Books

Jen Sookfong Lee gives you 5 good reasons for entering the CBC Literary Prizes

Former juror Jen Sookfong Lee gives you five reasons you should enter the CBC Literary Prizes.
Jen Sookfong Lee is the author of the novel The Conjoined. (Sherri Koop Photography )

Jen Sookfong Lee, author of The Conjoined and a juror for the 2017 CBC Short Story Prize, gives us 5 reasons why entering the CBC Literary Prizes is a good idea.

1. Motivation

Jen says: "When you're an aspiring writer and don't have a long publishing history, you probably don't have a publisher or an agent asking you for your next work. Theoretically, you could be rewriting the same story over and over again because there is no deadline to meet to finish it! Having a submission goal can be really motivating."

2. Build on your skills

Jen says: "The submission process, getting something ready for submission, writing to a deadline, these are all things that can be learned. This is not something you're born with, but they are very achievable goals. The skills learned when preparing a piece for submission are very valuable and you will use them over and over as your writing career continues."

3. Focus your story

Jen says: "You are looking at one event, one exchange of dialogue, maybe only one love scene. You're only focusing on one narrative arc and if you're really focused on that, you can do it! I compare it to when you run into a random person in a coffee shop and have that five minute conversation, but it's the best conversation of your life; this is what these short stories can be."

4. It's Cathartic 

Jen says: "You have the possibility of making something that feels very complete and is as perfect as you can make it. When you're looking at a novel (typically novels are 100,000 words), there's a certain amount of mess, of circling around, and there's none of that with the short story. It's a really kind of cleansing, detoxifying experience to have to shave all the rest of that stuff away and make something that is like a little jewel box of fiction."

5. Entries are anonymous

Jen says: "Because with the CBC Literary Prizes, the submissions are anonymous by the time they get to the jurors, we don't know who you are, don't know what your resume is, and that's a really nice level playing field: no nepotism!"

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