Bonnie Jo Campbell grew up on a small Michigan farm with her mother and four siblings in a house her grandfather Herlihy built in the shape of an H. She learned to castrate small pigs, milk Jersey cows, and, when she was snowed in with chocolate, butter, and vanilla, to make remarkable chocolate candy. When she left home for the University of Chicago to study philosophy, her mother rented out her room. She has since hitchhiked across the U.S. and Canada, scaled the Swiss alps on her bicycle, and traveled with the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus selling snow cones. As president of Goulash Tours Inc., she has organized and led adventure tours in Russia and the Baltics, and all the way south to Romania and Bulgaria.
Her collection Women and Other Animals details the lives of extraordinary females in rural and small town Michigan, and it won the AWP prize for short fiction; her story "The Smallest Man in the World" has been awarded a Pushcart Prize. Her novel Q Road investigates the lives of a rural community where development pressures are bringing unwelcome change in the character of the land. Her critically-acclaimed short fiction collection American Salvage, which consists of fourteen lush and rowdy stories of folks who are struggling to make sense of the twenty-first century, was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award in Fiction.
Alan Lightman is the author of six novels, including Einstein’s Dreams, which was an international best seller and The Diagnosis, a finalist for the National Book Award. He is also the author of two collections of essays and several books on science. A theoretical physicist as well as a writer, he has served on the faculties of Harvard and MIT, where he was the first person to receive a dual faculty appointment in science and the humanities. He lives in the Boston area.
Molly Antopol’s debut story collection, The UnAmericans was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award, named a finalist for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the National Jewish Book Award and the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, and was a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree. It was chosen as a “Best Book of 2014” by over a dozen venues and will be published in seven countries. She teaches at Stanford University, where she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow, and lives in San Francisco. She’s at work on a novel.
Maria Semple is the author of This One Is Mine and Where’d You Go Bernadette. Before turning to fiction, she wrote for Mad About You, Ellen, and Arrested Development. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker. She lives in Seattle.
Russell Banks is the author of more than a dozen works, which include poetry, short stories, novels and essays. His novels Cloudsplitter and Continental Drift were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction were made into feature films. His latest work is a short story collection called A Permanent Member of the Family. Banks is the recipient of numerous literary awards, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Keene, New York and Miami, Florida.
Michael Cunningham is the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours(winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award & Pulitzer Prize), Specimen Days, and By Nightfall, as well as the non-fiction book, Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown. His newest novel is, The Snow Queen. He lives in New York, and teaches at Yale University.
Anthony Doerr is the author of The Shell Collector, About Grace, Four Seasons in Rome, Memory Wall, and the new novel All the Light We Cannot See. Doerr’s fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He has won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, the National Magazine Award for Fiction, three Pushcart Prizes, the Pacific Northwest Book Award, three Ohioana Book Awards, the 2010 Story Prize, which is considered the most prestigious prize in the U.S. for a collection of short stories, and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, which is the largest prize in the world for a single short story. His books have twice been a New York Times Notable Book, an American Library Association Book of the Year, and made lots of other year end “Best Of” lists. In 2007, the British literary magazine Granta placed Doerr on its list of 21 Best Young American novelists.
Elizabeth Gilbert was born in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1969, and grew up on a small family Christmas tree farm. She attended New York University, where she studied political science by day and worked on her short stories by night. After college, she spent several years traveling around the country, working in bars, diners and ranches, collecting experiences to transform into fiction. Her books include Eat, Pray, Love, Pilgrims, Committed, The Last American Man and most recently The Signature of All Things. Elizabeth Gilbert lives in the small river town of Frenchtown, New Jersey, where she and her husband run a large and delightful imports store called Two Buttons.
Alice McDermott is the author of seven novels including National Book Award Winner Charming Billy and three Pulitzer Prize finalists: After This, That Night and At Weddings and Wakes. She is Johns Hopkins University's Richard A. Macksey Professor of the Humanities. She has a BA from SUNY Oswego and an MA from University of New Hampshire. Her new novel is Someone.