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Creative Writing grad wins 2017 CBC Nonfiction Prize

Kateryna Horina
Arts Reporter

Humber correspondence course graduate Becky Blake tried working at a Halifax independent newspaper.

She said it was a tough gig, discovering the stress associated to journalism.

“As a journalist, you can’t make things up, you have to write fast and I can’t do any of those things,” Blake said. “So, I decided to do more creative work. Even the nonfiction that I write is more creative.”

And it paid off for her.

Blake, who also earned a creative writing master’s degree at the University of Guelph, won a 2017 CBC Nonfiction Prize for her story Trust Exercise.

This year’s CBC Nonfiction prize jury members were musicians Dave Bidini, author and actor Carmen Aguirre and historical writer Charlotte Gray.

“All I can say is that we all thought the story subtle and accomplished, with its flickering point of view from that of the younger narrator to that of her older self,” Gray said.

Writer and columnist Russel Smith, who is Blake’s fiction professor, said he’s not surprised she won the award.

“I am very proud of Becky Blake’s success and her story being published by the respected Canadian publishing houses,” Smith said.

Blake remembers her time in Humber with a smile and would recommend the Humber School of Writers to those who write in different genres. She doesn’t limit herself with one style because “different stories require different genres.”

This is not the first time she took a CBC award, taking the best Short Story in 2003. The prize included $6,000 and a 10-day writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Alberta.

“It’s a most beautiful place I’ve ever been in the world. There is a little cottage in woods, seems like the paradise for writers,” Blake said.

She’s now working on her debut novel, Scratch, expected to be released in 2019. It’s a story a woman artist living on a street who becomes a thief. The book was inspired by the two years she spent living in Barcelona, which Blake described as a very rough neighborhood.

“Now I have a lot of ideas, so if I would stay on a desert island and nothing would ever happen to me again, I could probably get enough material for the rest of my life,” Blake said.

She said it’s important to surround oneself with things that inspire — music, places and other’s inspiring work — because “it just keeps a part of you alive.”

 

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