WEYBURN - Debby Vollbrecht of Sidney, B.C. (born and raised in Creelman, Sask.) was an initial finalist for the 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize for her work, “Letters to Dave”. A total of 31 writers from across Canada were selected out of over 1,700 submissions for the prize.
Vollbrecht retired from a 30-year career in adult education, having taught at both Yukon College in Whitehorse and Capilano University. She took her Grades 1-12 education in Creelman, and then graduated with a BA in English Literature from the University of Saskatchewan, Regina campus.
In 2021, she returned to Creelman to hold a book-signing. She lived and taught in Whitehorse, Yukon, for 20 years, then for a time in Vancouver. She now makes her home in Sidney, B.C., where she is an active member of the Sidney/North Saanich Library Writers Group.
Vollbrecht won a local contest in 2014 for her short memoir, Staying in Touch, and has published short stories in the Writing Group’s anthologies, Moving Right Along and Writing Rhapsody. In 2020, she self-published A Cold Place for Secrets: A Yukon Mystery and is currently working on her second mystery novel.
Asked what the inspiration was for her book, she said, “During our nearly 50 years together, Dave was hospitalized a number of times, first when he began dialysis and then following his kidney transplant eight months later. Both times I remained in Whitehorse while he lived in Vancouver for about four months.
“We wrote to each other in journal form nearly every day back then. During recent shorter separations, we texted daily. After Dave died, it seemed only natural to continue the tradition of writing to him, even though he wouldn’t be writing back. These letters are my way of journaling and keeping Dave with me.”
Vollbrecht said she wanted to share her story as the end of Dave’s life involved his choice for medical assistance in dying (MAiD).
“I wanted to share my experience with others who may have this difficult choice to make, or be compelled to support a loved one’s choice. Dave felt he had beaten death many times already and now that his circumstances were becoming unbearable, he wasn’t willing to prolong the ordeal,” she explained.
She noted she questioned him on this decision as she felt he was setting the date too soon.
“Ultimately, Dave passed away in his sleep the day before the doctor was to come, confirming that he was ready to go; I was the one who wasn’t ready. This is an aspect of MAiD that I feel is important for others to know: that people know their bodies, that it’s not the slippery slope many imagine,” she said.
The winner of the Nonfiction Prize will receive a cash prize of $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, and will receive a two-week writing residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. The winner will also be published on the CBC Books website.
The four runners-up will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and will be published on CBC Books. For more information on the CBC Literary Prizes, please visit CBCBooks.ca.
The shortlist was be announced on Thursday, Sept. 15. The finalists were:
- Your House by Cayenne Bradley (Victoria)
- Advice to a New Beekeeper by Susan Cormier (Langley, B.C.)
- Seh Woo, My Teeth by Kerissa Dickie (Fort Nelson, B.C.)
- Tek Tek by Y. S. Lee (Kingston, Ont.)
- Storkatorium by Jane Ozkowski (Bloomfield, Ont.)
The winner will be announced on Sept. 22.