CBC Literary Prizes

Fantastic fungi and where to find them by Oleksandra Budna

Oleksandra Budna has made the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Fantastic fungi and where to find them.

2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist

Oleksandra Budna is a writer who lives in Toronto. (Maksym Voznyy)

Oleksandra Budna has made the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Fantastic fungi and where to find them.

The winner will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and will have their work published by CBC Books.

Four finalists will receive $1,000 from  Canada Council for the Arts and will have their work published by CBC Books.

The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 24. The winner will be announced on Oct. 1.

About Oleksandra

Oleksandra Budna grew up in Ukraine. She now lives in Toronto and works as a communications professional for a social justice and health equity organization. When she moved to Canada 17 years ago, she brought with her memories of childhood summers spent with her grandparents, hikes in the Carpathian Mountains and gurgling waters of the Prut River that ran through her hometown of Chernivtsi. Love of nature continues to drive her outdoor pursuits as she explores Killarney's La Cloche Mountains and Algonquin's lakes, on foot and in a canoe, trying to capture their beauty in pictures and words. 

Entry in five-ish words

"Exploring connections to nature, family, myself."

The story's source of inspiration

"We spend a lot of time hiking through the woods of Ontario. These trips always bring memories of wandering through the forest behind my grandparents' house foraging for berries and mushrooms. They also remind me of my grandfather who was an important but, in many ways, mysterious presence in my childhood. His death two years ago made me realize how little I knew about him, yet he shaped my life in a profound way, sparkling a lifelong love of nature and penchant for wandering through woods and mountains, often by myself. This essay was an opportunity to explore my connection to my grandfather and the outdoors through a mysterious world of mushrooms." 

First lines

The mushroom stall at the farmers' market smells of last year's leaves and childhood. Rows of neatly arranged containers are filled with sturdy creminis, portobellos with their oversized caps, delicate grooved petals of oyster mushrooms, speckled cinnamon caps on spindly legs, chanterelles resembling crumpled orange flowers, porous white lumps of lion's mane.

I take in this beautiful sight while an overly enthusiastic vendor lists the names in his singsong voice. For effect, he punctuates his speech with sweeping motions across the table like a sales assistant on a shopping channel. I wait for him to finish, then reach for what looks like a head of cabbage with loose, grayish leaves: "What about this one?"

I haven't seen one of these since I was a kid, when on Sunday mornings my grandfather returned from his mushroom foraging expeditions and spread the bounty on the table. Usually, the fare was familiar: russulas, orange birch boletes, chanterelles, honey mushrooms, porcini if he was lucky. Occasionally, there was an alien, non-mushroom looking shape. 

About the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize

The winner of the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity. Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.

The 2021 CBC Short Story Prize is currently open for submissions. The 2021 CBC Nonfiction Prize will open in January. The 2021 CBC Poetry Prize will open in April.

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