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Will Ferguson's Biography

Will Ferguson was born in the former fur-trading post of Fort Vermilion (pop: 840), in northern Canada. "Closer to the Arctic Circle than the American border."

He grew up as part of a lively, large single-parent family. At nineteen, he joined the youth volunteer program Katimavik, which paid "a dolllar a day and all the granola we could eat."

With Katimavik, Will worked at a museum in Kelowna, BC, at a nursing home in southern Ontario and at a conservation park in St. Canut, Quebec. (Will's travels with Katimavik are retold in his memoir I Was a Teenage Katima-victim!.)

After Katimavik, Will lived in Quebec City, and the following summer he joined Canada World Youth, an overseas exchange program between Canada and the developing world.

Will's tour of duty with CWY (1985-86) took him first to New Liskeard, Ontario and then to Ecuador in South America.

In New Liskeard, Will worked at an agricultural college where his duties included shovelling manure, herding sheep and--on occasion--helping to deliver calves.

Will travelled with CWY to South America in the winter of 1985, where he lived with a local family in the village of Malacatos near the border of Peru. (Will's experiences in Ecuador are in his book Why I Hate Canadians.)

Returning from South America in 1986, Will enrolled in the York University Film Program in Toronto where he graduated with a BFA in Film Production and Screenwriting in 1990. After a short, dismal stint as a locations assistant for a Farrah Fawcett project with ABC TV, Will headed to Japan.

He went as part of the JET Program (Japan Exchange Teachers). "I planned on staying one year to clear up some debts and get a break from film. I ended up staying five years and forgetting all about my original career plans."

For his first two years, he lived on the Amakusa Islands, south of Nagasaki, in the fishing village of Kawaura. He later moved to the city of Minamata where he spent the next three years of his life.

While in Asia, Will backpacked across Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and mainland China. And he became the first person ever to hitchhike the length of Japan (a distance roughly equivalent to that of Miami to Montreal).

He was also the first person ever to follow Japan's "Cherry Blossom Front" as it moved north across the Japanese archipelago, from Cape Sata in the south, to Cape Soya in the north. The journey ended on Rishiri Island off the coast of Siberia.

Will's end-to-end journey across Japan is recounted in his critically acclaimed travel narrative Hitching Rides with Buddha (released in the UK as Hokkaido Highway Blues). Will also wrote a nuts-and-bolts guidebook for backpackers and budget travellers entitled The Hitchhiker's Guide to Japan.

Will and his wife Terumi were married in a Shinto ceremony in Kumamoto City in 1995. They returned to Canada afterwards and settled in the seaside town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

Will and Terumi moved to Prince Edward Island the following year, where Will found work with a local travel company selling Anne of Green Gables tours to Japanese tourists. "Which was about as difficult as selling a glass of water to someone whose hair is on fire," says Will.

While in PEI, Will began writing a newspaper column on Japanese culture and customs, titled "East Meets West," for the Charlottetown Guardian.

When he sold his first book, Will immediately quit his day job at the tour company and moved back to New Brunswick with Terumi.

Will Ferguson's publishing debut, Why I Hate Canadians, was released in September 1997, and went on to sell over 50,000 copies.

The follow-up, How to Be a Canadian, written with his brother Ian, has now sold 200,000 copies and won the CBA Libris Award for Non-Fiction Book of the Year.

In 2002, Will Ferguson was shortlisted twice for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour: once for Happiness (aka. "Generica") and again for How to Be a Canadian.

There are only five books on the final shortlist, and this was the first time in the history of the Leacock Award that an author had been nominated twice in the same year. (Happiness went on to win.)

In 2005, he won his second Leacock Award for Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw. He was also awarded the Pierre Berton Award by Canada’s National History Society.

Will has toured Argentina, Holland, the UK, the US and Spain for his novel HappinessTM. He lives in Calgary with his wife and their two sons.

Books by Will Ferguson

Beyond Belfast
(travel memoir) 2009

Spanish Fly
(fiction) 2007

Hitching Rides with Buddha (travel memoir: published in the UK as “Hokkaido Highway Blues”) 2005

Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw (travel/humour) 2004

Happiness (fiction: originally titled "Generica") 2001

How to Be a Canadian (humour: co-authored with Ian Ferguson) 2001

Canadian History for Dummies (reference) first edition: 2000, second edition: 2005

Bastards & Boneheads (history/political satire) 1999

The Girlfriend's Guide to Hockey (sports: co-authored with Teena Dickerson and Bruce Spencer) 1999; revised 2007 as Clueless About Hockey

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Japan (travel guide) 1998

I Was a Teenage Katima-victim! (humour/memoir) 1998

Why I Hate Canadians (humour/social commentary) first edition: 1997, new edition: 2007


As Editor

The Pengiun Anthology of Canadian Humour


As Songwriter

Will wrote the lyrics to three of the songs that appear on the Tom Phillips 2007 CD Spanish Fly: “Con Men and Call Girls, Part I,” “Losin’ Hand” and “When the Carnival Comes to Town”



Will also wrote the introductions to the following books:

  • The Penguin Classics Edition of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock
  • The new edition of Eye Opener Bob by Grant MacEwan
  • The Lonely Planet Guide to Canada: “The Canadian Character”
  • Sink or Swim: Get Your Degree Without Debt by Sarah Deveau
  • Midnight Hockey by Bill Gaston
  • The Schoolbus Doesn't Stop Here Anymore by Noreen Olson



  • 2009 IMPAC Dublin Award
    longlist: Spanish Fly

  • 2008 Leacock Medal for Humour
    shortlist: Spanish Fly

  • 2005 Pierre Berton Award for History
  • 2005 Leacock Medal for Humour: Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw

  • 2004 Northern Lights Award for Travel Writing: "Will Ferguson's Canada" Maclean's Magazine.

  • 2002 Leacock Medal for Humour: Happiness

  • 2002 Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction: Happiness

  • 2002 Commonwealth Prize: Canada & Caribbean shortlist: Happiness

  • 2002 Libris Booksellers Award for Non-Fiction Book of the Year: How to Be a Canadian

  • 2002 Leacock Medal for Humour shortlist: How to Be a Canadian

  • 2001 Canadian Authors Association Award for History: Canadian History for Dummies


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