A short story penned by Sault Ste. Marie’s Jacob Maybe has been chosen for the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist.
A Halo, Drifting is a story that Maybe has described to CBC as an ode to his golden retriever, Shelby, while dealing with more personal aspects of his life, including addiction and a near-death experience.
The short story, which will compete against 29 other works from writers across Canada, is also Maybe’s first stab at writing non-fiction, describing himself as being more “in the business of writing comic adventures for grade-schoolers.”
“It’s certainly the most personal thing I’ve written,” Maybe said. “There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with that, vulnerability discussing emotions and elements and the addiction element.”
“That’s not something I talk about with most people, so putting that down on paper and putting it out there, it definitely feels different than most of the stories that I’ve worked on.”
Maybe says that he wrote the story in three acts, with the first act serving as an example of just how inspiring his dog could be.
“My partner and I and Shelby ended up in this survival situation where stakes literally became life and death potentially, and Shelby was always the least athletic golden retriever you’ve ever seen, the runt of the litter,” Maybe said. “There’s a grueling physical ordeal which was a daunting proposition that we would have to go through to get back to safety and civilization, and her tenacity - she never whined or complained once in our journey back to safety - was really inspiring.”
Past winners of CBC Literary Prize have included the likes of well-known writers like Michael Ondaatje, Michael Winter and Frances Itani.
Maybe, who has written and edited three-and-a-half books - in addition to several short stories and a handful of children’s picture books - says he was surprised to make this year’s longlist, calling the nod from CBC “highly motivating and reassuring.”
“If you go back and read past winners and past finalists, the work is fantastic,” Maybe said. “The bar is set very high, so I didn’t expect to hear back, other than a polite form rejection email.”
“So when I opened it, I was surprised...the first word in the body of the email was ‘congratulations!’” he continued. “It’s really encouraging, and it came at a great time, because I had been writing for a few years and every once in awhile, you get something where you get some traction and you get some good feedback.”
The recognition couldn’t have come at a better time for Maybe, who says that at times it’s hard to stay motivated.
“You have to keep writing everyday when it takes so long to create works, and it takes even longer to go through the machinations of the industry to work towards getting published and/or getting paid,” he said.
The winner of the 2018 CBC Nonfiction Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, and will get their story published on CBC Books.
The winner will also get to attend a writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
Meanwhile, all four finalists will receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and will see their story published on CBC Books.
Maybe hopes that the nationwide contest will eventually enable him to put some of his works on the market.
“If this is as far as this contest goes, it still raises visibility, looks great on the old CV and may open some doors,” Maybe said.