Jane Smiley was born in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in St Louis, Missouri. She was educated at Vassar College, receiving her B.A. degree in 1971, and at the University of Iowa, from which she received her M.A. degree in 1975, her M.F.A. degree in 1976, and her PhD in 1978. In 1981 Smiley began teaching at Iowa State University. Smiley’s first novel, Barn Blind (1980), tells the story of a severe mother who alienates her husband and children after one of her sons dies in a horseback riding accident. A later novel, The Greenlanders (1988), about a curse that afflicts several generations of a 14th-century Scandinavian family, reflects Smiley’s training as a scholar of medieval literature. Two collections of her shorter fiction have also been published: The Age of Grief (1987) and Ordinary Love and Good Will (1989). In 1992 she won the Pulitzer Prize for A Thousand Acres (1991), for which she also won the National Book Critics’ Circle Award in 1992. Her other novels include Moo (1995), The All True Travels and Adventures of Liddie Newton (1998), Horse Heaven (2000), which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and Good Faith (2003). In 2004, her non-fiction book about owning and racing horses, A Year at the Races, was published followed in 2006 by Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel. In 2006 Jane Smiley was awarded the PEN Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. Smiley’s most recent novel, Ten Days in the Hills, was published to great acclaim in 2007.