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Five authors nominated for the Writers Trust prize on life and books

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


Nominated for her novel The Eliot Girls

My son came home from school for lunch the other day. “Just let me finish writing this down, and then I’ll make your sandwich,” I said. At the sight of my laptop open on the dining room table, he burst into tears with that sudden passion so accessible to young children. I had lied, he accused. I had told him I wouldn’t be working for a while (by which I had meant that I had no events for a couple of weeks). This is the balance I, like most mothers, am always trying to strike in my life. I’m at work on my next novel now, wanting to enter that place where it’s always living in my mind, but not quite there yet. As the mother of two young children, my life needs to be quite regimented so I can be productive. It’s in those boring daily rhythms that my creative life can thrive. So I follow the routines of my children’s lives, write when one is at school, the other one napping. It’s a life of small, intense focus, mopping up tears, making false promises, sneaking down three sentences while my sons eat their peanut butter sandwiches.
Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press


Nominated for her short story collection Hellgoing

I’m currently in an intensive TV writing program at the Canadian Film Centre – eating, sleeping and breathing nothing but television. It is kind of a dream come true. Television was my first experience of visual narrative and if you told my Three’s Company/Dukes of Hazzard/Battlestar Galactica/BJ and The Bear watching childhood self that one day I would do nothing but sit around discussing and thinking about TV shows she would have been turning cartwheels. I think I am enjoying this form so much right now because you are permitted and expected to be over the top in TV; at times even silly. It’s not that fiction doesn’t allow for this, it’s just that it is not the kind of fiction I write – I need an entire new genre to work in before I can feel comfortable telling stories about space aliens and ghosts and time travel – and I really want to tell those stories! Yet at the same time, I love all the implicit, seemingly contradictory rules of TV, the way you can tackle the zaniest subject matter, but you always have to work within the logic of that lunatic world you’ve created, otherwise your audience’s incredibly tenuous suspension of disbelief will come crashing to earth. The other thing I love is the collaborative nature of the writing which, after 10-plus years banging out fiction alone in a room, is hitting me like a tonic.
Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail


Nominated for his novel A Bird’s Eye

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.

Fred Thornhill/Reuters


Nominated for his novel A Beautiful Truth

I’ve been writing a lot of essays about A Beautiful Truth, trying to spread the good news that we are apes and to talk about the reality of what a chimpanzee is. I’ve also been touring the novel a lot. I started writing a novel about a novel that makes its readers ugly. That was easy to psychologize once I gave up on it. The least healthy thing I can do after finishing a novel is to write essays about it, and tour it. But A Beautiful Truth was a different beast for me – difficult to let go. I’ve since had a squirming handful of ideas for the next book. Some may end up being written one day. I just met some Bedouins in Jordan and I’m excited to write about them. The touring has reminded me that the world is big, that life is hard, short and beautiful, and I’m lucky to have this career. When I’m between novels I love remembering how many stories there are to tell, how many lives I don’t know, that days aren’t just the space between drinks, and that there are, nonetheless, many important and compelling drinks.
Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail


Nominated for her novel Caught

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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