The Obligatory Biography
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; it's still on Netflix).
In 2001, I received the New England Book Award for fiction for a body of work. The year 2007 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.”
I've taught writing at Simmons, Smith, and Hampshire colleges, all in Massachusetts, and in 2011-12 held 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 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 in Manhattan and part-time in Holmes, NY, on Lake Dutchess. My private life has been exposed (by me) in two NY Times' "Modern Love" columns: the first on April, 10, 2010 and the second, October 1, 2015. Benjamin Lipman Austin, my son, was born in 1982, and turned out great.