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Russell Wangersky was raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where his father was a professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University and his mother, a marine biologist, ran a tight ship.
His youth was spent exploring Halifax, with travel to Barcelona and Trondheim, Norway, when his family travelled on university sabbaticals.
He attended Acadia University and chose philosophy over the family business of science, and edited the university's literary magazine, Alpha. He also signed up, during those university years, to be a volunteer firefighter in Wolfville, NS. He left the department after he completed his BA Honours in 1984, when he and his then-wife, Barbara Pratt, moved to Toronto. There, Russell worked as a researcher in the Queen's Park bureau of Southam News.
In 1986, the couple moved to St. John's, Newfoundland, where their two children were born. Russell spent five years there as a reporter at the Sunday Express and five years at CBC Television before joining The Telegram in 1997. He became the daily newspaper's editor in 2002.
He returned to firefighting as deputy chief when a volunteer department was established in the St. Philips-Portugal Cove area where he lived. But eventually, he began to struggle with the stress and horrors he'd encountered in firefighting and was forced to leave that part of his life behind.
In 2004, his writing began to draw attention and acclaim in the literary world. His first book, The Hour of Bad Decisions, won numerous awards and was longlisted for the prestigious Giller. His second book, Burning Down the House, which detailed the impact of firefighting on him, also won national awards. He went on to publish several more highly acclaimed books including novels, short stories, and non-fiction.
In 2011, Russell married author Leslie Vryenhoek. In 2021, after more than a decade of writing columns for Atlantic Canadian newspapers, Russell pulled up stakes and moved west to become the Editor-in-Chief at the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and the Regina Leader-Post. Today, he and Leslie live in Saskatoon, and will soon move to Winnipeg, where Russell will take on the role of Comment Editor for the Winnipeg Free Press.
He has an active writing career and finds true joy in cooking.
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