Announcing the 4th annual CNFC / carte blanche creative nonfiction contest

 

UPDATE: The deadline has been extended to Wednesday, December 7 at midnight EST. Submit today!contestbanner

Yes, it’s true! We’re doing it again! carte blanche and the Creative Nonfiction Collective Society (CNFC) have teamed up to bring you a Canada-wide creative nonfiction contest sponsored by the University of King’s College.

The winner will receive $750 and her/his text will be published in carte blanche. The winner will be announced in May 2017 at the 13th annual CNFC conference in Vancouver, BC.

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And the winner of the carte blanche/CNFC contest is…

Congratulations to Nicole Breit for her essay “Spectrum”!

nicole-breit-photoNicole Breit is a poet and essayist who lives and writes in the suburbs of Vancouver. She was nominated for the Malahat Review 2016 Open Season awards, the 2015 Room poetry prize and the 2015 PRISM International CNF contest. Her debut poetry chapbook, I Can Make Life, was a finalist for the 2012 Mary Ballard poetry competition. Her work has been published in carte blanche, Exhale and other print and online publications.


Spectrum (excerpt)

RED

The wild strawberry flush across my chest, her cheeks. An illicit kiss in her basement suite.
Five years in, we start counting: two eggs bled away casually every month.
Then, six months of flirting, negotiations. Two hopeful women. A captivated man.
Cosmopolitans. Our red leather couch under mistletoe and holly berries. Jazzberry cartoon hearts radiate around all of us.
“Please don’t break our hearts,” I say.
“I won’t.” His scarlet cape promise. The last time we see him.
A year and a half later the rouged Costco employee, white hair rolled into a hairnet, hands out samples. Lights up, says “Such a beautiful baby!” and asks again, “But really, who’s the real mother?”
My girlfriend — the birth mother — looks down at her kid-size cup of tickle-me-pink sauce and says flatly, “This tastes terrible.”

You can read the rest of the winning essay in the next issue of carte blanche. Stay tuned!


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CNFC/carte blanche 2016 contest shortlist

The CNFC and carte blanche are pleased to announce its 2015–2016 creative nonfiction contest shortlist.

The winner will be announced on April 23 in Banff, Alberta at the 12th annual CNFC conference.

The shortlist was selected by contest judge, Deni Béchard.

“Spectrum,” by Nicole Breit

nicole-breit-photoNicole Breit is a poet and essayist who lives and writes in the suburbs of Vancouver. She was nominated for the Malahat Review 2016 Open Season awards, the 2015 Room poetry prize and the 2015 PRISM International CNF contest. Her debut poetry chapbook, I Can Make Life, was a finalist for the 2012 Mary Ballard poetry competition. Her work has been published in carte blanche, Exhale and other print and online publications.

“Through the Damascus Gate,” by Jane Finlay-Young

jane-finlay-young-photoJane Finlay-­Young was born in England’s Lake District, and has spent most of her life in Canada. She is a published author of both fiction and non­fiction. She has just completed a memoir, Certain, about her foray into Orthodox Judaism, and is also writing the screenplay for her first novel, From Bruised Fell (Penguin, 2000). She lives in Halifax.

 

“Cannot predict now,” by Lezlie Lowe

Leslie LoweLezlie Lowe is a freelance print and broadcast journalist and journalism educator based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She recently completed the manuscript for her first book, No Place To Go: Answering the Call of Nature in the Urban Jungle. It’s about public bathroom access. Yes. Really.

 

Congratulations to our three finalists and thank you to everyone who participated!


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Conference registration deadline is April 4, 2016

Kinnear Centre for Creativity and Innovation, The Banff Centre. Photo by Don Lee.
Kinnear Centre for Creativity and Innovation, The Banff Centre. Photo by Don Lee.

The Creative Nonfiction Collective member conference, Writing True 12: The Roots of Story, takes place from April 21 to 24 2016* at the Banff Centre in beautiful Banff, Alberta.

This year’s conference features a keynote address by novelist, journalist, and photographer, Deni Béchard (open to the public for a $10 fee – tickets sold at the door), as well as the courageous Elly Danica, in conversation with Hal Wake, noted interviewer and the Artistic Director of the Vancouver Literary Festival.

Registration also includes presentations by Camilla Gibb, recently shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize; Heather Conn, award-winning author, writing coach, and teacher; Wade Davis, writer, anthropologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence; Trevor Herriot, renowned science writer and prairie naturalist; and James Fell, social media expert.

Participant fees include a public event with a soon-to-be-announced author, the members’ dinner, a new books by members reading, and the ever-popular, Literary Cabaret – this year, with a twist.

But it doesn’t stop there! For an additional fee, members can register for with noted creative nonfiction writers and editors including Lori A. May, Trevor Herriot, Beth Kaplan, and John Barton. Find out more details about Master Classes and how to sign up (each class is limited to 25 spots).

Register by April 4 for the very reasonable rate of $200 ($180 for students).

*The CNFC sincerely regrets having scheduled this year’s conference during Passover. We are committed to ensuring such a conflict does not occur in the future, with the goal of making the event accessible to as many members as possible.

How to Host a Literary Cabaret in Six Easy Steps

Do you miss seeing and talking to your fellow creative nonfiction writers in the long months between conferences? Do you want to develop more awareness of great nonfiction in your own town? The CNFC can help you create your own literary cabaret evening right where you are. We have a modest fund to help with promotion, including the design and distribution of digital flyers or posters, and can contribute toward venue rental, if need be.

Over the past few years, CNFC members have held successful cabarets in Montreal and Calgary and offer the following tips on how it’s done. Thanks to Julija Sukys who wrote the original instructions after hosting the fabulously successful Montreal cabaret, Stranger Than Fiction, in 2013.

Essentials

    1. Find a venue with a sound system, food and drink, and sufficient space for people to sit, mingle, buy books. Encourage everyone to eat and drink to support your venue host.
    2. Send out a call for CNF readers. You may want to invite one or two well-known writers. Decide in advance what your optimum number of readers is — six to eight is a neat number that doesn’t overwhelm the audience. Let them know what the time limit is and that you’ll need to keep them to it. Ask them to send their bios well in advance of reading.
    3. Ask a local bookstore to come and sell the authors’ books. If that’s not an option, ask a friend to help you with the sales and ask the authors to bring their books to the event.
    4. Work with the CNFC to create promotional material. CNFC has a small budget for this.
    5. Send the poster out far and wide, including to your local library. Send a brief notice of the event to your local media as a PSA. Address it to the local “event listings” in your local paper or community notices at radio stations.
    6. Take lots of pictures and write a blog about it for our website.

Additional suggestions:

    • Have a break in the middle so people can buy more drinks and food.
    • Emcee the event yourself. Introduce each reader and hold up your hand (or have some other gentle signal) to let them know when their time is up.
    • Plan something fun — like door prizes. You can ask readers to donate a few books and then think of some fun quiz questions.
    • Optional: Charge a small cover fee at the door then distribute it to the writers at the end of the evening.

‘More than anything I want to be immersed in story’

Vancouver Holiday Photography
 
 

Nicole Breit, winner of the 2016 CNFC/carte blanche contest, offers tips and words of encouragement for this year’s contestants

Can you tell us about your winning piece and why you think it was selected?

When I submitted “Spectrum” I very much took the carte blanche tagline— “there’s more than one way to tell a story” — to heart.

I wrote the piece in a course about a unique hybrid form called the lyric essay. I was intrigued by the versatility and possibility of the form — the place where poetry meets the personal essay. It allowed me to explore the anxieties, joys, challenges, and small victories that go along with being a rainbow family in a way that wasn’t strictly chronological. Instead the story is told through a series of memories and images organized by colour.

As for why it was selected, when Deni Béchard presented me with the award, he talked about how “Spectrum” addressed an important contemporary issue, the emotional sensitivity in the work, and its stylistic innovation.

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?

There are so many possibilities, no one formula for what makes a stand-out piece of writing. But if I had to try to distill it, I think exceptional writing comes down to the writer’s control over the piece. The work delivers maximum impact with every craft choice, from the choice of form, to command of language, and an unwavering attention to what the reader needs, every step of the way.

In terms of contest submissions, I’d love to read experimental pieces — work that stretches and pulls and challenges the genre in some way. I’m very open in terms of subject or style. Send in your humour and travel writing, your literary journalism, your flash nonfiction. More than anything I want to be immersed in story, to lose myself in the world of the writer.

Are there different considerations when submitting to a CNF contest versus those centred around other genres? 

I think the relative newness of the genre is a great advantage for contestants. If you take a risk, try something new, you have a good chance of capturing a judge’s attention.

I imagine there is also less competition with CNF contests than poetry contests. Poetry contests often accept multiple poems per entry. With CNF your chances of being shortlisted or winning are much higher than if you submit to a poetry contest based on entry volume alone.

I’ve also heard from literary magazine editors that they receive fewer entries to contests than regular submissions to their publications, further increasing your odds for getting noticed when submitting to a CNF contest.

In addition to the CNFC win, you were also awarded the 2016 Room Magazine award for creative nonfiction. How have these experiences contributed to your literary career?

When I started submitting to contests, my ultimate goal was the cover letter I’d one day write, when I was ready to approach an editor about publishing a collection of my work. The CNFC/carte blanche and Room awards are accomplishments I’m very proud to include on my CV, and I hope will bring me closer to my bigger goal.

This year my world has opened up thanks to these contests. I’ve received invitations to read, which have allowed me to connect with other writers and readers in a very immediate way. Reading to an audience has permitted me to see in someone’s face how a line hits them. People sometimes approach me to tell me a bit about their own lives, and why something I’ve written has moved them. This wonderful intersection of heart and imagination has deepened my love for writing and why I think it’s so important.

What piece of advice can you offer new and emerging writers wanting to enter this year’s contest?

I wholeheartedly encourage new and emerging writers to please share their work. Your stories matter. More than one wise soul has said that without stories, we have no identity, no historical record — we don’t exist.

Moreover, the practice of submitting to contests/publications is an important part of the writing life, and essential for the work ahead. I also believe there is immense room for a multitude of diverse, as of yet, unheard voices. Enter. Don’t be shy!

Nicole Breit is a poet, essayist and all around word nerd based in Vancouver. Check out her website.


Submit to the CNFC/carte blanche contest by November 30 at midnight EST.