As literary prize season draws to a close, fatigue naturally starts to set in. But we must summon strength and look forward, to the distant horizons of books yet to be written, prizes yet to be won. To aid in the effort, we asked the five writers nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize what they’re working on now – both in books, and in life. On Wednesday, one of them will take home the $25,000 award, which has risen dramatically in prominence and importance since it was established in 1997
1. A novel with the working title, The Lovely Dresses. It’s told by a woman, now in her seventies, to her gay, middle-aged son, about life in 1957 when she was an undergraduate at the University of Toronto and got into a secret and difficult relationship.
2. I’m learning to play Big John McNeil on clawhammer banjo.
3. Short stories. I have eight new stories on the go. Usually I have some nearly finished and others at an earlier stage, but I wrote the first drafts of all of these in heated succession, so they’re all in second drafts (that’s how I work), which is a little overwhelming. Now I have to commit to just one at a time. Here are a few titles: The Dog of Rome, Bear Stories, Night of the Murdered Poets.
4. I’m trying to restore an old, ornate wooden chair that I found at the side of the road.
5. Three manuscripts for kids. One is a novel set in Miami Beach in 1965, and another is – what exactly? A graphic novel, maybe.
6. I’m trying to learn to say yes more often.
After almost a month away from home, attending readings, cocktail parties, the hospitality suites at writers’ festivals, dinner parties and a few galas, I am returning to Pilates. Today. Yup. Yes I am. Pilates.
I am writing a short story about a woman who thinks she has become invisible. She is wandering across Canada from hotel to hotel. She is selling something. Maybe pharmaceuticals. One evening she is coming out of the shower, hair wrapped in a white towel, naked, cold, water drops on her shoulder, and there in the window of her 19th-floor suite is a man, swinging in the window frame. He’s spreading milky suds with a squeegee. But it’s dusk, that moment when the light has made everything on her side of the glass opaque, so when she tentatively raises her hand near her shoulder to wiggle her fingers at him, he doesn’t see her.
And I am making one visual image a day. Water colour, acrylic, charcoal drawing, ink, magic marker, Bic pen, cellphone photo. Very big paintings or little gesture drawings. They all have to contain action, boys running after a basketball, drawn in less than 10 seconds in a pocket notebook, waterfalls, a girl whose face is alive with thought.
And I’m chasing after the next novel.
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