Jill McCorkle

Jill McCorkle is a native of Lumberton, North Carolina. She

Photo of Jill McCorkle

graduated from Lumberton High School in 1976, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980, and from the Hollins College Masters Program in Writing in 1981.

McCorkle acquired a remarkably full literary resume at a very young age; she was 26 years old when she made publishing history in 1984, having her first two novels published simultaneously. While a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she was the recipient of the Jesse Rehder Prize, the University's most prestigious writing award, and she received her B.A. with highest honors in Creative Writing. As a graduate student at Hollins, she won the Andrew James Purdy Prize for fiction. After earning her MFA, she taught writing at Duke University, Tufts University, and the University of North Carolina. She currently teaches writing at Harvard University and Bennington College.

McCorkle is a frequent reviewer for The New York Times Book Review and has also reviewed for The Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, New York Woman, and many North Carolina newspapers. Her short stories have been widely published in literary journals, commercial magazines and anthologies, including The Atlantic Monthly, Cosmopolitan, and Ladies' Home Journal.

McCorkle's novels have had wide international distribution. Foreign rights have been sold in Britain, Sweden, France, and Japan. Paperback editions of The Cheer Leader and July 7th were released by Viking-Penguin (Contemporary American Series) in 1985 and were reissued in 1992 by Algonquin's Front Porch Paperback series. Tending to Virginia (1987), Ferris Beach (1991), and Carolina Moon (1996) were represented by Fawcett.

Like many authors, Ms. McCorkle began to write as a child, but it was as a Sophomore in college that she seriously began her writing career. She sites such authors as Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter and Truman Capote as being among those who inspire her, and says, "I still cling to Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird." Other works she enjoys reading are by more contemporary writers, authors such as Kaye Gibbons, Doris Betts, Richard Bausch, Smartt Bell, and Larry Brown, to name a few. Her list goes on as Alice Hoffman, Sue Miller, Jayne Anne Phillips, Tim O'Brien, John Updike, and Charles Baxter appear. Ms. McCorkle says she does not limit her reading to novels but also likes to read short stories and poetry.

Authors Max Steele and Lee Smith and the founder of Algonquin Books, Louis D. Rubin, Jr.--all teachers at the University of North Carolina at the time--served as mentors to Ms. McCorkle during her career. "They are the reasons I continued writing," she says simply. Max Steele's collections of short stories and prolific author Lee Smith's beautifully written southern novels compliment Ms. McCorkle's own richly detailed creative voice.

Ms. McCorkle considers Carolina Moon and Tending to Virginia to be her most satisfying works. Drawing from a long history of oral tradition in the south, Ms. McCorkle evokes the honesty of the land and characters around her. Following in the footsteps of authors like Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird), Carson McCullers (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter) and Sherwood Anderson (Winesburg, Ohio), she reminds readers of the poignant tragedy in real life while uplifting them with its wonder.

When asked about the humor often found in her work, Ms. McCorkle replies, "I've been told that I'm funny. I love to be funny, and I'm disappointed when I'm not funny. I look for humor and sure enough it can always be found--sometimes in the most serious of moments--as a way of handling the situation. The funniest things in life are very often tied to something quite heavy and dark. What's being told isn't usually funny, but the way it's told is."

Jill McCorkle considers her work to be reflections from a humanist, a term she prefers over "feminist writer". "I write about people who are figuring out where they fit in society and how to reach a certain level of acceptance," she says and continues, "Oftentimes I start out with an idea just because it is funny, but then I like to find the darker part of the story."

It is this depth of character Ms. McCorkle develops that continues to fascinate her readers. She traces and finds the secret--of being human.

Literary Works


The Cheer Leader

July 7th, Tending to Virginia

Ferris Beach

Carolina Moon

Short Stories

Crash Diet

Final Vinyl Days