The devil’s in the details

August 8, 2019 | Arts & Culture

As part of their creative writing senior seminar, recent Bachelor of Arts graduate Erin Okada and her classmates were assigned to research opportunities to pursue their writing careers. Through this research, Erin found the Dr. MacEwan Literary Arts scholarship.

The highly competitive scholarship is awarded annually by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts to a young writer who “shows extraordinary talent in an eligible literary genre and who demonstrates clear educational or training goals.” Erin is the winner for 2019.

“Winning the scholarship is validation that I am capable of communicating ideas and that the hard work I have put into developing my writing — and that others have put into helping me — will not go to waste so long as I continue to learn and continue to create,” says Erin. She adds, “I’d like to thank all my creative writing profs for every brutal correction and encouraging check mark.”

As part of her required writing samples, Erin submitted “A Real Nail Biter,” a piece of short fiction about a girl who makes a deal with the devil and curses her brother. “The story was inspired by Schubert's ‘Erlkönig,’ about an elf king who kidnaps children and the father trying to rescue his son,” says Erin.

She plans to return to MacEwan University in the fall to follow her creative path into the Bachelor of Design program.


Excerpt from Erin’s “A Real Nail Biter”:

Her father’s parting words to her as his shadow loomed over, “...drink lots of water, girl...,” and on her nails she’d started to gnaw. After just a few taps on the piano keys, Jody, at four, could master any piece.

She took to piano like a bird to the skies. The survivalism it supplied came in the form of silence. To hear her play they had to stop talking about her parents’ affairs, the abandonment, and “that time Zack Deofol was caught selling MDMA.”

“That poor Deofol boy. It’s in the blood,” one would start.

“Perhaps, but little Jody’s music redeems!” the next would bring the gossip to an end.

When Jody was thirteen, she was invited to play her first concert in the big city. Shubert’s “Erlkönig” would be the opening piece. The famed arthritic-inducing song about the violent elf king who preys in dark woods would hush the audience from the start, Jody thought. But her brother, near forgotten in his absence as critical whispers, taunted that her playing of the song sounded dreadful.

“You’ll mess the whole show up,” Zack mused. His shadow loomed as she stared at the keys, as if he were threatening her with the monsters of the song.

With devilish obsession, Jody belaboured over perfecting Schubert’s “Erlkönig.” The fast galloping of the song—the child’s attempted escape from the elf king’s onslaught—ground her juvenile joints to rubble beneath the shadow of her brother.

Read the rest of Erin's story in the next edition of the Bolo Tie Collective Anthology, available October 2019 in the mstore.


Get MacEwan University news delivered to your inbox.
Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter