Audrey Whitson grew up on a farm in northern Alberta and her family still owns a bush quarter northwest of Edmonton. Both of Audrey’s parents were avid readers and she and her four siblings grew up on library books shipped by post from the University of Alberta’s Department of Extension.

Audrey started to write stories at age eight and had her first poem published in The Western Producer (a long-standing farm paper out of Saskatoon) when she was 11. She started taking pictures when she was 10 with a cheap box camera redeemed in exchange for Nabob Tea coupons.

After studying social work at the University of Calgary, Audrey worked in a Calgary halfway house for women, the Holy Cross Hospital and the social justice office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary. Meeting Chileans exiled after the 1973 coup led her to pursue cultural and language studies in Cuernavaca, Mexico and then to work with the East Oakland Catholic Worker in California, primarily with Mexican migrant workers and refugees from the wars in Central America who were settling in the San Francisco-Bay area. Audrey later studied theology at Berkeley, California, at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). The GTU is a consortium of schools from most Western Christian and Eastern Orthodox traditions as well as Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism. While she lived in California, Audrey spent whole summers or parts of them in central Mexico, South America and the traditional lands of the Dene in the Northwest Territories.

Returning to Alberta in 1989, Audrey taught systematic theology at a small Catholic college in Canmore, and then moved to Edmonton to work part-time as a community mental health case manager and to teach Christian spirituality, feminist spirituality and ecological spirituality part-time at St. Joseph’s and St. Stephen’s colleges (University of Alberta). She also had a small consulting practice offering spiritual guidance, guest preaching, and ritual leadership (presiding at services), and facilitating women’s spirituality circles.

Having her first book, Teaching Places, published in 2003 sparked an interest in the publishing world. She apprenticed at Company’s Coming and eventually became editor-in-chief of Tortoise Press, a small children’s book publisher owned by long-time Edmonton publisher, Phyllis Arnold. Audrey later joined the publications unit at the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC). Currently Audrey works for Alberta Human Services as a project coordinator helping to redesign service delivery of provincial social-based assistance programs.

Audrey enjoys bird watching, cycling, hiking, photography, reading, skating, singing, travelling, walking and yoga.

 

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Photo: Beata Kurpinski