Prince Albert author longlisted for 2021 CBC Short Story Prize

Prince Albert author Brooks McMullin has been shortlisted for the 2021 CBC Short Story Prize for his short story Deville at Home. /Submitted

rince Albert author Brooks McMullin has been selected as one of 33 writers across Canada for the 2021 CBC Short Story Prize. McMullin was nominated for his short story Deville at Home.

The longlist was selected from almost 3,000 English-language submissions.

McMullinwas honoured to be selected.

“It’s an affirmation that you have a hunch about your writing and you don’t know if it’s good, it must be good in some way if it can reach this semifinal stage,” McMullin said.

A university lecturer of literature and composition, McMullin writes short stories, novels and screenplays. He was a runner up in the annual 2012 CBC Short Story Prize for the Canada Writes Program, with “Pax,” and was a quarter-finalist in 2006 Zoetrope screenwriting contest for feature-length script, Coal War. McMullin was born and raised in Cape Breton.

A team of writers and editors compiled the list. The jury then selects the shortlist and the eventual winner from the readers’ longlisted selections. The 2021 jury is comprised of Soubankham Thammavongsa, Craig Davidson and Lee Maracle.

In the story Wayne Deville is one of five new teachers who begins a teaching job in a northern Alberta town and all of them fail to fit in. Deville, a veteran of duty in Bosnia, the Middle East and Somalia, fails because he has PTSD.

In a release, McMullin explained that he has tutored ex-military college students who have told him stories. Those stories stayed with him and helped to create Deville’s experience.

The concept for the story came from a shelved novel called The New Teachers. He explained that it came from a chapter he could not find a resolution for.

“That is really needed in a story and that’s what I worked on with the story to find the ending  that I really wanted to use. And when I found the ending I realized it was a complete change.”

McMullin said he is reworking the novel. By putting it aside and working on it again, he said, the story felt fresh. McMullin added that it doesn’t come automatically and the person has to put in work.

“It is like making a song or something,” he said.

“You are playing the same chords on the piano over and over again and then you add something more and then a little bit more. It is kind of like that’s the way the story goes. To me it’s sitting down and just working it… For me it’s just a hard way to find what is going to work,” he explained.

McMullin bought the shelved novel back to life as a short story. Working in a variety of genres allowed the creative process to open up, he said.

“I realize now from writing screenplays that with writing novels you have got to make the thing go. A screenplay is like a page a scene or something, the plot is driven, it just flies, it has got to move and in the same way you are going to lose your readers in a novel if it just doesn’t move and so I guess that’s what the scripts have taught me.”

He explained that he had written a script based on the work as well. It was critiqued by a screenwriting group he was involved in based in Saskatoon.

“I thought  the novel wasn’t very good at all and then I thought if the short story gets some kind of notice than I am going to take another look at the novel . When I brought it down I thought I’d have to redo it from beginning to end again but it wasn’t that way. It kind of surprised me,” McMullin said.

“It just kind of came back. Now I see the shortcomings in  the script and what I have to do in the script I can reference in the novel.”

The shortlist will be announced on April 22 and the winner will be announced on April 29.

The winner of the 2021 CBC Short Story Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts , have their work published on CBC Books and will have the opportunity to attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.