Mitchell studied philosophy and psychology at the University of Manitoba and then at the University of Alberta he did undergraduate studies. An author of novels, short stories, and plays, he is best known for his 1947 novel, Who Has Seen The Wind and the radio series and later a 1974 novel, Jake and the Kid. Both of these portray life on the Canadian Prairies where he grew up in the early part of the 20th century. He has often been called the Mark Twain of Canada for his vivid tales of young boys adventures.
While teaching high school, in 1942 three of his short stories were published and in 1947 his first and trademark novel Who Has Seen the Wind was published to critical acclaim and commercial success. In 1948 he moved to Toronto, Ontario to become the fiction editor for MacLean's magazine. In Toronto, Mitchell created "Jake and the Kid", a weekly radio series for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation whose 320 episodes ran from 1949 to 1957.
In addition to producing a large body of work, W.O. Mitchell spent a great deal of time teaching others the craft of writing. He served as Professor of Creative Writing and Writer-In-Residence at several Canadian universities and was the director of the Banff Center's writing division. In 1989 he won the Stephen Leacock Award for According to Jake and the Kid. The list of other honors he has received includes honorary doctorates from five Canadian universities, an appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada, and being named an Honorary Member of the Canadian Privy Council in 1992.
His other notable works: