Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jane Smiley, author of the best-selling “A Thousand Acres” and many other highly regarded books, has accepted a faculty appointment at the University of California, Riverside as distinguished professor of creative writing. Her appointment is effective July 1.
She joins a department that includes the current California Poet Laureate and authors whose works of fiction and nonfiction are best-sellers and award-winners.
“Jane Smiley is a distinguished novelist and essayist whose talent extends beyond writing and into the classroom,” said Stephen Cullenberg, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. “As a writer, she challenges us to consider what it means to be human. As a teacher and scholar, she challenges students how to articulate those questions in ways that are both compelling and enlightening. We are very pleased that she will join an exceptional department whose faculty are committed to excellence in both writing and teaching.”
Andrew Winer, chair of the Department of Creative Writing, said, “We’re thrilled to have Jane Smiley join our department of nationally and internationally recognized writers. A true giant in her field, Jane Smiley is in a small, select group of America’s most important living writers, and her reputation follows her all over the world. She’s without question one of our greatest storytellers, and she writes with a classic sense of humanity and compassion that have made her name part of any serious conversation about fiction in our time.”
The best-selling author also is a gifted teacher “who shares our commitment to providing first-rate, practitioner-based instruction to all of our students, no matter where and what background they come from,” Winer said. “Jane Smiley wants to share what she knows about literature and how to write it, and our students are going to benefit from that same wonderful combination of intelligence, curiosity and wit that pervades her fiction. This generous spirit of hers, when combined with her widely celebrated career, her award-winning books, and her distinguished teaching record, makes her a perfect fit for us and for UCR.”
Smiley said she looks forward to teaching at UC Riverside.
“I am thrilled to get the chance to work with UC Riverside students both as readers and as writers,” she said. “The Riverside program is unique both in its structure and its demographics. I am really looking forward to being a part of it. I didn’t expect to go back to teaching, but I could not resist when I saw what is happening in the creative writing program at UC Riverside.”
Smiley, a Los Angeles native who grew up in a suburb of St. Louis, Mo., is the author of two dozen novels and nonfiction works, a collection of short stories, and a television script (an episode of “Homicide: Life on the Street).
Her first novel, “Barn Blind,” was published in 1980. She won the O. Henry Award for her short story “Lily” in 1985, and in 1992 her novel “A Thousand Acres” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The novel, based on William Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” was adapted into a film of the same title in 1997. The 2002 film “The Secret Lives of Dentists” is based on her novella “The Age of Grief.”
She also won the 1999 Spur Award for Best Novel of the West for “The All True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton.” “Horse Heaven” was short-listed for the Orange Prize in 2002, and “Private Life” was named one of the best books of 2010 by The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post. She received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature in 2006, and has served as lead judge for the Mann Booker International Prize, the most prestigious in the English speaking-world.
Smiley was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 1976 and a National Endowment of the Arts Grant in 1979.
Her work also has appeared in magazines and newspapers such as The New Yorker, Elle, Outside, The New York Times, Harper’s, The American Prospect, Practical Horseman, The Guardian, The Nation, Real Simple and Playboy.
Smiley earned a bachelor’s degree in literature at Vassar College, and a master's degree, Master's of Fine Arts and a doctorate at the University of Iowa. She was a professor of English at Iowa State University from 1981 to 1996. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an honor society of 250 architects, composers, artists, and writers, and of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers.
The UC Riverside Department of Creative Writing offers the only undergraduate degree in creative writing in the UC system, as well as a M.F.A in creative writing and writing for the performing arts. It also sponsors the annual Writers Week, the longest-running, free event devoted to writers and writing in Southern California.