Gail Godwin was born in Birmingham, Ala., during a time when her father was working at a summer job nearby. The following fall, her family moved back to their native North Carolina. Her parents divorced, when she was quite young, after her father deserted the family. She grew up in Asheville, N.C., living with her mother and grandmother. Her mother supported the family working as a junior college instructor, a newspaper reporter, and an author of romance stories for popular magazines. Godwin read extensively as a child and wrote her first story at age nine. Her mother remarried when Godwin was eleven, and the family moved frequently after that. Godwin reunited with her father at her high school graduation and lived with him briefly; he committed suicide while she was in college.
Godwin attended Peace Junior College in Raleigh, N.C., then transferred to the University of North Carolina, from which she graduated in 1959 with a BA in journalism. After graduation, she worked for a year as a newspaper reporter in Miami, then moved to London where she worked at the US Travel Service at the US Embassy there. In 1967, she was accepted into the Writers’ Workshop program at the University of Iowa, where she earned an MA in English in 1968 and a PhD in 1971. Her PhD dissertation was published in 1970 as her first novel, The Perfectionists. In the following years, she has written extensively, both novels and short stories. She has won several fellowships, including a Yaddo residency in 1972 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975. She also has created librettos for musical works for which her partner, Richard Starer, composed the music. She lives in Woodstock, N.Y., and is still publishing.
Godwin writes stories of modern, often creative, women who discover their true selves through dealing with crisis, frequently brought about by a death in the family. She portrays the complexities of relationships, both between men and women and among family members. Many of her books have Southern settings.
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Photo by Beth Bliss; courtesy of Gail Godwin.
Last updated on May 21, 2009.