• Where—Salem, Missouri, USA
• Education—B.A., University of Missouri
• Awards—The Governor General’s Award for Poetry,Canada;
for Celestial Navigation; The Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction
Prize, Canada, and the Willa Literary Award for Historical
Fiction, U.S. for Enemy Women
• Currently—lives near San Antonio, Texas
Poet, memoirist, and novelist Paulette Jiles was born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks and moved to Canada in 1969 after graduating with a degree in Romance languages from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. She spent eight years as a journalist in Canada, before turning to writing poetry. In 1984, she won the Governor General's Award (Canada's highest literary honor) for Celestial Navigation, a collection of poems lauded by the Toronto Star as "...fiercely interior and ironic, with images that can mow the reader down."
In 1992, Jiles published Cousins, a beguiling memoir that interweaves adventure and romance into a search for her family roots. Ten years later, she made her fiction debut with Enemy Women (2002), the survival story of an 18-year-old woman caged with the criminally insane in a St. Louis prison during the Civil War. Janet Maslin raved in the New York Times, "This is a book with backbone, written with tough, haunting eloquence by an author determined to capture the immediacy of he heroine's wartime odyssey." The book won the Willa Literary Award for Historical Fiction (U.S.) and the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize (Canada).
In her second novel, 2007's Stormy Weather, Jiles mined another rich trove of American history. Set in Texas oil country during the Great Depression, the story traces the lives of four women, a widow and her three daughters, as they struggle to hold farm and family together in a hardscrabble world of dust storms, despair, and deprivation. In its review, the Washington Post praised the author's lyrical prose, citing descriptions that "crackle with excitement."
A dual citizen of the United States and Canada, Jiles currently lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas.
From a 2007 Barnes & Noble interview:
• When I lived in Nelson, British Columbia, there were three or four of us women who were struggling writers; we were very poor and we had a great deal of fun. We shared writing and money and wine. Woody (Caroline Woodward) had a great, huge Volkswagen bug—green—named Greena Garbo. When any of us managed to publish something there were celebrations. It was a wonderful time. They always managed to show up at my place just when I'd baked bread. One time Meagan and Joanie arrived to share with me a horrible dinner they had made of cracked wheat and onions—we were actually all short of food. I had just made lasagna—and they ate all of my lasagna and left me with that vile dish of groats and onions. And then we all got married and went in different directions.
• I have a small ranch that keeps me busy—two horses, a donkey, a cat, a dog, fences, a pasture—I and spend lots of time preventing erosion, clearing cedar, etc.
• When asked what book most influenced her career as a writer, here is her response:
Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays by Northrop Frye gives a clear and cogent analysis of the various sorts of imaginative narratives, among them the quest story. It does not assign value to any one type of story. I came upon Frye's The Well-Tempered Critic in college and loved it. It has the same sort of descriptive brilliance as Anatomy. It was a relief from the contemporary insistence that only the novel of psychological exploration was of literary value."
Other influential books include The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway; All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. (Author bio from Barnes & Noble.)
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