About

I hail from the province of Saskatchewan, a thinly-populated rectangle in the Canadian west where summers are short but glorious, the winters long but cold. I was born in the capital city of Regina and promptly became an orphan. Adopted by a nice couple affiliated with the Kinsmen club, I was transplanted north to Prince Albert, the small city on the North Saskatchewan River where the prairie ends and the boreal forest begins.

Sixteen mostly-happy years later I graduated from St. Mary High School, then moved to Saskatoon to get an English degree at the University of Saskatchewan. Between major milestones I have been an airline ticket agent and ramp rat, a credit card company Junior Associate, a summer camp counsellor, a tree planter, a lifter of heavy things in a warehouse, and a daydreamer. I lived and studied in Montreal, Quebec during two separate stints, and traveled rather a lot in Europe and Asia when aimless roving was still affordable.

I married my high school girlfriend, the painter Marlene Yuzak, and we had two kids.  Eventually, I took a Master’s degree in journalism at the University of Western Ontario in London. I had a comfortable job as a reporter for the London Free Press for a time, but we yearned for the West. After returning to Saskatoon to raise our kids, I started a career as a freelance author on a kind of self-dare.

I continue to take the dare, one day at a time. It gets easier, though, because I am not good for much else than following my nose and writing about whatever I find. I was once described by a friend as “curious about everything,” which I took as a fine compliment.

Over time I have been pulled into the orbit of nature writing. I am especially interested in writing about the land itself, how we view it, how we use it, how it shapes the soul of its citizens. It seems to me our great task as a species is to find a sustainable place within the biosphere, and I try to lend my talents, humble though they be, to that enterprise.

My work has appeared in many well-known Canadian titles — Adbusters, Canadian Business, Canadian Geographic, Canadian Living, Reader’s Digest, Books in Canada — to name a few. I have been fortunate to win some Western Magazine Awards over the years, and recently shared a National Magazine Award with the editorial team at Canadian Geographic for a special environmental package we put together. I received the inaugural Science Journalism Award from the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. I have been the recipient of an expedition research grant from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

For fun I fool around with small boats — canoes, kayaks, rowing shells, sailboats. I spend as much time as I can manage far from the city and like to organize wilderness trips for friends. Finding myself restless in middle age, I have taken to travel again.

Lakeland: Ballad of a Freshwater Country is my first book.

8 Comments

  1. Thanks for the link, Allan. It looks greaat and very interesting to read about somebody that I know personally. Keep up the good work.

  2. New site looks great. Enjoyed the story of your walk to Wanuswekin. I am on parental leave for a few months and just took my girls there for the day yesterday.

    Curious about Citizen Science,

    Tyler

  3. Allan , LOVED your book. You paint pictures and moments with your words. Awesome. I will be bragging about it at book club next week !!! And our heartiest congratulations on this newest of your achievments .

  4. Congratulations on winning the Governor General’s Literary Award!
    I first heard about your book from Betty Anderson and have skimmed “Lakeland” mainly for information on Emma Lake. My two uncles had cabins there and
    I have been going there on and off since I was a child. My dad bought a cottage at Waskesiu, PANP in 1939, and amidst many “suggestions” to rennovate, revamp, etc. it is still in pretty well its original state. Right now, I am the sole owner as my parents have passed away, and I have one daughter, and one grandson. I’m 76. So far I’m ok as the cottages around me are fairly well in their original state too, but new owners might change things – hope not.
    I agree with you totally about Emma Lake – some of the large cottages seem unsuitable for the lake whatsoever.

    I had another reason for reading your book too, and that is a little more complicated. I don’t know if this goes directly to you or to everyone, so would like to find that out first before writing more.
    Dorell

  5. As a fellow (former) stubble jumper I thought I’d acknowledge my appreciation for your work in Lakeland. It reminds me a lot of the work of Dave “Carp” Carpenter . My favourite is Ice Road probably because it takes me back to my student summer jobs in various outback regions of Canada. Since you have kids and like small boats, may I be so bold to suggest the warm and entirely safe waters of Manitou Beach to the east of you about 80 miles? I know it’s briney, has no fish, and has some sea weed , but boy is it a safe place for kids to get to know how to sail, paddle or row.

  6. Hi Allan

    We’ve never met, but I am a denizen of the north, too. I grew up on a farm on the baseline, four miles east of Christopher Lake. Christopher, Emma, Anglin and Candle and The Park (I don’t know how old I was before I knew there were other parks…) were our stomping grounds. Yet, Dad loved back roads and good fishing, so our range was much broader and we preferred the non-developed lakes. Bittern remains the lake I know best.

    I just finished my PhD in history and I wrote about the north Prince Albert region. From First Nations use of the boreal edge and subsequent layers of occupation and use (forestry, farming, soldier settlement and other resources (like overland freighting into the north using horses and caterpillar tractors), rise of toursim and the Depression migrations), I took the story to 1940. Most people complain about writing their dissertation; then again, most people don’t get the opportunity to write about their home, their grandparents, and the landscape of their soul.

    I absolutely loved Lakeland. Thank you so much for writing it. I will be sharing it with my family — insisting they read it, but as my oldest brother has a lakefront cabin at Emma, he may or may not see it from your (our?) perspective. Nonetheless, I’ve already promoted the book to a class of students at the University of Saskatchewan where I was giving a guest lecture on wilderness, and will continue to plug it. It is simply superb.

  7. I have not yet read your book, but I will. I expect it to deal with the complex relationship we have with our surroundings. The North American environment wasn’t “built” for us, so all we have is entertainment, emotional and aesthetic pleasure in our appreciation of it. Our reliance on it is too subtle for us to be aware. How we cope with that is the story of our next age.

  8. Do you ever travel to eastern ontario? I am part of a group which is trying to slow the kind of development you witnessed on Emma Lake. Small, but navigable rivers and lakes here are beginning to be developed as waterfront properties. Would love to have you as a guest speaker…..

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