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December 4, 2016
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Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

Shortlist announced for 2010 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction

Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing

Sep 13/10| For Immediate Release


Michael Carroll, Dean, Faculty of Arts
Wilfrid Laurier University
519-884-0710 ext. 3891 or


Kevin Crowley, Director, Communications & Public Affairs
Wilfrid Laurier University
519-884-0710 ext. 3070 or

WATERLOO – Three books have been shortlisted for the 2010 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.

The jurors said the books shortlisted for this year’s award distinguish themselves not only through the understanding that the authors show for their subjects, but also by their humour and their respect for non-fiction books as vehicles driven by passionate attention to a subject that has been misunderstood or neglected. Though the authors direct that attention towards three very different subjects, all of the shortlisted books exhibit an admirable social consciousness mixed with a poetic sense of story.

The books on the 2010 shortlist are:

  • Lakeland: Journeys into the Soul of Canada (Greystone Books) by Allan Casey. Casey plumbs Canada’s lakes as both physical and metaphorical wellsprings of Canadian identity. Writing in defiance of all boundaries between science writing, reportage and lyrical autoethnography, he takes us out onto the waters for a better look back at the shore. Ultimately, Casey not only reveals how Canada’s millions of lakes form a watery connective tissue that holds this nation together, but also how close we are to choking our lakes with our increasingly affluent embrace. At once intimate and fact-driven, political and poetic, Lakeland is environmental writing at its best: it makes you want to be a part of the solution.  

  • A Very Capable Life: The Autobiography of Zarah Petri (Athabasca University Press) by John Leigh Walters. Walters reshapes the autobiographical impulse by writing in the first-person voice of his mother, the sweetly acerbic Zarah Petri. Walters’ use of Zarah’s colloquial and engaging narration makes the book part oral history, part memoir, part re-imagination of the events of the twentieth century. A Very Capable Life offers the story of his mother’s journey from Hungary to Canada as a feminine picaresque with the indomitable Zarah in the dual roles of heroine and storyteller. In recreating his mother as a resourceful and often hilarious character, Walters’ sustained act of literary ventriloquism captures the ingenuity and passion of the diasporic narrative in Canadian cultural history. 

  • Smiling Bears: A Zookeeper Explores the Behaviour and Emotional Life of Bears (Greystone Books) by Else Poulsen. Poulsen provides a compelling account of the behaviour of bears in captivity that is poignant, tender and often humorous. This book strikes a balance between the author’s scientific expertise and her emotional relationship with the animals under her care. With a vivid narrative style and gentle wit, Poulsen reveals the complexity of these huge yet sensitive creatures who sing, revel in the delights of vanilla ice cream, have pet goldfish and occasionally suffer from depression and anxiety. A moving and intelligent examination of the revelation of ursine personalities, the strength of Smiling Bears is Poulsen’s passion for creating understanding between bears and the humans who are fascinated by them.

The winner of the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction will be announced October 11. A reception for the winner will take place November 10 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. Newspaper editor Russell Wangersky won last year’s Edna Staebler Award for his memoir Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself.


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