HOW: Submissions accepted via our online submission form only. The contest will be judged blind so PLEASE don’t put your name or contact information on the actual submission. If you do not delete identifying information, your submission will be disqualified.
The judge will be Helen Humphreys, keynote speaker at the 2019 CNFC conference.
The Humber Literary Review, a literary and arts magazine, publishes two print issues a year (fall/winter & spring/summer). Its pages feature personal essays, short fiction, poetry, artwork, and comics by emerging and established Canadian artists. The HLR is distributed by Magazines Canada and can be found in bookstores and on newsstands across the country. Work from the HLR has been featured in Best Canadian Poetry, Best Canadian Essays, and has been nominated for a National Magazine Award. Find out more.
The Creative Nonfiction Collective Society (CNFC) promotes innovation and excellence in Canadian creative nonfiction writing. It provides its close to 300 members from across Canada with opportunities to enrich professional skills, including support in adapting to new publishing contexts. The CNFC advocates for the genre’s prominence and inclusion in Canada’s educational institutions, cultural agencies, and literary organizations. The 2019 CNFC conference is scheduled for June 14 to 16 in Vancouver at UBC’s Point Grey Campus. Find out more.
Can humour be taught? Join us as Dina Del Bucchia, host of Can’t Lit, Artistic Director of The Real Vancouver Writers’ Series, and UBC Creative Writing instructor, reveals how using humour allows us to write more honestly and with greater sharpness.
Whether you are a journalist, podcaster, creative writer, or blogger, great interviews make great stories. So how do you get the interview? And once you’ve got it, how do you get the most from it?
Denise Ryan will cover how to establish intimacy, overcome hostile or intimidating subjects, work in traumatic and ethically challenging situations, get past scripted answers, build an arsenal of techniques, and craft story-based lines of inquiry. The master class will also engage in some dynamic question and answer sessions.
Alanna Mitchell, journalist, playwright, and author of Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, discusses how she approaches complex scientific writing and presents her research in a way that makes them compelling and accessible.
Master storytellers Dr. Jerry Haigh and Danica Lorer share what they know about the power of letting go of the written page in giving presentations. They reveal how telling stories allows the writer to take into account time limits, themes, and the ages and literacy level of the audience.
Jerry and Danica will challenge participants to explore and share their own stories, first in a small group then in a larger group setting. They will offer tips for school presentations and book launches while building confidence.
Most of Jerry Haigh’s storytelling relates to his work as a (now retired) veterinarian, from checking a lion for pregnancy to giving an enema to a rhino, while Danica Lorer grew up listening to stories around the kitchen table and campfires.
PROFESSIONAL WRITING CONSULTATIONS
Looking for a professional evaluation of your writing? This is your chance! Send us your nonfiction writing (maximum 3000 words), and we will pair you with an experienced editor/writing teacher, who will read your pages in advance and give you 15 minutes of feedback on your writing at our conference. The cost is $50. Send us your work to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 30. For more info and to register, click here.
Join Darrel McLeod, Cree from Territory Eight in Alberta and a former chief land claims negotiator for the federal government, as he tells the stories behind his recent Governor-General award-winning memoir, Mamaskatch.
Writing to Heal and Recover
Kara Stanley, author of Fallen: A Trauma, A Marriage and the Transformative Power of Music, and her musician husband Simon Paradis present a joint reading/musical performance, followed with discussion as they explore the connection between trauma, the power of writing and its ability to heal.
In My Head and Onto the Page: Writing About and Through Mental Illness
Join Judy Rebick, one of Canada’s best-known women’s rights advocates and author of Heroes in My Head, and Alicia Elliott, Tuscarora writer, recipient of the RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Prize for 2018, and author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, as they share their personal accounts of writing about mental illness.
Writing Our Journey of Reconciliation
Monique Gray Smith, of Cree, Lakota and Scottish ancestry, and author of Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation, reveals how education, awareness and understanding can lead to repairing and healing the fractured relationships caused by our past history. As one young person she interviewed said, “awareness creates healing.”
Writing Intimate Crime and Violence
Renee Saklikar, author of children of air india, un/authorized exhibits and interjections, and Carys Cragg, author of Dead Reckoning, How I Came to Meet the Man Who Murdered My Father, reveal what influenced their decisions to write about the violence and crime that directly impacted them and their families and the long-term effects they have had.
No Words: The Rebellious Act of Writing the Stories Not Told
Lesley Buxton, author of One Strong Girl and winner of the 2018 Pottersfield Prize for Creative Nonfiction, explores how in memoir there are two protagonists — the past and the present selves — and how we can use the distance between them to reveal and write our most challenging stories.
Welcome to all members, new and returning. Come meet other conference registrants and listen to readings by student creative nonfiction writers.
Join celebrated writers Elizabeth Hay, author of All Things Consoled, and David Chariandy, author of I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You, A Letter to my Daughter, as they come together and talk candidly about the issues they confronted when writing intimately about family.
PERFORMANCE: Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis
Presented in partnership with the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
Sea Sick is Alanna Mitchell’s critically-acclaimed and Dora-nominated theatre production about the state of the global ocean and the world. Come and experience this powerful story in which Mitchell uses science and her own delicate wit to tell us about her journey to the bottom of the ocean, the demons she discovered there, and her hope for the future. The performance will be followed by a talk-back session with Mitchell.
“So, I’m a science journalist and one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done was research a book on how we’re altering the chemistry of the global ocean. Sounds a bit dull, right? But it was a tale of grand adventure and marvellous discovery with a good dollop of humour, peopled with some of the most fascinating scientists in the world.” – Alanna Mitchell
For those registered for the conference, your ticket to the play is included. Members of the public wishing to purchase a ticket may do so for $36 ($20 with student ID) from the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.
The Shoe Project is a writing and performance workshop where immigrant women tell the stories of their arrival in Canada – through a pair of shoes. They are coached by veteran Canadian writers and theatre professionals. Shoes accompany us on all our journeys. They say who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. Writing their shoe memoirs gives members a voice and helps them be heard in the Canadian mainstream.
Now in its sixth year, The Shoe Project was created by novelist Katherine Govier and incubated at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.
“I have never imagined I could be standing in front of an audience sharing a personal story in English. The Shoe Project has been the most empowering experience in my life.” – Natalia, participant from Uruguay
Plus: Banquet, literary cabaret, announcement of the 2019 CNFC/Humber Literary Review writing contest, wrap-up party, and the CNFC annual general meeting.
Joshua Levy was the winner of the 2017 CNFC/carte blanche creative nonfiction prize and will be one of the readers selecting the 2018 shortlist.
Below he offers insight into the power of the CNF genre and words of encouragement for those hoping to submit this year.
‘I find the translation of reality into prose to be deeply satisfying’
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR WINNING PIECE AND WHAT YOU THINK MADE IT STAND OUT?
My piece is about sitting in a park and reflecting on whether to stay broken-up with my girlfriend. On its surface, it has no plot, virtually no dialogue, and no movement (95% of the story takes place with the protagonist sitting mute and motionless on a bench). And yet, the short piece is packed full of everything under the sun: riots, extinction, Nazis, family history, etc.
I think what made the piece stand out is that the story takes the conventional writing maxim of “show, don’t tell” to the extreme. The protagonist actually spends the entire story doing everythingbut directly reflecting on whether to stay broken up with the girlfriend.
While he seems to be purposely avoiding addressing the central issue of this story, his subconscious is in overdrive attempting to glean insights and draw parallels between his present, past, and desired future. Because the story plays with these relationships in time, the very short piece feels more epic in scope than its humble plot would suggest. This is why I named it “A chaotic jumble of infinite possibility.” Even mundane moments are packed with spectacular possibilities.
WHAT MAKES A CREATIVE NONFICTION PIECE STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD, AND WHAT WILL YOU BE LOOKING FOR WHEN YOU READ THIS YEAR’S SUBMISSIONS?
Creative nonfiction is about looking at reality from an original angle. The topic is irrelevant; it’s how the story is told. I will be looking for stories that move me, plain and simple. I will also be looking for authors who fully understand what their story is ultimately about, and who make tough editorial choices to protect their truth from the distractions of superfluous facts.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT CONSIDERATIONS WHEN SUBMITTING TO A CNF CONTEST VERSUS THOSE CENTRED AROUND OTHER GENRES?
I don’t think so. Compared to fiction, creative nonfiction has the pesky added responsibility of not misrepresenting what actually happened. However, CNF gives ample cover for creative solutions.
Many creative nonfiction pieces can also be submitted to the fiction genre. In this sense, it doubles the opportunities for writers to submit their work.
IN ADDITION TO THE CNFC WIN, YOU WERE LONG-LISTED FOR THE CBC NONFICTION PRIZE. HOW HAVE THESE EXPERIENCES CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR LITERARY CAREER?
Until a couple of years ago, I wrote exclusively fiction, and I still employ many of the literary techniques of fiction writing to my nonfiction. The positive reaction to my creative nonfiction has made me realize that there are endless true stories waiting to be told. I find the translation of reality into prose to be deeply satisfying. It has opened up many doors for my literary career.
For example, I have recently written commissioned CNF pieces for literary journals, been asked to tell CNF stories on CBC Radio shows, and been invited to tell CNF stories at live events, festivals, and even for a museum.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE ONLINE WRITING CRAFT WEBSITE/RESOURCE?
I love the Paris Review “Art of Nonfiction/Fiction/Poetry” series. They have been conducting extended interviews with the best writers in the world since 1953. It’s a treasure trove.
I also really enjoy the New Yorker’s fiction podcast. Each episode has a famous writer reading another famous writer’s short story and then analyzing what they think makes that piece work so well. I wish that the podcast included nonfiction writers, too, but the mechanics of great writing transcend genre.
WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE CAN YOU OFFER NEW AND EMERGING WRITERS WANTING TO ENTER THIS YEAR’S CONTEST?
You won’t win any competition that you don’t enter. So, enter! Also, don’t be discouraged if you don’t win. My winning entry was rejected by other competitions and magazines before it won a grand prize. The final ingredient to success is, unfortunately, luck.
The solution? Keep submitting! Each time you submit your story somewhere, you’re increasing your chances of getting lucky. Your talent should eventually get noticed — but only if you’re willing to play the numbers game and absorb a pile of rejections. Stay strong.
Joshua Levy is a storyteller. He and his wife split their time between Montreal, Toronto, and Lisbon, Portugal.