninsula Sinking.
In Peninsula Sinking, David Huebert brings readers an assortment of Maritimers caught between the places they love and the siren call of elsewhere. (Mike Kalimin/Biblioasis)

In 2016, David Huebert won the CBC Short Story Prize with the story Enigma. Boosted by that win, he went on to pen a collection of stories that appear in his short story collection Peninsula Sinking.

In his own words, Huebert takes CBC Books behind the scenes of his debut book.

East Coast connection

"​I was doing a mentorship with David Layton and he mentioned that the ocean is always ground zero in my work. I had no idea, and at that moment I realized that he was right. It kept coming up as a theme, and it kept being a point of climactic interaction between characters. I began thinking through Nova Scotia and the threat of climate change and severe weather — this idea of sinking and floating and feeling like the vulnerability of the ocean." 

Animal attraction

"I think animals are interesting, and a very compelling force in our imagination. There's a long history of literature that interacts very closely with animals. I think it has something to with the way that looking into the eyes of an animal can tug us beyond the constraints of human, every day, banal social interactions. There's a way that story does that, too. That's what I wanted to bring across in the stories —  all the different ways that interaction with non-human animals is an incredibly complex, diverse, weird and strange kind of interaction. There's all kinds of different roles that animals can play in our lives. There's always that kind of mystery of the non-human world, a compulsion of being drawn beyond familiar experience." 

Writing from a female perspective

"There's a challenge to writing the female perspective, but I think that that's why I gravitate towards doing it — I like to take on a challenge. I actually found that the farther I pushed myself away from my own autobiographical experience, the better my work got. I think the key, for me, is that you just think of the person as a person, and as a complex character.  When I'm sitting down to write that character I just try to imagine. I have a good network of fact checkers that I run these things by, to make sure."

Readers first

"Recently at a book launch somebody came up to me and said 'I read your book, loved it and here's three copies.' He wanted to give them to his nieces and nephews in Nova Scotia. To connect with readers that actually appreciate my work and to connect with a broader audience means the world to me. What more could you want than somebody to read your stuff and appreciate it?" 

David Huebert's comments have been edited and condensed.


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