Competition judge Don Sedgwick had this to say about her piece:
“It is an exquisitely structured lyrical essay/personal memoir. The language is beautiful, especially in the way it moves easily from English to French and back again. The images are bold and memorable. The metaphors are clever. And the emotional strength of the prose is consistent from beginning to end.”
Honourable Mention goes to Shelley Wood for her story “What Happened That Day.”
Congratulations to all the writers on the shortlist.
The next carte blanche/CNFC creative nonfiction competition will be held in 2015.
On Good Days (excerpt)
On good days I’m Gertrude Stein
On bad days I’m Mordecai Richler.
On good days it is the same sun that shone on Gertrude Stein that shines on me. On good days I fling open my shutters and shout, “Quelle belle journée!” and with my basket on my arm I wander as Alice B. Toklas did, from shop to shop in a delightful quartier.
In my delightful quartier I buy 200 grams of goat cheese from les Îles de la Madeleine. Artisanal cheese made from raw milk. Milk from goats who eat the grass that grows on the slopes of those northeastern shores. Grass cured by the Atlantic’s salty breezes. Cheese that tastes of the sea. This is what goes into my basket. On good days I hesitate between not one, not two, but four crusty white baguettes, all baked locally and according to the highest culinary standards. Just like on la rive gauche. Le pain, le pain, surtout le pain.
In spring I select the first and freshest têtes de violon and wash them down with mason jars of eau d’érable. Autumn and I explore a full variety of champignons – golden chanterelle, black morel, pleurote – each one of them the edible fungal spawn of les fôrets boréales. In summer I chose the chocolate covered bleuets du lac Saint-Jean; plump and juicy purple monks enrobed in dark chocolate cassocks. Winter and I indulge my guilty pleasure. Gertrude would understand. She enjoyed Miss Toklas’s pot brownies, after all. I prefer a large poutine pour emporter. A greasy mass of fried potatoes, cheese curds and gravy. Le plat national. The only thing guaranteed to keep the snow and cold at bay, Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver.
On bad days it is the same bitter wind blowing down St. Urbain Street that knocked poor Mordacai around. On bad days I complain because I cannot find the olive oil, matzo-meal, licorice or organic orange juice I like. On bad days when I ask I’m told that the company does not comply with the language laws. When the packages were inspected it seems there was not an adequate percentage of French displayed. Or the French was inaccurate. Or the letters were not big enough. On bad days I can’t remember how to say cinnamon or ground meat or chocolate chips in French and no one understands. On bad days I am in a hurry and I’m frustrated and I just want everything to be easy like it is when you live in a place where asking when will it be available doesn’t require consulting a goddamn grammar book. On bad days I remember Mordecai and how he said it didn’t used to be this way.
You can read the rest of the winning essay in the next issue of carte blanche. Stay tuned!
B.A. Markus is a writer, teacher, performer who grew up in Toronto, lives in Montreal and left part of her heart on a small island off the coast of British Columbia. Her stories have appeared in various literary journals and anthologies, and she has written and performed her one-act plays across Canada.