The University of Iowa

Remembering Workshop Alum Rick Hillis

Writer and professor Rick Hillis, an Iowa Writers' Workshop alum and associate professor of English at DePauw University, died unexpectedly in Texas on Oct. 8. He was 58.

Hillis was an innovative writer, poet and teacher. He taught creative writing at Stanford, U.C. Hayward, Lewis & Clark College, The University of Iowa Summer Writing Program, Saskatchewan School of the Arts, and Reed College. His fiction, poetry, and non-fiction has appeared in over two dozen journals and anthologies.

His short story collection “Limbo River” won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize and the Silver medal from the Commonwealth Club of California. The writer Russell Banks selected “Limbo River” out of 260 manuscripts for the Drue Heinz Prize. “A wonderful book … in the rarified company of the best of Raymond Carver, Richard Ford and Tobias Wolff, without imitating any one of them. [Hillis] ... walks the crooked line that runs between farce and dead-on realism, where the truly awful turns abruptly into ridiculous, so that we end up laughing through our tears of rage.”

His works include The Blue Machines of Night (poetry), which was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for first book by a Canadian and Limbo River (fiction), awarded the Drue  Heinz Literature Prize and the Silver medal from the Commonwealth Club of California. He was also awarded the Stegner Fellowship in fiction writing from Stanford, the Chesterfield Film Writers Fellowship from Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment in L.A., and residencies at writers’ colonies including Yaddo, the Banff Center for the Arts, Millay, U-Cross, and St. Peter’s Abbey. 

Born on Feb. 3, 1956, Hillis grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada. After high school graduation, he attended the University of Saskatchewan and earned his MFA at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University led him to a two-year teaching fellowship there, the Jones Lectureship.

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Writer, professor Rick Hillis, 58, dies in Texas

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