Reviving the dead and finding closure: Hamilton writer's short story longlisted for prize
'It’s quite a long game, the writing game that we play'
A figure makes their way through an all-white hallway, the wooden floor creaking beneath them with every step, as they approach a harsh spillage of light that begins to envelop and swallow their body.
And then a hand firmly grabs hold of the figure's arm, pulling them back to safety from the hungry light.
It's the hand of Amy, the main character in Hamilton writer Amanda Leduc's short story, All This, and Heaven Too. It's one of 31 stories longlisted for the CBC Short Story Prize.
Amy possesses an impressive ability, which Leduc defines as a "superpower" — she can bring the recently deceased back to life, just by touching their hand.
That touch leads her to the white hallway, a familiar visualization of death, where she coaxes the not-yet-departed spirit to return to the living world.
The story is centred around themes of forgiveness, magic, and bullying — Leduc drew from her own experiences of being picked on as a child.
The long haul
Writing has been a life-long effort for Leduc. She's now 36-years-old, but can still clearly recall her aspirations as a five-year-old to become a writer of novels.
"It's quite a long game, the writing game that we play," she said.
That initial desire as a child eventually led her to the University of Victoria, where she completed her undergraduate degree in creative writing. She later undertook a master's of creative writing in Scotland.
Leduc was born and raised in Hamilton. After spending a significant amount of time away from the city, she's glad to be back. She's formed a circle of book-lovers and fellow writers to share stories and help develop each other's writing.
Hamilton writers tend to be friendly, optimistic about each other's work, and very supportive, Leduc said.
All This, and Heaven Too was born during her days as a master's student. It began as a much longer piece, but Leduc began to condense it over time as she was "unable to find a home" for it in any publications.
So she kept it in her back pocket for seven years.
Putting feelings to paper
After receiving word that the story had been longlisted for the CBC Books Short Story Prize, Leduc felt a certain sense of closure — a feeling also closely associated with her philosophy of writing as a whole.
"Writing can be very cathartic," she said, especially when able to apply a narrative structure to a significant moment in your past.
Leduc describes it as an "oddly technical way" to distance yourself from those feelings, which may have made you suffer for a long duration, and "move beyond them."
In her longlisted short story, Leduc meditates on her own thoughts and feelings of forgiveness and bullying to attempt closure.
Death may come
Throughout the story, main character Amy saves her cancer-struck grandmother, a stranger with a failing heart , and a fourteen-year-old skateboarder whose skull cracks on a sidewalk curb.
"You should wear a helmet," she suggests after reviving him.
Things change when Amy witnesses a devastating car crash and discovers one of the victims, who is severely injured and just barely clinging to life, is a former school-mate — one who often harshly bullied Amy.
The dying woman apologizes for her past behaviour and Amy struggles with the power she wields to save the woman, contemplating the idea of forgiveness.
"I wanted to explore what forgiveness could mean in a situation where someone might be reluctant to give it — and specifically, where that forgiveness might literally mean the difference between life and death," Leduc said.