In 2008, Shashi Bhat was an MFA graduate having trouble finding work in her field. “I taught four painfully tedious MCAT prep classes and worked as a tutor for an online business course while querying literary agents, feeling a little flatter with each rejection, and wondering whether I’d made an over-confident misstep pursuing writing as a career,” she remembers.
When her dad gave her an ad he’d cut out of the Toronto Star for the 2009 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers, she didn’t think she had much chance of winning. “But I sent a story in anyway, a piece called ‘Indian Cooking’ that had been basically torn apart in my grad school fiction workshop.”
“When I received a phone call telling me I was a finalist, I was thrilled of course, but didn’t really know what this would mean for me as a writer. I didn’t even end up winning, but still, to put it simply, this recognition from the Writers’ Trust opened the doors.”
A friend of Marc Côté, publisher of Cormorant Books, attended the finalist readings and told Marc about Shashi’s piece. He read the full story in a promotional brochure sent out by the Writer’s Trust and sent Shashi an email asking whether she had a manuscript.
“A couple months after that, I met him at a Starbucks in Toronto and he offered me a book deal for my novel, The Family Took Shape. On the exact same day, I got a call from Dalhousie University telling me they were hiring me as a full-time assistant professor of creative writing, i.e. my dream job. I must have cried from relief and joy every day that week.”
“I had submitted my story to the contest only on a whim, but I wonder what I would be doing now if I hadn’t. The recognition came along during a discouraging moment of my life, offering an extraordinary bit of hope.”
Shashi Bhat’s novel, The Family Took Shape, published by Comorant Books, is a story about one unique family’s search for happiness in Canadian suburbia, and was released in spring of 2013. Read more about the book.