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Peach gets Edna Staebler Award

February 22nd, 2024

BC-based Hilary Peach (at right) has won the 2023 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction for her book Thick Skin: Field Notes from a Sister in the Brotherhood (Anvil $22). The $10,000 prize recognizes Canadian writers for a first or second work of creative non-fiction that includes a Canadian locale or significance.


For more than two decades Hilary Peach worked as a welder and was one of the few women in the Boilermakers’ Union. She kept journals of her experiences, later using the material to publish Thick Skin (Anvil $22) about working in this hard-driving field of industrial construction with its coded language and secret subculture. Her jobs took her from BC’s shipyards and pulp mills to Alberta’s oil sands and Ontario’s rust belt. She even spent time in the huge power generating stations in northeastern US. Peach also took time to become a West Coast performance poet including performances at the Vancouver International Writers Festival. She founded the Poetry Gabriola Festival and was its artistic director for ten years.

Peach’s debut collection of poetry, Bolt (Anvil, 2018) references her time as a welder as well as tackling topics like “snakelore” (it’s an industry thing), songs of loss and longing, and those times when a body is overtaken with the impulse to run out of control. Peach continues to work as a welder for the Boilermakers’ Union while maintaining her interdisciplinary art practice on Gabriola Island. 9781772141955


The Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction is touted as the only one offered in Canada for the genre (there are other non-fiction awards, but not specifically for creative non-fiction). Established in 1991 by writer and literary journalist Edna Staebler, it recognizes a Canadian writer of a first or second published book with a Canadian locale and/or significance. It is administered by Wilfrid Laurier University from Waterloo, Ontario.

About Creative Non-Fiction:

Creative non-fiction is literary not journalistic. The writer does not merely give information but intimately shares an experience with the reader by telling a factual story using the devices of fiction, including:

  • original research;
  • well-crafted interpretive writing;
  • personal discovery or experience;
  • the creative use of language or approach to the subject matter;
  • dialogue; and
  • a narrative about people who come alive.

Rather than emphasizing objectivity, the book should have feeling, and should be a compelling, engaging read.

From the earliest days, Canadian nonfiction writers have been recording their experiences in imaginative ways. The genre has firm roots in the work of Susannah Moody, Farley Mowat, Pierre Berton, Marion Fowler, Harold Horwood, and Edna Staebler herself.

Learn more about the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction here.

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