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
which paid "a dolllar a day and all the granola we
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
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
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
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
(travel memoir) 2009
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
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
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
I Was a Teenage Katima-victim! (humour/memoir) 1998
Why I Hate Canadians (humour/social
commentary) first edition: 1997, new edition: 2007
The Pengiun Anthology of Canadian Humour
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
- 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:
- 2002 Commonwealth Prize: Canada & Caribbean shortlist:
- 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