“A profound and inventive writer, Aritha van Herk is internationally and nationally acclaimed and respected for her outstanding and highly original contribution to Canadian literature. Her writing pushes through established forms and boundaries and asks us as readers to challenge our assumptions. Through her novels, non-fiction and essays, and in her own life she has taken on a role vital to any democracy, that of public intellectual. And as a dedicated and unflagging supporter of emerging writers, she has ensured the dynamism of Alberta literature, and Canadian literature, will thrive for generations to come.”
– Distinguished Artist adjudicators
Aritha van Herk was born and grew up in central Alberta, in the Battle River Parkland area. After attending the University of Alberta in Edmonton, she lived in Vancouver, Germany, and Australia before moving to Calgary to take a position with the English Department at the University of Calgary, where she teaches Creative Writing and Canadian Literature. She has mentored dozens of writers who have gone on to write and publish books.
She is the author of five novels, Judith, The Tent Peg, No Fixed Address (nominated for the Governor General’s Award for fiction), Places Far From Ellesmere (a geografictione) and Restlessness. Her wide-ranging critical work is collected in A Frozen Tongue and In Visible Ink; she has published hundreds of articles, reviews and essays. Her irreverent but relevant history of Alberta, Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta, won the Grant MacEwan Author’s Award for Alberta Writing. That book frames the permanent exhibition on Alberta history at the Glenbow Museum and Archives; Audacious and Adamant: the Story of Maverick Alberta accompanies the exhibit. Mavericks was also chosen as the inaugural book in the Calgary Public Library’s ONE BOOK/ONE CALGARY initiative in November of 2010. With George Webber she has published In This Place: Calgary 2004-2011 (Photographs by George Webber, Words by Aritha van Herk) and most recently, Prairie Gothic (Photographs by George Webber, Text by Aritha van Herk, 2012). She has given talks and readings in the United States, Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, Asia, and across Canada. Last year she was an Artist in Residence for Calgary 2012 and the Calgary Stampede.
She serves on a number of non-profit boards, and she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a member of the Order of the University of Calgary, and a member of the Alberta Order of Excellence. She is a recipient of the Lorne Pierce Medal, awarded to recognise achievement of special significance and conspicuous merit in imaginative or critical literature in Canada, and also a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for contributions to culture and the arts.