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The State of the Canadian Short Story in 2015

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.


Book Cover Eating Habits

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 …

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The Right Book at the Right Time: Samuel Martin Reads Russell Wangersky's Whirl Away

Whirl Away

You know that feeling when a book comes to you at just the right time, when you need it most? That’s how I feel about Russell Wangersky’s new story collection Whirl Away. It’s a book about people whose lives are in tailspin: people trying to see straight through the blinding vertigo of change.

I can relate to that. Over the next few months I will finish a three month writer residency on Fogo Island (off the north coast of Newfoundland), launch my first novel A Blessed Snarl, edit and defend my Ph.D. dissertation, pack up my home, and move from St. John’s to the States for a new job. I’m a creature of habit, so change rocks me like the great gusts of wind that shake my studio here on the hill up from Deep Bay.

Sometimes I think there’s just too much on the go: too many emails to answer, too many forms to fill out for moving companies, immigration, real estate, insurance, etc. But so far so good: I’m holding it all together. Or, rather, Samantha, my wife, is holding it all together and I’m hanging onto her organisational skills for dear life. Most days, I feel like Dennis Meany in Wangersky’s story “McNally’s Fair,” test-running a rickety, old rollercoaster that could collapse on its next run.  Everything could skid off the road like the ambul …

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YOSS Guide for Novices


Even before a passionate group of writers and readers declared 2011 the Year of the Short Story (YOSS), Canadian short stories had been enjoying some time back in the spotlight. Sarah Selecky’s This Cake is for the Party and Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting were both much celebrated and made the Giller Prize shortlist last year, and Katrina Best’s Bird Eat Bird won Best First Book for the Canada/Caribbean Section of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Online initiatives like Joyland and Found Press are giving short stories new life online.



And now the YOSS itself has delivered some remarkable new short story collections, all of this an absolute boon for those readers devoted to the form, and has surely also brought about a few converts. But there remain those readers upon whom all the celebration is lost, those who’ve tried and fail …

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There is Life Among the Cubicle Dwellers: Guest Post by Rebecca Rosenblum


Rebecca Rosenblum is author of Once, which won the Metcalf-Rooke Award and was one of Quill and Quire’s 15 Books That Mattered in 2008. Her second collection, The Big Dream, is forthcoming from Biblioasis in September 2011.

My book, The Big Dream, is about people who work…among other things. I’m interested in putting work in its proper place as a big part of the lives of many of the characters I write about. I have read too many novels and stories where the main character is a freelance something or other, and never does any work at all, or where the narrative cuts from 8:30 am to 6pm as if the characters had just been asleep in a closet during that period.

However, I wasn’t interested in writing a book where all the characters live their lives mainly at the office. There are certainly people whose main emotional life is on the job, and actually I enjoy writing about them. But I also enjoy writing about people who have jobs and parents and children and lovers and ex-lovers and problems and angst and great senses of humour. I think work is very closely woven into the fabric of our lives, and that our lives are generally more complex than genre designations like “office novels,” “domestic fiction,” “romance,” etc. Though my writing is not autobiog …

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