Jillian horton named winner of Staebler Award 


Photo by Yitian Cai

On Nov. 9, Author Jillian Horton was named the 2022 winner of Laurier’s Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction. Horton’s winning book is titled, ‘We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing’.  

Horton, who along with being an author is also a medical doctor, educator, musician and podcaster, focused on feelings of burnout in her memoir.  

As described by Wilfrid Laurier University in a news release, “In the book, Dr. Horton, a gifted internist, examines her drive to reverse her family’s experience of medical ineptitude while becoming physically and psychologically exhausted by her responsibilities as a doctor, teacher and mother.” 

Taking part in a mindfulness retreat opens Horton’s eyes to the breathing room she needs to fully grasp the weight of her profession and how it connects to the idea of “healing” as a connection to our inner human being and our outer sense of humanity.  

The Edna Staebler award has a rich history. 

“The award was endowed by Edna Stabler, and it was first presented in 1991,” said Bruce Gillespie, associate professor in the user design program and faculty lead for the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction.  

“Edna Stabler was known for so many things. She had a very long and busy life. But early in her career, when she became a writer, she wasn’t sure if it was going to work.” 

However, Staebler perservered.  

“She won an award for one of the very first pieces she ever wrote and she always says that encouraged her to keep writing. That’s why she funded the award for an author of a first or second book to encourage them to keep going,” said Gillespie. 

“It is an absolutely joyful turn of events in the middle of a few years that have not been very joyful,” said Horton in an email to The Cord.

“I am deeply grateful to be part of the Laurier community going forward, and for all of the people who work so hard and volunteer their time to make Edna’s generosity into an ongoing legacy – one that has a deep impact on writers like me.” 

Jillian Horton

The recipient of the 2023 award will be announced later this winter.  

Gillespie spoke on the judging process, highlighting the immense work that goes into judging. 

“We go through them all, we make a long list, three of the judges then read all of those, make a short list generally and then appoint a winner. What we’re overall looking for is a Canadian author of a first or second book of creative nonfiction.”  

Horton’s memoir appeals a wide variety of audiences.  

“It’s a moving story about the challenges that doctors face in Canada, but also residents learning to become doctors face in Canada,” said Gillespie. “It’s an interesting behind-the-curtain look at medicine that I think a lot of us don’t know anything about. Above that, it’s an engaging, moving and darkly funny book.” 

 Students may relate to Horton’s memoir.  

“Burnout is a work-related phenomenon and it isn’t specific to medicine,” said Horton. “Students today are living with many added existential pressures – climate uncertainty, cost of living increases, so much political fracture and terrible events around the world. 

“All of these have the capacity to diminish your reserves when it comes to how you can deal with the stress of work, said Horton. 

For more information on the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction and Jillian Horton, visit the university’s website. 

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