A writer studying in England drew from her roots growing up in Sooke for a story that’s been short-listed for a prestigious international prize. (Photo contributed)

Former Sooke resident up for prestigious writing award

Cara Marks earns nomination for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

A writer studying in England drew from her roots growing up in Sooke for a story that’s been short-listed for a prestigious international prize.

Cara Marks, who grew up in Sooke and studied creative writing at the University of Victoria, has earned a nomination for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her short story, Starry Night.

“It’s about a girl whose father dies and she’s dealing with grief as she starts a new relationship,” Marks said in a telephone interview from London, where she is halfway through completing her doctorate in English at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland.

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Marks, 26, has lived in England since 2016, where she spent the first year as a writer in residence while she completed her master’s degree from the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

“I wrote the story when I first moved to England,” Marks said. “I was a little homesick. It’s set in a small town in Canada, and drew from some of my experiences growing up in Sooke.”

Starry night is one of 25 submissions selected from 6,423 entries from 50 Commonwealth countries for the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, announced April 14. The unpublished stories, written in many languages, range in scope from concerns with sexual identity, gender relations, animal rights, neo-colonialism, and racial exploitation, as well as the perennial themes of love and death.

The stories are often humorous and intensely moving, said Zoe Wicomb, chair of the judges for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. The winner of regional prizes, announced in May, receives 2,500 pounds, while 5,000 pounds is awarded to the overall winner in June.

Marks joins Canadian authors Ian Stewart and Joshua Wales shortlisted in this year’s record-breaking number of entries, up 25 per cent from last year.

“I’m very happy, very excited and very surprised to make the shortlist and I’m keeping my fingers crossed,” said Marks, who hopes to be able to come home for a visit this summer.

“I miss Canada, especially during the lockdown,” she said wistfully. “My husband is English and we’ve been working on dual citizenship and visas. I definitely miss Sooke very much.”

Milkflower, a novel by Marks, was shortlisted for the Grindstone International Novel Prize in 2020.

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