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BC writers have landed four of the five finalists for the 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize announced today.
The finalists are: Your House by Cayenne Bradley of Victoria; Advice to a New Beekeeper from Langley’s Susan Cormier; Seh Woo, My Teeth by Kerissa Dickie from Fort Nelson; Tek Tek by YS Lee who lives in Kingston, Ontario but grew up in BC and Storkatorium by Jane Ozkowski of Bloomfield, Ont.
The competition, presented by CBC Books, attracted 1,700 entries of stories up to 2,000 words. The grand prize winner will be announced on September 22. That writer will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, get his story published on CBC Books, and get the chance to attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity.
Bradley, who recently moved to Victoria from Vancouver, has other short story wins to her name, including EVENT Magazine’s 2021 Nonfiction Contest and Room Magazine’s 2020 Short Forms Contest.
When asked about the inspiration behind her story, Bradley, who is currently completing a memoir, told the CBC that her art often stems from difficult memories.
“There is something so transformative about finding poetry in my pain; it’s a way of reclaiming and reusing experiences beyond my control,” Bradley said in a statement. “Writing through trauma is writing the body and releasing somatic minds. I know I’ve found the right words when the story feels like a safe house and a resting place for a dark memory.”
Langley’s Cormier, whose work has appeared in publications such as Atlantis Women’s Studies Journal, B&A New Fiction, West Coast Line, and several anthologies, is a beekeeper and co-owner of an apiary in Langley. Also, the producer of the long-running live monthly story competition Vancouver Story Slam, Cormier, said her inspiration behind Advice to a New Beekeeper shared the idea that successful beekeeping is also an intuitive game.
“There is indescribable beauty and magic in beekeeping, yes, but it does not consist in the simple observation of bees, the passive ownership of a colony of bees, or the quoting of banal facts about bees. It consists in the interactions between the bees and a knowledgeable, insightful keeper, in the revelations you have while working with the bees,” Cormier told the CBC. “The pain and poetry cannot be taught, can only be experienced first hand. This essay is an attempt, within the confines of our clumsy human language, to convey some of the things a beekeeper learns that cannot be inferred from books, videos and discussions.”
The work of Fort Nelson resident Kerissa Dickie and Dene First Nation member has been published in the anthologies Her Initiations: A Selection of Young Native Writings and Impact: Colonialism in Canada and in magazines and newspapers such as Beaver and Windspeaker. Her story Seh Woo, My Teeth is an excerpt from the memoir she is currently working on. Titled NAH-TAY (Dreamer in Dene), the memoir Dickie told CBC is about all the people who made her who she is today.
“As melodramatic as it sounds, I felt like I needed to create a place where my grandmother was still sitting next to me,” Dickie said in a statement.
Award-winning YA writer YS Lee, who grew up in Vancouver, has had her YA series The Agency translated into six languages, while her poetry has appeared in publications such as EVENT, Room, Rattle, the Literary Review of Canada. Her poem, Saturday Morning, East Pender Street One was longlisted for the 2021 CBC Poetry Prize.
Asked about inspiration for Tek Tek Lee said: “I miss my grandmother very much, but I’m not sure how well I knew her. I wonder how a fluent common language would have deepened our relationship.”
The finalists, selected by the jury of Marcello Di Cintio, Sharon Butala and Jenna Butler, will each receive a $1000 award from the Canada Council for the Arts and will be published on CBC Books. The public can read the short stories at CBCBooks.ca.