A man's retelling of his mother's immigration from Hungary to Canada has earned the $10,000 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction.

Retired TV writer, producer and host John Leigh Walters was named winner of the annual literary prize for A Very Capable Life: The Autobiography of Zarah Petri. The Kitchener, Ont.-based author's book offers an engaging account told from the perspective of his mother, Zarah Petri.

"In recreating his mother as a resourceful and often hilarious character, Walters's sustained act of literary ventriloquism captures the ingenuity and passion of the diasporic narrative in Canadian cultural history," the jurors said in a statement.

Also nominated in 2010 were Lakeland: Journeys into the Soul of Canada by Allan Casey and Smiling Bears: A Zookeeper Explores the Behaviour and Emotional Life of Bears by Else Poulsen.

Established by Canadian author Staebler in 1991 and administered by Wilfrid Laurier University, the award celebrates Canadians who have penned their first or second work of creative non-fiction reflecting a Canadian locale or demonstrating national significance.

Walters will receive the prize at a Nov. 10 reception at the university's Waterloo, Ont., campus.

Past winners include:

  • Elizabeth Hay (The Only Snow in Havana).
  • Wayson Choy (Paper Shadows).
  • Linden MacIntyre (Causeway: A Passage from Innocence).
  • Russell Wangersky (Burning Down the House: Fighting Fires and Losing Myself).