Fergus author Anastasia McEwen 'over the moon' to make CBC Nonfiction Prize short list

Anastasia McEwen of Fergus has been named one of five authors named to the 2018 CBC Nonfiction short list.

Story recalls day she learned her brother had died

Fergus author Anastasia McEwen has made the short list for the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

Anastasia McEwen was so excited to tell her husband she was named a finalist in the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize, she sped home from cat sitting for a friend and earned a $250 speeding ticket.

"I was still so happy," she said even after receiving the ticket, although she noted it was a good chunk of the $1,000 prize she won for making the top five in the national competition. She is the only Ontario writer on the short list.

McEwen, a high school teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes in Guelph, learned a week earlier she had made the long list for the prize and said she was shocked. She had entered the contest just before the deadline.

"I was over the moon. I was lying in bed, it was late at night, and I was just looking at the ceiling smiling, almost laughing, I was just so happy," she said.

The story is called Acceleration, about the day she learned her brother died. She wanted to show what it's like to be a normal 15-year-old girl who receives tragic news and then has to deal with the feelings and stages she went through.

McEwen usually writes fiction. But, "I found this story kept bubbling to the surface every time I started writing and I thought, you know what, I should just get it out."

The story initially was twice as long, and was cut down for the contest. It took about two years to reach the point it is at, although McEwen admitted if she had the chance, she'd still change parts of it.

"I feel my work is never done," she said. "Every time I read one of my stories, I always find at least one or two sentences that I could change."

The winner of the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize will be announced on Tuesday.

Listen to McEwen's interview on The Morning Edition: