CBC Literary Prizes

What can you get out of a writing retreat? 2016 CBC Nonfiction Prize winner Leslie A. Davidson explains

Leslie A. Davidson talks about her writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
Leslie A. Davidson won the 2016 CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize for Adaptation. (Sarah Mickel)

In 2016, Leslie A. Davidson won the CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize for Adaptation. As the winner she received $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts. She also received a 10-day writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity which she completed the following year.

CBC Books talked to Davidson about the Banff residency. 

1. It's a defining moment

"I've even been very reluctant to identify myself as a writer until now. As I walked to my studio, there was a sign saying, 'No visitors beyond this point.' I thought, 'Oh my goodness!'  It felt a bit like I was here under false pretenses. But no, I really am doing this. Being able to go off and do a 'writerly thing,' where you're in the company of other writers, is supportive and empowering. It's a way of acknowledging the work that we're all trying to do wherever we are in in that and however we define ourselves."

2. It's a chance to build community

"A retreat is one of the few opportunities we get to let down the guard a little bit. I didn't have a community of writers, having always lived in small towns. At lunch, there were writers with the Writers' Guild of Alberta. There were people of all varying degrees or at varying places in their career — young and successful, older like me and just beginning, and the range in between. Everybody's so committed and working so hard."

3. It gives you time to write

"It is an un-conflicted time to devote yourself to your writing. That was what I went for. Having been given such an incredible space to go is such an honouring gift. You leave your room, walk over to the studio and there is the space, you and the view — which was the big distraction. But it's quiet and that's what it's for. Even if all I did was was make notes and ponder time, I did more work in 10 days than I probably do in months."

4. You'll come home inspired

"My visit to Banff let me recommit to trying to carve out pieces of time in my life for writing. I came home thinking, 'How do I do that at home?' It's so easy for the writing time to slip away. But I came home with a project that I now think is possible. That was the big deal from Banff."

Leslie A. Davidson's comments have been edited and condensed.

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