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December 8, 2016
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Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

Shortlist announced for the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Oct 30/09| For Immediate Release


Dr. Mary-Louise Byrne, Acting Dean
Faculty of Arts
519-884-0710 ext. 3891 or


Kevin Crowley, Associate Director
News and Editorial Services
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WATERLOO – Four books have been shortlisted for the 2009 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction. The $10,000 award, administered by Wilfrid Laurier University, encourages and recognizes Canadian writers for a first or second work of creative non-fiction that includes a Canadian locale and/or significance.

“This year’s shortlist displayed a wealth of talent in addressing subjects of considerable power and arresting magnitude,” said Tanis MacDonald, award juror and assistant professor in Laurier’s Department of English and Film Studies. “The books that are the finalists for this award are evidence that the memoir, in all its political, personal and contemplative glory, is a force in Canadian non-fiction writing.”

The books on the 2009 shortlist are:

  • The Darien Gap: Travels in the Rainforest of Panama (Harbour Publishing) by Martin Mitchinson. The Darien Gap is the fascinating story of one man’s trek into the heart of the Panamanian rainforest. As the author journeys deeper into the unknown, by foot and canoe, his narrative skillfully weaves together the region’s history of European exploration and exploitation, its modern-day social and cultural realities, and his personal search for understanding in a jungle paradise that is both welcoming and dangerous.
  • Lost: A Memoir (Key Porter Books) by Cathy Ostlere. Intensely lyrical, hypnotic and haunting, Cathy Ostlere’s memoir of personal loss is unafraid to take risks. The rich language of Lost pulls the reader into an intimate and singular state of mind, into a place “where time has collapsed” and a fierce gravity takes hold. This is a book that refuses easy consolation, taking us beyond a traditional tragic ending to reconsider our understanding of love, responsibility and loyalty.
  • Burning Down the House: Fighting Fire and Losing Myself (Thomas Allen Publishers) by Russell Wangersky. Burning Down the House offers a crystal-clear portrait of a man who, through his career as a firefighter, becomes addicted to the rush of danger. In a narrative stacked with house fires, car wrecks and various other human tragedies, Russell Wangersky portrays the emotional contingencies and lingering trauma that slowly begin to pull his life apart. This is a powerful book that illuminates the darker natures of those whom we trust with our lives.
  • The Riverbones: Stumbling After Eden in the Jungles of Suriname (McClelland & Stewart) by Andrew Westoll. Set in the steamy jungles of Suriname, The Riverbones charts the colonial legacy of South America as much as it explores the beauty and peril of a geographical region. This is a memoir that locates its own “heart of darkness” in the author’s self-reflexive obsession with the tragedies of twenty-first century eco-tourism. Westoll’s exploration of the exotic is tempered with an awareness of what it means to trespass in a land that is not one’s own.     

The winner of the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction will be announced in November. A reception will take place November 30, at 7:30 p.m. in the Paul Martin Centre on the Waterloo campus of Wilfrid Laurier University.

The Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction was launched in 1991 and is administered by Wilfrid Laurier University, the only university in Canada to bestow a nationally recognized literary award. Editor and essayist Bruce Serafin was posthumously awarded last year’s Edna Staebler Award for Stardust, a collection of essays by the author.


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