In 2011, a group of Canadian writers declared the Year of the Short Story (YOSS), “to bring short fiction the larger audience it deserves.” In the years since, in notable short story developments, Alice Munro has been awarded the Nobel Prize and Lynn Coady won the Scotiabank-Giller Prize for her book, Hellgoing. So we decided that now would be a very good time to take stock, to check in with some fine writers across the country to find out where Canadian stories are at.
49thShelf: Does the short story still need defending? Championing? Does the short story even care?
Megan Coles: If the novel is CanLit King, then the short story is our second son; the sexy, irreverent Prince who is liable to get naked and fly fighter jets. Originality is always in need of defending as its merits aren’t readily understood and people are instinctively adverse to risk. The form is inherently daring and untamable. That’s what makes it so exciting and integral to innovative Canadian Literature. The short story is limitless: tight and expansive in the same breath, generous and ruthless in the same beat. The short story is its own champion. It can’t care in a pragmatic sense. Anxiety would inhibit which is totally counterintuitive to the form. Instead, the short story take …
The stories in Metis writer Lisa Bird-Wilson's short story collection, Just Pretending, are searing portraits of life on the margins of family and of society in general, and the book is a remarkable literary debut. The collection was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award, and it took home four prizes this year at the Saskatchewan Book Awards. Fresh on the heels of a busy and exciting spring awards season, Bird-Wilson spoke to 49th Shelf about her own impressions of literary prize culture, about the mothers portrayed in her book, and to tell us more about that place where fact and fiction connect to create the stories we tell.
49th Shelf: In Canada and farther afield, there is a lot of debate about the merits and problems of literary prize culture. Your book is proof, though, that sometimes the system works. Just Pretending took four prizes at the Saskatchewan Book Awards, and it was nominated for the Danuta Gleed Award. What has this experience been like for you and your book?
Lisa Bird-Wilson: I would be lying if I said it was anything less than thrilling to see my book compete for these prizes and bring a few home. I understand some of the debate about literary prizes, in that it is felt some of them sort of lose their meaning or become trivialized by way …