Wangersky wins national non-fiction prize

Everton McLean
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Literature

Newfoundland writer Russell Wangersky has won the country's richest award for non-fiction writing.

Wangersky, who is the editor of The Telegram, was named the winner of British Columbia's National Award for non-fiction for his book, "Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself," an account of his years as a volunteer firefighter. The award comes with a $40,000 prize.

"It's the first one I've won. I've been a finalist for other prizes. It's a tremendous thing. It is almost in its own way a career-changing award for a writer," Wangersky said by telephone from British Columbia.

Russell Wangersky signs copies of "Burning Down the House" at the book's launch in St. John's in this file photo. - Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Newfoundland writer Russell Wangersky has won the country's richest award for non-fiction writing.

Wangersky, who is the editor of The Telegram, was named the winner of British Columbia's National Award for non-fiction for his book, "Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself," an account of his years as a volunteer firefighter. The award comes with a $40,000 prize.

"It's the first one I've won. I've been a finalist for other prizes. It's a tremendous thing. It is almost in its own way a career-changing award for a writer," Wangersky said by telephone from British Columbia.

He said the award will help promote his book, which will now bear the award seal, and it will open doors for him as a writer.

Wangersky said being named to the short list in December gave him the sense that his work is recognized, but winning the award was "a crap shoot I'm glad to have won."

"It's not what I write for, but it's something I've been hoping for since the short list came out. It gives you something to dream about," he said.

"It changes the possibilities. It changes what you can do for new books and who you can work with and what sort of advances you can command, all sorts of things," he said.

Wangersky, who was previously longlisted for both the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Writers' Award for a book of short stories, has a novel in the works to be published in 2010.

He said he plans to take a hiatus from non-fiction books after the "gruelling" task of writing "Burning Down the House."

"I revealed a hell of a lot more about me than I ever thought I'd tell anyone," he said.

The other finalists for the award were Daphne Bramham for "The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect"; Mary Henley Rubio for "Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings"; and Christopher Shulgan for "The Soviet Ambassador: The Making of the Radical Behind Perestroika."

Previous award recipients include Patrick Lane for "There Is a Season" (2005), Rebecca Godfrey for "Under the Bridge" (2006), Noah Richler for "This Is My Country, What's Yours?" (2007), and Lorna Goodison for "From Harvey River" (2008).

emclean@thetelegram.com

Organizations: The Telegram, Commonwealth Writers

Geographic location: British Columbia, Newfoundland, Canada Harvey River

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Recent comments

  • Craig
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Congratulations, Russell. It's well deserved.

  • Lloyd
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Congratulations Russell Wangersky, well done.
    I have not yet read your book but it will now go on my reading list. I always read, and enjoy your regular columns. Hopefully the provincial government will tout your success(es) to the public as it has other successful folk from Newfoundland.

  • Gerry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Congratulations Russell on a job well done, it couldn t happen to a nicer guy,
    you deserved that and more,
    from your friend

  • Big Fan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    I second that emotion.

  • Jason
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Congratulations, Russell!

    Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!

  • Best
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Russell, well done! Congratulations.

  • Craig
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Congratulations, Russell. It's well deserved.

  • Lloyd
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    Congratulations Russell Wangersky, well done.
    I have not yet read your book but it will now go on my reading list. I always read, and enjoy your regular columns. Hopefully the provincial government will tout your success(es) to the public as it has other successful folk from Newfoundland.

  • Gerry
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    Congratulations Russell on a job well done, it couldn t happen to a nicer guy,
    you deserved that and more,
    from your friend

  • Big Fan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:00

    I second that emotion.

  • Jason
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    Congratulations, Russell!

    Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!

  • Best
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Russell, well done! Congratulations.