When I was 17, I sold my first short story to a magazine called Personal Computing, which had just started featuring a new columnist named Bill Gates. They paid me $200, and I thought, “This is it. I’ve arrived!” But no one heralded that I’d broken into print. It took me over two years to get another short story published, I was paid in contributor copies, and I now have enough magazines in the basement to sink a battleship. Every week I’d send out flotillas of manila envelopes with return envelopes inside and occasionally scored a hit. I started writing poems and essays and the occasional review. I still have copies of the old British magazine Punch, where I published humor pieces.
In fact, my life has been more concerned with reading and writing than with fascinating incidents. After college, I got my Ph.D. in literature, snared a job at the University of Mississippi, and ended up running the MFA program in creative writing there. I got married to a New York-based magazine journalist and had a son (all three of us write and really should collaborate one day).
My first novel, Flesh, about a sexual obsession that gets out of hand in a small Southern town, got a half-page write-up in the New York Times Book Review and was translated into Russian. My second, Turning Japanese, concerned an American expat who becomes more Japanese than the Japanese when he returns home, and it seems to have acquired a cult readership in Osaka. My third, How to Cope with Suburban Stress, focused on how a dangerous pedophile upends the lives of an already unhappy family. It was a Book Sense choice, was named by Kirkus as one of the year’s 30 Best Books, and got optioned for a film. I’ve also published children’s books with William Morrow and Random House, as well as the short story collection Laugh Track from the University Press of Mississippi and My Date with Neanderthal Woman, winner of Dzanc’s inaugural short story collection award.
My first book of poems was called Flaws, whose subjects range from the arc of a crop-duster to speculations on Freud’s wife. My flash fiction handbook, Brevity, from Columbia University Press, outlines how best to make use of 1,000 words, whether in a vignette or a dialogue or a what-if setup.
I’ve also written over two hundred short stories for magazines ranging from the Czech Continental Review to the Canadian Prism International and the American Shenandoah. My essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Self, Cosmopolitan, The Village Voice, Twentieth Century Literature, and many other places. I call myself a shameless eclectic and am proud of that label.
My awards include a Fulbright fellowship, a Henfield Foundation grant, a Writers Exchange award from Poets & Writers, and a Mississippi Arts Council grant, as well as residencies at Yaddo, Ragdale, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, and the Millay Colony. I’m now a professor of English and creative writing program director at Montclair State University. And I’m the editor in chief of Vestal Review, the longest-running flash fiction magazine on the planet. My most recent honors include having one of my stories performed at Symphony Space in New York and winning the ALSCW Meringoff Fiction Prize. You can see some of my work and my author profile at www.davidgalef.com.
Where I Went Wrong will be my fourth published novel, this one about a sad-sack guy from New Jersey, looking further and further back on his life and trying to figure out where he messed up. I try to take a different direction in every book I write. I love trying on new hats, different roles, and alternate existences. My life? As F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “There never was a good biography of a novelist. There couldn’t be. He is too many people, if he’s any good.”