I was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the second daughter in an exceedingly functional family. Religion: Jewish. Schools: public. Pets: none. Roving guard in girls' basketball throughout high school.
At Simmons college, I majored in something called "Publications"; I interned for the Lowell Sun's state house bureau, wrote snappy headlines for the school newspaper, and essays ("How to Be A Freshman," "The Blind Date") that were my first forays into social satire.
Between 1972 and 1981 I worked real jobs, writing press releases for Boston's public television station, WGBH (later mined for The Ladies' Man) and editing newsletters for various unglamorous organizations (later mined for My Latest Grievance). I married Robert Austin, a college blind date, in 1975 and would have taken his last name if I'd known what was ahead, comedy-of-manners-wise. At 28, I enrolled in an adult education creative writing course at Brandeis University, and began writing fiction with great trepidation—nights, weekends, and on my office IBM Correcting Selectric between deadlines. My first and second published stories appeared in Yankee Magazine in 1981 and '82. Into Love and Out Again, my first book, contained seven linked stories, which gave me the courage to try a novel. Then She Found Me was published in 1990 to more attention than I expected. A mere 18 years later, it was adapted for the screen—written, directed and starring Helen Hunt, also starring Bette Midler, Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick and Ben Shenkman (loved it); The Way Men Act, Isabel's Bed, The Inn at Lake Devine, The Ladies' Man, The Dearly Departed, and The Pursuit of Alice Thrift followed. My Latest Grievance was published in April 2006. In 2001, I received the New England Book Award for fiction for a body of work. The year 2007 has brought two awards: a lifetime achievement award from NELINET (New England Library and Information Network), “created to recognize the contributions of an individual associated with New England who has significantly advanced the arts and letters.” And My Latest Grievance won The Poetry Center’s 2007 Paterson Fiction Prize “awarded annually for a novel or collection of short stories which the judges deem to be the strongest work of fiction published that year.” The Family Man was published very happily in 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. There are two more books in the pipeline, due out simultaneously in the spring of 2013: The View From Penthouse B (novel) and a collection of personal essays, tentatively titled A Mister and A Missus.
I've taught writing at Simmons, Smith, and Hampshire colleges, all in Massachusetts, and currently hold the Elizabeth Drew Chair in Creative Writing at Smith. My enthusiastic endorsements do appear on more than my share of other people's novels, but I never blurb a book unless I love it. I'm asked frequently to judge contests and to serve on panels for grants. Most recently I served on the 2006 literature panel for the National Endowment for the Arts and as a fiction judge for the 2008 National Book Awards. (If you're reading this because you're introducing me, please visit The Press and Media Drawer where I hope you'll quote the critics and not me, here, talking about my basketball career or college essays. Merci.)
I live mostly in Manhattan. My wonderful husband died on September 27, 2009. An essay I wrote about him/us/our son appeared in the New York Times' "Modern Love" column on April 10, 2010. Benjamin Lipman Austin, our son, was born in 1982, and turned out great.
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