Author Profile

Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley (born September 26, 1949) is an American novelist. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992 for her novel A Thousand Acres (1991).

Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from Community School and from John Burroughs School in 1967. She obtained a BA in literature at Vassar College (1971), hitchhiked around Europe for a year, then went to Iowa. She earned an MA (1975), MFA (1976), and PhD (1978) from the University of Iowa. In the English department, she specialized in Old Norse literature, and then spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar. It was there that she first conceived a novel exploring the history of the medieval Norse colony in Greenland. From 1981 to 1996 she was a Professor of English at Iowa State University, teaching undergraduate and graduate creative writing workshops, as well as introductory literature courses. While living in Iowa and teaching at Iowa State, she was frequently inspired by the local landscape and culture.  In 1996, she relocated to California. She returned to teaching creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, in 2015.

Smiley published her first novel, Barn Blind, in 1980, and won a 1985 O. Henry Award for her short story "Lily", which was published in The Atlantic Monthly. Her best-selling A Thousand Acres, a story based on William Shakespeare's King Lear, received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992. It was adapted into a film of the same title in 1997. Her novella The Age of Grief was made into the 2002 film "The Secret Lives of Dentists". In 2001, Smiley was elected a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. She won the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, and chaired the judges' panel for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize in 2009.

Smiley's most recent works are a trilogy of novels about an Iowa family over the course of a hundred years and four generations. The first novel of the trilogy, Some Luck, was published in 2014. The second volume, Early Warning, in the spring of 2015, and the third volume, The Golden Age, in the fall of 2015.

"Jane was an absolute delight and both of the programs were a big success. People really enjoyed her answering questions. They found her very interesting and engaging."
-- Christina Stoll, Arlington Heights Memorial Library

Reviews of Some Luck

Intimate. . . . Miraculous. . . . Staggering. . . . A masterpiece in the making.
-- USA

[Smiley] seemingly writes the way her idol Dickens did--as easily as if it were breathing.
-- The New York Times

Smiley is that rare three-fer: meticulous historian, intelligent humorist and seasoned literary novelist. . . . She makes us see, in the kindest, gentlest way, that we're a lot more wonderful, and a lot more screwed up--as a nation, as a people, as families, as individuals--than we think we are. . . . . Make[s] the reader count down the days to Book Two.
-- The Los Angeles Times

Videos featuring Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley's Some Luck Book Trailer

Interview with Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley in conversation with David Francis

Jane Smiley in conversation with David Francis from Ted Habte-Gabr on Vimeo.