This Goodly Land

Sena Jeter Naslund (June 28, 1942–present)

Other Names Used

Alabama Connections

Selected Works

Literary Awards

Biographical Information

Sena Jeter Naslund was born and raised in Birmingham, Ala. She suffered from insomnia as a child and began telling herself stories as she lay in bed. While Naslund was in high school, she worked for the school newspaper. She was also a cellist and spent her summers at music camp. Naslund was offered a music scholarship to the University of Alabama but turned it down to attend Birmingham-Southern College. While she was at Birmingham-Southern, she also attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference at Middlebury College in Vermont. Naslund graduated in 1964 with a BA degree in English and creative writing and then attended the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. After earning MA and PhD degrees from the University of Iowa, she taught briefly at the University of Montana before accepting a faculty position at the University of Louisville in 1972. Naslund directed the University’s creative writing program for twelve years.

Naslund published her first short stories in literary journals. A collection of stories, Ice Skating at the North Pole, was published in 1989. In 1993, she published two novels and in 1999 she published another collection of short stories and her most famous novel, Ahab’s Wife, or, The Star-Gazer. Four Spirits, a novel set in Alabama during the civil rights era, was published in 2003. Naslund founded a literary journal, the Louisville Review, in 1976. When its funding was cut in the early 1990s, she instituted a writing competition, using the entry fees to support the journal. The Louisville Review was picked up by Spaulding University in 1998, and Naslund is still one of its editors. In 1996, Naslund founded Fleur-de-Lis Press (now located at Spaulding University) to publish the work of young writers. Naslund is the program director for the MFA in Writing program at Spaulding University as well as a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Louisville.

Interests and Themes

Sena Jeter Naslund writes stories about strong independent women and their survival in difficult, painful situations. Several of her books are based on alternative views of fictional characters and historical figures.

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Photo by Chris McNair; courtesy of William Morrow/HarperCollins.

Last updated on Jan 26, 2009.

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