Kitchener author Suzanne Carson on long list for CBC Short Story Prize

Kitchener author Suzanne Carson hasn't always been able to juggle work, life and writing. But she's refocused her efforts this year and now has been named to the long list for the CBC Short Story Prize.

Carson admits it's not always easy juggling work, life and writing

Kitchener author Suzanne Carson is also a familiar face to customers at Matter of Taste in downtown Kitchener. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

When you think of a writer, there may be a certain image that comes to mind …

It's a person sitting in their favourite coffee shop all day, typing away furiously on the keyboard of a laptop as their mind — fuelled by copious amounts of caffeine — spins tales that will win hearts, awards and — most importantly — book publishers.

In reality, Suzanne Carson does spend her days in a coffee shop, but it's not writing.

The Kitchener author is a familiar face to customers at Matter of Taste in downtown Kitchener, where she works.

But she's also a mom to two children and a freelance copy editor with plans to return to university this fall. She has to balance her work, life and writing.

That hasn't always been easy.

"I tried to get the ball rolling with all of this writing stuff about eight years ago and it just fell to nothing. I just didn't have the time — the kids were much younger," she said.

Listen to the whole interview with Suzanne Carson:

Focusing on writing

But within the last year, she resurrected a blog where she "practices" her writing and has really made a concentrated effort to write often.

She takes part in something called Sunday Photo Fiction. Each week, a new photo is posted to a blog and she has to write "flash fiction" — a story in 200 words — based on the image.

"There's a really neat community of people that do this every Sunday and we encourage each other, so that's a challenge that I make sure I do that every week," she said.

She has also cut down her work hours, spending two days a week just writing.

And yes, she often does that writing in a coffee shop or the library.

Suzanne Carson is a writer based in Kitchener, Ont. (Brent Bisaillion)

Story part of larger novel

The refocused efforts on writing has earned Carson a spot on the long list for the CBC Short Story Prize.

Her story, A Girl Named Saywa, is from a novel she's working on.

"It's sort of an excerpt, but adapted to be a short story," Carson said.

The story explores the idea of geography and how where you're born and who your parents can dictate your whole life.

The inspiration came from a dream and has snowballed.

"I was born somewhere else and I had a completely different family and a completely different story and so I was just inspired to think about that," she said.

'A very encouraging start'

She was pleased to learn she had made the long list.

"I was just at home, we had just finished supper and I got that email and I couldn't believe it. It was a real honour," she said, adding it's particularly special because she's just jumped back into writing.

"It's a very encouraging start for me."

Next cut: April 10

The short list for the Short Story Prize will be announced next Tuesday and the award winner revealed April 17.

The winner receives $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, they'll have their story published on CBC Books and they'll have the opportunity to attend a 10-day writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Four other finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their story published on CBC Books.


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