Toby Olson

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About the author

Toby Olson lives in Philadelphia and North Truro, on Cape Cod, where he has done most of his writing over the past thirty-six years. He was born near Chicago in 1937, but left there at a young age. Through high school and his four years in the Navy as a surgical technician, he lived in California, Arizona, and Texas, and after finishing his BA in English and Philosophy at Occidental College in Los Angeles, he moved to New York City, where he received an MA from Long Island University. Olson taught at the Aspen Writers' Workshop, which he co-founded in the mid-sixties, and at Long Island University and The New School For Social Research before moving to Philadelphia and Temple University in 1975.

Olson began writing poetry in the early sixties, but it was not until 1976 that his first novel, The Life of Jesus, was published (by New Directions). Seaview, for which he received the PEN/Faulkner Award for the most distinguished work of American fiction in 1983, followed, and since then he has published the novels The Woman Who Escaped From Shame, Utah, Dorit in Lesbos, At Sea, Write Letter to Billy, The Blond Box and The Bitter Half.

Numerous books of Olson's poetry have been published, including We Are the Fire, Unfinished Building and his most recent title, Human Nature (New Directions, 2000).

Related to his poetry and fiction, in recent years Olson has been collaborating with the composer Paul Epstein on various projects, including chamber music songs, a short story set for voice and piano, and two chamber operas, Dorit (adapted from Olson's novel Dorit in Lesbos) and Chihuahua. Both operas were performed by the Temple University Opera Theater.

In addition to the PEN/Faulkner Award, Olson has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other organizations.

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