Canadian author Shirlee Smith Matheson was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on October 16, 1943 and received her B.A. (English) from Athabasca University in 1992. The graduate of writing programs at the Iowa School of Writing and the Banff Centre, she has mentored under W.O. Mitchell, Orm Mitchell, Alistair MacLeod, Irving Layton, Robert Kroetsch, Richard Lemm, Phyllis Webb and George Melnyk.
She prides herself on having resided in all four of Canada's western provinces and has lived on farms in Manitoba near the Riding Mountains, and in Alberta west of Sylvan Lake; and in urban areas ranging from Lacombe, Alberta; to Vernon and Hudson’s Hope, British Columbia; and in Calgary. She also lived in Australia.
Matheson is praised for creating award-winning nonfiction titles and children's fiction that focuses on the history and traditions of the region she calls home. Her fictional work includes several successful novels for a young adult audience, such as Prairie Pictures City Pictures, Flying Ghosts, Fastback Beach, and Jailbird Kid, which feature teen protagonists.
A longtime writer and museum administrator at the Aero Space Museum in Calgary, Matheson has authored several nonfiction books on the history of aviation in Canada. Her works chronical not only the lives of pilots, but also of the missionaries, explorers, prospectors, traders and engineers that helped to transform western Canada during the twentieth century. These collections of interviews, stories and photographs include her three-volume Flying the Frontiers series, Lost: Unsolved Mysteries of Canadian Aviation, Maverick in the Sky: The aerial adventures of WWI Flying Ace Freddie McCall, and Amazing Flights and Flyers.
In 2013 Frontenac House press published her nonfiction book, A Royal Balance: The Life and Times of Hal Wyatt (2013), a biography of the former Vice-Chairman of the Royal Bank of Canada.
Matheson enjoys giving public readings and her poetry, short story and stage play writing workshop attendees range from primary school students to adults. She has served as Writer-in-Residence for the Medicine Hat Public Library/Medicine Hat College (1996), the Alexandra Writers Centre Society (1997), the Calgary Public Library (1998) and Don Bosco Elementary/Jr. High School (2001).
A member of numerous professional associations; including the Writers Guild of Alberta, Writers’ Union of Canada, Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators & Performers (CANSCAIP), Canadian Children’s Book Centre, Young Alberta Book Society, Canadian Women in Aviation International and others, she continues to create and edit new works for publication, deliver workshops and readings, and participate in fiddling competitions.