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Writer from Jasper longlisted for CBC Nonfiction Prize

Jasperite Megan Warren was the only writer to get two nominations on the longlist for this year’s CBC Nonfiction Prize. | N.Collins photo

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter |

Of the 31 writers who made it to the longlist for this year’s CBC Nonfiction Prize, Jasper’s Megan Warren was the only one from across the country with two submissions.

The 24-year-old isn’t taking the moment for granted.

“It’s such an honour,” she said. ‘I’m so thrilled to have been longlisted. It’s been really encouraging. It fills me with impostor syndrome. It makes me feel like I should really write more. It’s amazing.”

Jasper’s young environmental journalist recently graduated from the University of Victoria with a double major in creative writing (focusing on nonfiction) and environmental studies, and a minor in journalism. She put all of those interests to work on her two submissions titled “Bear Jam” and “In Defence of the Pine Beetle.”

The two essays were originally school assignments, making them already polished and professional enough to submit to the annual writing contest. She said that living in Jasper and working for Parks Canada provided ample inspiration for her two subjects.

“Bear Jam” explores the phenomenon of photo-hungry motorists parking hastily on the side of the highways in order to get those ideal wildlife shots.

It starts from the perspective of a bear fresh out of hibernation, eagerly finding berries before being interrupted by one camera after another.

“I was just talking about that in connection to the ways that social media shaped tourism just both in terms of physical impacts on a place and in terms of what people seek when they’re traveling,” Warren said.

“It seems to be less of a ‘going somewhere just to experience’ something and a lot of it is ‘going somewhere to get a photo to prove that you have experienced’ something.’”

“In Defence of the Pine Beetle” takes a naturalist’s perspective on the epidemic of mountain pine beetle. She interviewed conservation biologist Kevin van Tighem about his experiences in Waterton National Park during its pine beetle epidemic.

He related some of the changes, including a dramatic increase in the number of birds. There had never been so many as there were after the infestation and the ecological renewal that occurred because of it.

“We weren’t hearing any of that, and I get why we weren’t hearing any of that because people were scared, but I think we needed to,” Warren said.

Those issues drive her to writing as a way of expressing her environmental interests.

“I love that nonfiction offers an opportunity for a writer to get deeply involved in a world that may be completely unfamiliar but then to become deeply familiar with it and to hopefully tell a story in a way that does it justice,” she said.

“It gives you an opportunity to get deeply immersed in another world and keep on learning and tell stories that will hopefully make change, especially when it comes to environmental and social situations. There’s just so much in the world that needs telling and so many stories to find that that’s really where I find the most inspiration.”

While Warren didn’t make it to the shortlist, she still takes her double placing on the longlist as a strong form of validation that she’s on the right path.

“I’m so happy and shocked that I even made the long list. It’s so encouraging.”

The winner of the writing contest is being announced on Sept. 22. The winner of the 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize will receive $6,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts, have their work published on CBC Books and have the opportunity to attend a two-week writing residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Four finalists will each receive $1,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts and have their work published on CBC Books.

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