Literary Prizes·CBC Literary Prizes

How Leah Mol wrote the story that won the CBC Short Story Prize

The winner of the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize reveals how she wrote Lipstick Day.
Leah Mol is an author, proofreader and piano teacher in Toronto, Ont. (Ajay Mehra)

Leah Mol is the winner of the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize for Lipstick Day. As the winner, Mol will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and a 10-day writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Her story was published on CBC Booksyou can read it here.

In Lipstick Day, Mol reveals what happens when the rush of hormones, peer pressure and teen spirit collide.

In her own words, the Toronto-based writer discusses how she wrote her winning story.

Exploring adolescence 

"The change that happens between childhood and adolescence and becoming an adult is difficult to describe. I don't think anyone — as you're going through it — really understands that any change has happened. That's why I try to bring in the idea that these are still children, but they're dealing with these huge topics that they can't control.

"I want characters people can empathize with. But I try to make my characters as real as I possibly can. I don't want characters who are perfect, who know everything and who are likable in a lot of ways. I think everybody can see themselves in someone who's struggling and feels stuck."

A weekend writer

"I tend to be a morning writer. I am not prolific. I don't write very much and I tend to write in spurts. I don't usually write during the week because of work. I try to write for a while on weekends. I go to a writers group on Sundays and we just sit for a couple of hours, write and don't talk. In the group, we sit quietly and do our own thing for two hours. That's always a good way to be productive because you feel like you have to be there and get something done."

Keep a winning attitude

"I submitted to the CBC Short Story Prize once before at the age of 18. Looking back now, I don't think I was a terrible writer then but I had no idea what I was doing. I hadn't written the story for the prize, it was just something that I thought was great. I think it's important to keep sending your stuff out, especially because it totally depends on who's reading it. Getting rejected doesn't mean it's not good, it just means it's probably not a good fit.

"This time, I wrote a piece specifically for the prize. When I saw the names of the judges, I thought I might have a chance because I love them so much and maybe they'd also somehow connect with my style. It worked."

Leah Mol's comments have been edited and condensed.