On January 1, 1988, I made a New Year's resolution that I would write for two hours three times a week. Looking back, this strikes me as particularly odd because, as I've said, I had never been much of a reader, and I certainly don't come from a background of writers and writing. (My dad has a ninth-grade education.) At the time, I had just returned to the University of Maine to complete my anthropology degree; I moved in with my new boyfriend (who would become my husband) from Orono to Portland, Maine, because I'd heard that there were creative writing classes taught at the University of Southern Maine. I worked as a receptionist in a hair salon. My boyfriend helped me keep to my writing schedule. At the time, I was writing poetry, but he kept encouraging me to write fiction, so I finally did. In the summer of 1988 I won a "scholarship" to the Stonecoast Writer's Conference in Portland, Maine. (Later, I found out that my tuition had been secretly paid by an older woman in one of my writing classes.) At the conference, I learned about MFA programs; I applied to Cornell and was accepted.

I attended Cornell from fall of '89 until spring of '91; I married my husband, Jake Smith, on the campus in 1990. I held a lectureship there from '91-'92; from '92-'93 I was Writer in Residence at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire; from '93-'97 I was an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. In spring of '97 I quit in order to write full time. I have since taught as a visiting writer at Warren Wilson College (in Asheville, North Carolina; fall '97) and the University of the South (in Sewanee, Tennessee; fall '98). I moved to New York City in March.

As for my publishing bio:

My first novel, Vinegar Hill, was named one of the Best Books of 1994 by the Chicago Tribune, and it won a Friends of America Writers Prize (second place) in 1995 for a book set in the Midwest. My second book, a collection of stories called Read This and Tell Me What It Says, won the Associated Writing Program's 1994 Short Fiction Series Prize, the 1995 Paterson Prize, and the 1996 Great Lakes Book Award. The title story won the Nelson Algren Prize in 1992, and another story, Sybil, won a 1994 Pushcart Prize. My second novel, Sister, was published by William Morrow & Co. in 1996, and it won the Wisconsin Librarians Association Banta Award and was named a Notable Book by the New York Times. My third novel, River Angel, again with William Morrow, was also a Times Notable Book. All my books have been published in paperback by Avon (River Angel is forthcoming in paper in 1999); foreign rights have been sold in the U.K., Germany and Japan. I've been awarded fellowships to Yaddo (1994) and the MacDowell Colony (1991/1995) as well as a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


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