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- November 27, 1978
- Vol. 10
- No. 22
Aritha van Herk, 24, tapped out her first novel, Judith, while working in the Yukon as a cook for a prospecting expedition led by her geologist husband. "There were a few distractions," she remembers. "When I wasn't writing, I was hauling water from a stream and occasionally firing off my rifle, so the curious grizzlies would keep their distance from my tent." Between such annoying interruptions, Aritha and her muse were prospecting her own youth back in Alberta, Canada as the second youngest in a family of immigrant Dutch farmers. Her novel—the tale of a young woman who rebounds from an affair with her big-city boss to pig farming and the prospect of romance—was the unanimous choice for the Canadian Seal Books First Novel Award. The prize: $50,000. "My parents could not understand why on earth I wanted to be a writer," she laughs. "Needless to say, this prize convinced them that it was a serious occupation." Aritha pleased her folks again in June when she received an M.A. in English from the University of Alberta. But she has decided against a Ph.D. ("It isn't terribly useful.") Judith was published last month in the U.S., and Aritha's next project is a collection of short stories. To speed her progress, she replaced the rickety portable typewriter she used in the Yukon with the latest electric and—to the undoubted shock of her frugal family—bought herself a new Porsche.
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