Leslie Carlin wins the Penguin Random House Canada Student Award for Fiction


Leslie Carlin is the first prize winner of our Penguin Random House Canada Student Award for Fiction 2019.

Originally from California, Leslie lived in England for many years before settling in Toronto. She is a medical anthropologist, and a research associate in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Toronto.

Her prize-winning short story, Natalie, Happy, follows the life of a Canadian anthropologist named Natalie who lives in a fictional town in northern England. The story revolves around her marriage to a man named Erik, a fellow anthropologist from Zimbabwe, and their journey toward building a family and their careers.  Natalie, Happy explores the meanings and challenges of being a mother, a woman, a wife, and an academic.

Leslie sat down with SCS to discuss her story inspiration and passion for creative writing.


SCS: What inspired you to take Creative Writing at SCS?

LC: I loved creative writing when I was younger. When my family moved to Toronto nine years ago, I was struggling to finish a paper I was writing, and at the same time felt overwhelmed by the task of keeping all my friends and family in England up-to-date on my new life in Toronto. A friend suggested I start a blog to keep everyone updated on my new adventures, which inspired me to explore fun ways to reinvigorate my writing.  I took a class at SCS and got hooked, and just this year completed my Certificate in Creative Writing.

SCS: What was your inspiration for this story?

LC: Natalie, Happy wasn’t inspired by one particular event. It’s an amalgamation of many stories and people I have known throughout my life, mixed with my own original ideas and twists. It’s also the product of my personal interrogations of motherhood, professionalism, marriage, and family.

SCS: How has winning this award influenced your creative writing future?

LC: It’s still so fresh, but it’s wonderful. I’d entered other stories in this competition in the past, and had been a runner up more than once. It was becoming an ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’ situation, so winning was really special. I’m inspired to carry on writing and taking courses at SCS.

SCS: Any advice for aspiring writers?

LC: I would highly recommend the SCS Creative Writing program; there’s really something for everyone here. Classes are flexible, so you can learn in-person or online (which I chose to do in the dead of winter to avoid the cold)! I also suggest finding a writing community. Being an author isn’t just about learning the practical aspects of writing, but finding a community and becoming part of a conversation around writing, reading, and creative possibilities.