CBC Books: On Canada Writes

A story for CBC on reading 435 essays and choosing 12 for their 2015 Creative Nonfiction Prize. Here’s what I discovered.

From CBC books:

Before the jury decides on a shortlist and winner for each cycle of CBC Literary Prizes, all of the entries received in each category are carefully winnowed down to a longlist by a team of readers who themselves are published Canadian authors.

Jennifer Kingsley was a reader for the 2015 CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize. In her own words, she tells us how the experience reshaped her map of Canada.

At first, I took the entries one by one. It was only after reading a few dozen that the larger story began to emerge. I was reading Canada – one anonymous tale at a time.

My job, along with nine others unknown to me, was to narrow the field. I received 435 of the 1,794 entries and was asked to choose the strongest 12. The readers’ recommendations would be passed on to the three judges. It might sound like a chore – 435 essays X 1,500 words is a lot of reading – but it depends how you look at it.

As a writer myself, I’ve entered plenty of writing competitions. It usually goes like this: submit, wait, find out the winner (good for them, too bad for me) and move on. Before I became part of the process, I never thought about the story behind the story.

So here it is.