I wrote Cardinal in four hours. After a dare from my spouse while making New Year's resolutions, I wrote the story quickly (one hour a day, over four days) and submitted it to the Star contest in 2017. I won first place. The prize included free admission to a Humber mentorship program. Everything started from there.

I won the Star contest again in 2022 and, within a week, signed a two-book deal with Invisible.

My writing went viral in 2016. My humour essay for The Globe and Mail's Facts & Arguments section became — and stayed — one of the most read articles on the website for 48 hours, and topped a year-end list. 

I have a soft spot for underachievers. As a child, I was tested as gifted, but was too shy to leave my school and take a bus out of town to a gifted program. I attended university with a scholarship, but dropped out in my second year and worked in a pita shop.

As a journalist, I've interviewed politicians, musicians, actors, artists, TV personalities, historians, professors, doctors, C-suite executives, small business owners, authors and experts. 


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It crippled some fundamental part of Derek. I didn’t know whether it was the mistake itself, or his inability to right the mistake, that hurt him most. I didn’t know how much of it was about Sam at all — but his awe, his terror, at his own immovable ego, even under a lifetime’s worth of regret. And he was right to be afraid. It was so stupid — and so characteristic of him — to prefer his ego over his own happiness.

"Restrained use of symbolism elevates this story so that it says something profound about life, and about the choices and connections we make"

— Toronto Star Contest Judges

Jewelry stores. People died in those mines. But we kept sending men down there. I even liked jewelry — at least it lasted forever; so much of everything else didn’t. I wore a chain on my chest since I was 14 years old. Standing in the shower, or after, in the mirror, it was a slim, pale, curved line cutting across the colour of my skin, a delicate detail on my body. Usually I felt strong, tightly packed, tightly wound, but big guys like Mike reminded me about real power — he was probably two heads taller than me. It commanded a different world around him, with other men, with women — I could only imagine the women in his phone — and I’d always known that world was not my own. And for Mike, he didn’t even know. I would compare myself to him but he would not compare himself to me. I had known so many careless Mikes all my life, watched them move through the world — effortless, like big, languid cats, sleeping in the sun.

But it didn’t matter as much anymore. I was removing myself from the world, slowly collecting the parts of me that were exposed. Working at night, living alone, deciding how and when I wanted to come back.

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The backyard chairs were throne-like. Tom picked them out, something a man is keen to own when he has bought some land and found a woman. Tom, Ellie and Martin sat there, drinking. Martin’s face gleamed in the dim outdoor lighting; his voice was quieter now, but steady.

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Late in the year, he was out at recess, walking along the edge of the playground before it became the field, and some boys approached him, loping like ugly dogs. She guessed they would bother him. Two of them did — a remark, some laughter, and more words when he did not respond, then a shove. Like a glass falling and shattering on the ground, her mind split into a thousand directions and her body operated alone, swiftly standing and suddenly breaking across the field. She kicked one boy down from behind before either of them knew what was happening. He fell like a snapped branch. A second boy, in shock, flew back in fear. But two other boys, shouting, pushed her until she fell, and other children ran at them. The boys kicked at her while she, from the ground, kicked out at them. A shoe struck her jaw and she whipped her upper body off the ground to save her head. She was still as big as them and she kicked at a knee, bending it in a direction that it was not supposed to bend, and the shouting turned into a long, horrific shriek that froze everything for three or four blind moments. Teachers were coming. She did not return to school for the rest of the year.

photos DTD  ©  copyright nina dunic