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​​​​​​​Kamloops author among five finalists for 2023 CBC Short Story Prize

Katie Welch’s Bird Emergent was shortlisted from more than 2,000 entries
Kamloops author Katie Welch.

Kamloops author Katie Welch is just one round away from taking home the 2023 CBC Short Story Prize.

Welch's short story, Bird Emergent, was shortlisted last week, with the field narrowed down to just five writers from across the country. More than 2,000 people entered the nationwide contest.

"I was incredulous at first because I'd entered before and never even been longlisted,” Welch told KTW. “I had almost forgotten I had even submitted to it. I was amazed at first and then just really excited I'd been shortlisted.”

Welch's own story somewhat mirrors the short piece she submitted to the contest back in October — except for the duck sex.

"You weren't expecting duck sex?" Welch told KTW, laughing.

Bird Emergent follows a character named Ava who undergoes a visceral transformation to become her true self.

The short story can be read on the CBC Books website.

Welch relates to her character's story, at least metaphorically.

"I was always wanting to be a writer and just never pursuing it, being afraid to actually pursue my passion until I became a cranky middle-aged woman, much like Ava," she said.

Welch said seeing LGBTQ and two-spirit communities "just trying to be who they are" also inspired the story.

"I drew that line between what I've been through and what other people were doing, trying to be themselves, and how it's just part of their nature and they can't do anything about it," she said.

Welch teaches music in Kamloops, but she grew up in Ottawa and earned a degree in English literature from the University of Toronto, with plans to be a writer. After school, she was discouraged by a series of rejections while trying to get published.

"I needed to make money, so I put it aside until I got into my 40s. I had never stopped wanting to write, so I took another kick at the can," she said.

In May 2022, Welch released her debut novel, Mad Honey, published by Ontario publisher Wolsak & Wynn.

The book, about a family finding peace and the magic of beekeeping, follows a pair of mysteries, including a beekeeper who disappears for months before returning to declare that he has been living as a bee colony.

It was recently nominated for an Evergreen Award by the Ontario Library Association.

"It took 10 years to get that book published,” she said. “It's been a long road.”

Welch said she was thrilled with that nomination, which came from a panel of librarians.

Although both works tell stories of transformation, Welch said the book differs from her short story, although both involve nature.

"My default is ... I want to say environmentalist, but I think we are all kind of environmentalists these days," she said.

The winner of the 2023 CBC Short Story Prize will be announced on Tuesday, April 18. The winner will take home a $6,000 prize from the Canada Council for the Arts and attend a two-week writing residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point on the Toronto Islands.