CBC Literary Prizes

Birds, More Birds, Cats, and the Birth of Soul by Kati Sidwall

Kati Sidwall has made the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Birds, More Birds, Cats, and the Birth of Soul.

2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist

Kati Sidwall is based in Winnipeg, Man., where she spends her time performing and writing. (Cyprian Peters)

Kati Sidwall has made the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Birds, More Birds, Cats, and the Birth of Soul.

About Kati

Kati Sidwall received her Bachelor of engineering from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ont., where she managed the faculty's student newspaper and founded a musical theatre group for engineering students. She is now based in Winnipeg, Man., where she spends her time performing, writing and playing Dungeons & Dragons (the latter being an odd combination of the two former). Her position at a technology company takes her around the world, but she is happiest on the Prairies — particularly on the farmland of Manitoba's Interlake.

Entry in five-ish words

Anticipatory grieving through patchwork memories.

The story's source of inspiration

"My family was saddened but not shocked when my mom was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease; she was a long-time smoker and her own father had died of complications of the same. For me, the shock came later when I realized that, like healing, suffering is not always linear. As her quality of life worsened faster than seemed possible, we were teased with the occasional string of better days. This dying process seemed wicked in its design — engineered to showcase everything our family had to lose through juxtaposition. This piece has been a way for me to softly focus on these better days in the context of a challenging bigger picture, and to understand the mix.

"Today, my family continues to navigate the waters of this disease. Like a swamp, this water is dark and low in oxygen, but clings to a strange type of life. For my mom, this new type of life has significantly fewer blues concerts, more cats and probably the same quantity of birds. For me, writing has been a massively important part of living this new experience. This particular piece has shown me how effective nonfiction writing can be as a tool for reflection, release and revival. I hope it also paints some semblance of a picture of my mom, who is truly stranger than fiction."

First lines

"Four crows are eating lasagna on the roof of my parents' garage. I'm on the boulevard beside my childhood home on Garwood Avenue, where I lived for 18 years. The garage houses one car, a Triumph Rocket III touring motorcycle, and a lifetime of tools, folded furniture, and lawn games. The northwestern corner of the garage was sacrificed in 1996 for a large built-in playhouse, accessible from the outside. The playhouse has two levels — a penthouse intended for reading Roald Dahl and looking out over the yard, and a main floor for club meetings. In those days, the garage's front façade had been a colourful mural of rainbows and flowers. Now it matches the house, a creamy yellow, and the playhouse has been repurposed as a winter shelter for small creatures passing through the neighbourhood. It's still autumn, so it's not yet cold enough for my mom to lay out the sheepskins for the wandering cats, but the crows are out training their young. And so, as I walk from my car toward the gate, my mom stands on the steps with her arms flailing, and pieces of lasagna travel in a glorious arc from the back porch of the house onto the garage roof."

About the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize

The winner of the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, will have their story published on CBC Books and will have the opportunity to attend a writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their story published on CBC Books.

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