Toronto's Becky Blake wins CBC Short Story prize

Becky Blake, a Toronto writer who is working on her first novel, has won the CBC Short Story Prize.

'The story is about how difficult it is to make a connection'

Becky Blake, a Toronto writer who is working on her first novel, has won the CBC Short Story Prize.

Her winning short story The Three Times Rule plunges readers into an encounter between a woman and her new lover with clear signs that the relationship is not going to work out.

Becky Blake of Toronto has won the CBC Short Story Prize. (Ayelet Tsabari)

"Really the story is about how difficult it is to make a connection. Part of the reason it’s so difficult is that we all have these things going on inside of us that are very difficult to communicate to each other,"  Blake said.

Born in Kitchener, Ont., Blake is  a graduate of the M.F.A. program at the University of Guelph. She  said she first started the story in her 20s and has rewritten it numerous times over the last 12 years.

"I think I was dating a few guys in my 20s that were vaguely disappointing. You kind of want to make a connection with people and it just wasn’t working and I think the character in the story is sort of an amalgam of those guys," she said, though she warns the story is not autobiographical.

A lover of short stories, she admires a stripped-down style that plunges the reader into the middle of a situation and leaves him or her to fill in the blanks.

Blake said she workshopped The Three Times Rule with friends in an effort to achieve that kind of spare style and still have the story be a coherent whole.

"I was trying to see what the bare minimum would be for telling a story with the minimum amount of words I could use. I always like to just jump into a middle of the scene," she said.

Blake has worked as a journalist, specializing in travel writing, an advice columnist, as an actor and a playwright for the one-woman show, Rocky Sucks Rocks. She also wrote some of the script for her sister’s film about a dancing couple of the 1920s, Derby and Groma, that will premiere at the Hot Docs festival next month.

Her 2006 story Seasick was nominated for the Journey Prize, Make Believe will soon be published in Front&Centre and Snatch and Release is forthcoming in Room Magazine.

She wins $6,000 and a two-week residency at The Banff Centre's Leighton Artists' Colony, where she plans to try to finish the novel she’s been working on for the past four years.  It’s about a Canadian woman, down on her luck in Barcelona, who becomes a thief.

Her story will be released in Air Canada’s enRoute magazine and is published now on the Canada Writes website. She also gets a reading in Montreal and an interview on CBC Radio.

Four other finalists for the CBC short story prize win $1000 each. They are:

  • Mathew Howard of Toronto for Old Hands.
  • Roderick Moody-Corbett of Calgary for Parse.
  • Eliza Robertson of Victoria for L'Étranger.
  • Jay Tameling of Edmonton for Sweet Dynamite.