More About the Author
My newest book is called What Happens Next? Matters of Life and Death. It's a series of connected personal essays,a highly personal book indeed, published in September. It has just won the 2014 PEN/New England Book Award for Non-fiction.
I've also written three novels, Dexterity, The Very Air, and The Book of Famous Iowans, each of them set in small towns, in Upstate New York, in Texas, and in Iowa. Their subjects and interests are as varied as their settings, although reviewers have pointed out that they all concern themselves in some fashion with mothers' unpredictable presences and absences and the effect of that unreliability on their sons.
I've also written two non-fiction books, Prairie City, Iowa and The Stuff of Fiction. The first covers a year of reunion with the tiny farm village of the title, where I was raised and to which I returned at the age of 30 in order to try to understand the place where I grew up and, not incidentally, some things about myself as I reached that critical age. The second is a series of essays devoted to the craft of fiction writing. The essays cover the elements of character creation, dialogue, narrative strategies, how to start and end a story, and many more. There are exercises accompanying the essays.
In addition to the books I've written, I've edited two anthologies, Prime Times: Writers on their favorite television shows; and Death by Pad Thai and Other Unforgettable Meals. These anthologies feature contributions from some of the most prominent writers of our time, including Sue Miller, Andre Dubus III, Aimee Bender, Richard Russo, Claire Messud, Nick Hornby, the late and very great Barry Hannah, and on and on.
My stories and essays have appeared through the years in The Atlantic, Harper's, Esquire, Tin House, The New York Times Magazine and Sunday Book Review, The Massachusetts Review, Agni, and other publications.
I've received grants in both fiction and non-fiction from The National Endowment for the Arts.
I've taught at several colleges and universities, including Harvard, Smith, The University of New Mexico, Rice, and since 2005 at Bennington College. My courses there include literature classes in the works of Charles Dickens, my favorite author in the language, as well as Twentieth Century writers such as Willa Cather, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.