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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
June 29, 2016

Canadian Excellence


1993: Liza Potvin

The information below is adapted from the news release issued in 1993

Liza Potvin of Nanaimo is the winner of the first prize in the third annual Edna Staebler Award with White Lies (for my mother), published in May 1992 by NeWest Press in Edmonton.

Judith Miller, one of the members of the preliminary judging committee and a professor of literature at Renison College at the University of Waterloo, says creative non-fiction is not a new form but the interesting trend in the genre is toward the personal essay presented with adventurous and idiosyncratic twists. "Today it is the bravery of those twists that is remarkable," she says.

Miller adds that the winning authors have shaped their writing to be faithful to their actual experiences and thoughts.

White Lies is an intimate account of Potvin's recovery from incest and is based on 15 years of journal entries. "It was really risky writing it at all. The positive reception makes it worth the risk," says Potvin.

The author says the book does not fall into the traditional categories of fiction or non-fiction. It is based on journal excerpts organized not logically or linearly but rather for psychological coherence.

She says it is particularly rewarding to have White Lies disqualified from some contests because of its experimental form now recognized for a national award. "I've tried to break out of the established genres and challenge those boundaries.

"It's difficult to write about something so personal. You keep it closeted. And until recently, there hasn't been a climate of acceptance."

Sexually abused by her father and grandfather since she was a baby, Potvin examines the impact of this abuse on her relationship with her mother, who was aware of the abuse but did nothing to stop it. While she exposes the trauma of incest and laments the destruction of her childhood, she also celebrates the release that language offers.

Potvin, who is a professor of English at Malaspina College in Nanaimo, has written academic criticism, poetry, and short stories.

Other Publications by Liza Potvin:

  • Cougarman: Percy Dewar (2005)
  • The Traveler's Hat (2003)

For more information visit Liza Potvin's website.