Charlotte Gill on winning the B.C. National Book Award

First aired on All Points West (17/2/12)

Fresh from winning the 2012 B.C. National Book Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, author Charlotte Gill talked to CBC Radio's All Points West about how she came to write Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe and what landing the prestigious $40,000 prize means to her.


"I was a tree-planter for 17 years, and I think probably about a decade into that career, I started to wonder what it would be like to try and tell a story about tree-planting. It had been a part of my life for so long," Gill told host Jo-Ann Roberts. She had looked for non-fiction books on the subject, and it had surprised her not to find any, considering how many people have done tree-planting in the 30 or 40 years since it began.

Apart from nods from prize juries — Eating Dirt was a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize and is also shortlisted for the Charles Taylor Prize — Gill's book has generated plenty of positive response from those with first-hand experience of the job. "I get emails from tree-planters, current and former, almost every day," she said. "For the most part, they are just so thrilled that they have a story, finally, something in print form" that captures their experience.

When asked what makes it hard for outsiders to understand that world, Gill compared going tree-planting to "flying to another planet," adding that "physically being inside [a clearcut] and walking around, I don't think that's an experience that too many people have outside the forestry industry."

Her aim in writing the book, Gill said, was to "paint a picture of what it's like, to be there in a boots-on-the-ground way, what it's like to feel dirty, and be rained on and hailed on, and pestered by insects, all those things that tree-planters experience every day."

Eating Dirt.jpgEating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe
by Charlotte Gill

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From the publisher:

"In Eating Dirt, Gill offers up a slice of tree-planting life in all of its soggy, gritty exuberance, while questioning the ability of conifer plantations to replace original forests that evolved over millennia into complex ecosystems. She looks at logging's environmental impact and its boom-and-bust history, and touches on the versatility of wood, from which we have devised countless creations as diverse as textiles and airplane parts..."

Read more at Greystone/D&M Publishers.