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Harbour Author Named Finalist for Prestigious Literary Award

Posted: November 2, 2009

Powell River author Martin Mitchinson has been named a finalist for the prestigious 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.

Martin Mitchinson’s nominated book is The Darien Gap: Travels in the Rainforest of Panama ($26.95, Harbour Publishing). Fascinated by tales of Darien, writer Martin Mitchinson sailed into the heart of the province aboard his thirty-six-foot ketch, moved in with a native family and spent the next eighteen months travelling the province by foot and dugout canoe. After being swept under a jungle river at night and trapped in mangrove swamps, he eventually crossed the continental divide from Caribbean Sea to Pacific waters along the historic route of the Spanish explorer Balboa.

But Mitchinson’s greatest achievement was in coming to understand the real Darien—a captivating land with an exotic history of pirates, conquistadores, native tribes and tragic adventurers. Through his words and photographs, the reader is introduced to the people of Darien who share the same struggles faced by indigenous groups the world over. Like the greatest travel writing it is also a deeply affecting story about a man finding himself as he explores the unknown.

Martin Mitchinson has been a travel writer and photographer for the past ten years. He was born in Saskatoon and raised in northern Alberta, where he later worked in the oil fields to support his travels to Central and South America. He now lives outside Powell River, BC. The Darien Gap is his first book.

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.

The other nominated books are Lost: A Memoir (Key Porter Books) by Cathy Ostlere, Burning Down the House: Fighting Fire and Losing Myself (Thomas Allen Publishers) by Russell Wangersky, The Riverbones: Stumbling After Eden in the Jungles of Suriname (McClelland & Stewart) by Andrew Westoll.