Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bestselling Fiction Writer
National Book Award Finalist

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  • An Evening with Bonnie Jo Campbell

Biography

“Campbell is a bard, a full-throated singer whose melodies are odes to farms and water and livestock and fishing rods and rifles, and to hardworking folks who know the value of life as well as the randomness of life’s troubles.” —Entertainment Weekly

“American fiction waited a long time for Bonnie Jo Campbell to come along.” —Jaimy Gordon

“Campbell’s an American voice-two parts healthy fear, one part awe, one part irony, one part realism.” —Los Angeles Times

Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the National Bestselling novel Once Upon a River (Norton, 2011), a river odyssey with an unforgettable sixteen-year-old heroine, which the New York Times Book Review calls “an excellent American parable about the consequences of our favorite ideal, freedom.” Her first novel, Q Road, delves into the lives of a rural community where development pressures are bringing unwelcome change in the character of the land.

Campbell’s critically-acclaimed short fiction collection American Salvage (Wayne State University Press, 2009) was finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. The collection consists of fourteen lush and rowdy stories of folks who are struggling to make sense of the twenty-first century. Donna Seaman wrote, “Campbell’s busted-broke, damaged, and discarded people are rich in longing, valor, forgiveness, and love, and readers themselves will feel salvaged and transformed by this gutsy book’s fierce compassion.” Campbell’s collection Women and Other Animals, won the AWP prize for short fiction, and details the lives of extraordinary females in rural and small town Michigan. Her story “The Tattoo” is included in the anthology Shadow Snow, a tribute to Ray Bradbury. Her story “The Smallest Man in the World” was awarded a Pushcart Prize and her story “The Inventor, 1972” was awarded the 2009 Eudora Welty Prize from Southern Review. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. Her newest book of stories, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, is due by Norton in Fall 2015.

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 US 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.

For decades, Campbell has put together a personal newsletter—The Letter Parade—and she currently practices Koburyu kobudo weapons training. She has received her MA in mathematics and her MFA in writing from Western Michigan University. She lives with her husband and other animals outside Kalamazoo, and she teaches writing in the low residency program at Pacific University.

Short Bio

Bonnie Jo Campbell is the author of the novels Once Upon a River, a National Bestseller, and Q Road. Her critically-acclaimed short fiction collections include American Salvage, which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award; Women and Other Animals, which won the AWP prize for short fiction; , and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters (Autumn 2015). Her story “The Smallest Man in the World” was awarded a Pushcart Prize and her story “The Inventor, 1972″ was awarded the 2009 Eudora Welty Prize from Southern Review. She was a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow.

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