Skip to main content

Author Charlotte Gill is shown in a handout photo.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Charlotte Gill's tree-planting memoir has won British Columbia's National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe was awarded the $40,000 prize at a ceremony in Vancouver on Monday.

"It's a long way just from even having the little idea. I didn't know how I was going to write it. There was so much material, so much research to do, my story was so big. I didn't know even how I would wrestle it to the ground. So this is like not even in my wildest dreams," Gill said after winning the prize.

Earlier, she pointed out that Monday was "tree planter new year" – the first day of the season for some of the crews.

Story continues below advertisement

In Eating Dirt, Gill recounts her life as a tree-planter: her beginnings in Ontario, the move to the West, and the often shaky co-existence between nature and planters she encounters over her 17-year/million-tree career. A sort of literary ode to the grittiness of the work, Eating Dirt also educates the reader on tree biology and the history of the West Coast forests.

The jury, which considered 134 books for the award, cited Eating Dirt as "an insider's perspective on the gruelling, remote and largely ignored world of that uniquely modern-day 'tribe,' the tree planter." It said Gill's description of the forest "brings it vividly to life in all its mystic grandeur with striking details and evocative analogies, using intelligence, verve and humour to illuminate the dangers that live within, and threaten from without."

The book is also on the short list for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction and was on the short list for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Non-fiction (won by Charles Foran's Mordecai: The Life & Times).

When Gill was seeking a publishing deal for Eating Dirt, in mid-2009, she had some challenges, both because of the economy and the subject matter. "It was a very tough sell in Central Canada," she said during an earlier interview. "So I feel really grateful to even have a publisher [Greystone Books] I wasn't sure how it was going to go. There were some closed doors when I had that manuscript in my hand, for sure."

Gill, 40, was born in London, and grew up in Eastern Canada and the United States. Her tree-planting career saw her move to the West Coast, where she eventually studied creative writing at the University of British Columbia. Her first book, the short-story collection Ladykiller, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the B.C. Book Prize for fiction and was short-listed for the Governor-General's Literary Award for fiction. Gill recently moved from Vancouver to Powell River, B.C.

The B.C. National Award, presented by the British Columbia Achievement Foundation, is open to all Canadian writers. The other short-listed books were Prince George, B.C., native Brian Fawcett's memoir Human Happiness; Toronto-based writer Andrew Westoll's The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery; and Bad Animals: A Father's Accidental Education in Autism, by Montreal writer Joel Yanofsky.

The jury panel members for 2012 were former Vancouver city librarian Paul Whitney; Patricia Graham, vice-president, digital, for the Pacific Newspaper Group; and Ottawa-based author/editor Shari Graydon.

Story continues below advertisement





Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter