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W.O. Mitchell

By 1987, when W.O. Mitchell visited Fort McMurray, the 73-year-old Calgary-based author had published his seventh book, Since Daisy Creek, and was completing work on his childhood-mystery novel, Ladybug, Ladybug…

The Weyburn, Sask.-born, Florida-raised, former High River and Edmonton, Alta. resident was a beloved author from the publication of his first novel in 1947, Who Has Seen the Wind. The book, which tells the story of a boy's life on the Saskatchewan prairie, has become a classic of Canadian literature. His career would carry him through the worlds of literature, journalism, radio, television, film, musical and dramatic theatre, and an active life as a raconteur.

Mitchell's writing students owe him perhaps the biggest debt. Using his freefall approach to creative writing, he taught at all educational levels from elementary school through to university and fine arts schools. His students include such award-winning authors as L.R. Wright, Diane Schoemperlen and Joan Clark, all of whom attended the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1976.

Mitchell would die in 1998, leaving behind 13 books, whose genres included novels, essays, short stories, plays, and the performance pieces that enthralled audiences from coast to coast. There remains a sizable quantity of uncollected, unpublished material, including radio and television scripts from Jake and the Kid, unproduced screenplays, journalism and short stories from all stages of his career.
 Featured Audio

Speaker of the Week #58
In this episode of Speaker of the Week, broadcast Nov. 20, 1987, W.O. Mitchell lectures and reads from his work in Fort McMurray. He in also interviewed by telephone and congratulates CKUA on the occasion of its 60th anniversary.

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Critical and biographical analysis of his work has also been published, including Magic Lies: The Art of W.O. Mitchell edited by Sheila Latham and David Latham (1997); and W.O.: The Life of W.O. Mitchell, a two-volume biography by his son and daughter-in-law Ormond and Barbara (1999 and 2003). The W.O. Mitchell Papers are located in Special Collections at the University of Calgary.

Two annual literary prizes bear the name of W.O. Mitchell - one honouring the best book published by a Calgary author, the other recognizing a Canadian author's literary significance and his or her mentoring of students. Winners have included Barry Callaghan, Austin Clarke, Marie-Claire Blais, Audrey Thomas and Leon Rooke.

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