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Ethan Canin's Biography

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Oct 2007

Ethan Canin’s first short stories, collected in Emperor of the Air when he was twenty-seven, dazzled the literary world. His next five books, Blue River, For Kings and Planets, The Palace Thief, Carry Me Across the Water and America America established his reputation as one of the finest writers in America. He has garnered generous literary prizes awarded in the past to the likes of Robert Penn Warren, Elizabeth Bishop, and Philip Roth.

Ethan is a graduate of Stanford University, where he began as a mechanical engineering major but then graduated with a degree in English. In 1982, he joined the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. Two years later, he left Iowa with a Master of Fine Arts and about fifty total pages written, considering himself a failure at writing. “In the usual adult panic,” he says he applied to Harvard Medical School. During his first year there, he wrote Emperor of the Air, which was published two years later. Ethan then took a seven-year break, traveling to South America before again settling in San Francisco.

Finishing his medical degree in 1991, Ethan began an internal medicine residency at the University of California, San Francisco. He continued to write and practice medicine, but following the publication of The Palace Thief, he decided to refocus his professional life and concentrate on writing.

With two friends, Ethan started The Writers’ Grotto in San Francisco—an office of nineteen writers and filmmakers that is now hugely successful. In 1998, Ethan joined the Iowa Writers’ Workshop faculty. He is the author of two collections of stories, Emperor of the Air and The Palace Thief, and four novels, Blue River, For Kings and Planets, Carry Me Across the Water, and America America. He and his wife, Barbara, have three children and split their time between Iowa City and the woods of northern Michigan.


John Cheever

Saul Bellow

Paul Farmer

Willie Mays


Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, William Morris Agency (Literary and Speaking)
Alicia Gordon, William Morris Agency (Film and Television)


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