CBC Literary Prizes

Schizophrenia Is Not A Swear Word by Nicole Kennedy

Nicole Kennedy has made the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Schizophrenia Is Not A Swear Word.

2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist

Nicole Kennedy is a writer from Saskatoon. (Submitted by Nicole Kennedy)

Nicole Kennedy has made the 2020 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Schizophrenia Is Not A Swear Word.

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 the 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 Nicole

Nicole was born and raised in the small town of Luseland, Sask. She left her parents' farm and entered the big city world of Kelowna, B.C. to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. From a young age, her grandmother instilled a sense of artistry and creativity, which followed her to university. From university papers to poetry, Nicole writes it all. She also runs a small operation editing papers with her close friend. Nicole has the lived experience of schizophrenia, which was her source of inspiration for this piece.

Entry in five-ish words

"My voice above the stigma."

The story's source of inspiration

"Becoming a person with the lived experience of schizophrenia has shaped my perspective. Especially being that I was once a person without schizophrenia. This has helped to show me that stigma still exists and needs to be addressed. My inspiration comes from a frustration with the current perspectives and anecdotes about schizophrenia."

First lines

I am outside in the pouring rain with both hands on a giant cedar tree. I believe I am communicating with this tree. The tree is pleased to speak with me. I feel spirits moving around me. They are sending me messages, while I smell scents of sweet-grass and sage, which leads me to believe these spirits are blessing me.

How do you feel when I mention that I have schizophrenia? What are your first assumptions about me as a person? Many people initially respond with fear. Schizophrenia is rarely talked about, with voices kept low in a whisper when one dares to mention its name. I challenge you to say this word in public, in a conversation or to a friend and open the conversation about schizophrenia. It will be challenging for most to come to bare this word, as it carries such a heavy weight due to stigma.

Many extreme cases have found their way to the media, while villains in horror movies are shown to have a similar illness. All the violence that has been depicted to play a part in schizophrenia makes it controversial to talk about. But yet, I assure you, schizophrenia is not a swear word. It is my illness. 

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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