Birthday: February 16, 1944
Short Story Writers
Age: 76 Years, 76 Year Old Males
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Born in: Jackson, Mississippi
Famous as: Novelist & Short Story Writer
Spouse/Ex-: Kristina Hensley (m. 1968)
father: Parker Carrol Ford
mother: Edna Ford
Diseases & Disabilities: Dyslexia
U.S. State: Mississippi
education: Michigan State University, University of California, Irvine, Washington University in St. Louis
awards: 1995 - PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
1995 - Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
2001 - PEN/Malamud Award
1995 - Rea Award for the Short Story
- New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year
- St. Louis Literary Award
Richard Ford is an American novelist and short story writer whose teaching career is as prolific as his literary career. He started his literary journey by becoming a fiction writer but his initial books failed to receive much attention, which is why Ford decided to opt for sports journalism instead. But as fate would have it, the magazine he worked for ran out of business and he had to again take up to fiction writing. But this time his books were noticed as he struck a chord with the literary world with his novel ‘The Sportswriter’ and collection of short stories called ‘Rock Springs’. Most of his stories are based in Montana, a state that he familiarizes himself with. He is famous for the ‘Frank Bascombe’ character series like—‘The Sportswriter’, ‘Independence Day’ and ‘The Lay of the Land’. Ford has served as an Adjunct Professor at the Oscar Wilde Centre with the School of English at Trinity College, Dublin, senior fiction professor at the University of Mississippi and is currently the Emmanuel Roman and Barrie Sardoff Professor of the Humanities and Professor of Writing at the Columbia University School of the Arts. He has won many prestigious literary awards like, Pulitzer Prize, PEN/Faulkner Award, PEN/Malamud Award, etc.
Childhood & Early Life
Ford was born in Mississippi to Parker Carrol Ford, who was a travelling salesman at a Kansas City company, Faultless Starch. Ford spent most of his childhood with his grandfather who was a hotel owner in Arkansas.
After finishing school, Ford took a break from studies for some time and worked on the Missouri Pacific train line as a locomotive engineer’s assistant. He later enrolled himself in the Michigan State University and received a Bachelor’s degree.
After completing his graduation, Ford started teaching at a junior high school in Flint, Michigan, and was also a part of US Marines for some time, but was discharged after he contracted hepatitis.
Ford tried law school briefly but dropped out and entered into the creative writing program at the University of California, Irvine, in the pursuit of Master of Fine Arts degree. He received his Master’s degree in 1970.
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After Ford received his Master’s degree in fine arts from the University of California, he was offered a three-year appointment in the University of Michigan Society of Fellows in 1971.
Ford published his first novel in 1976, titled ‘A Piece of My Heart’—a story of two improbable wanderers whose paths cross on an Island in the Mississippi River. He followed it with another book ‘The Ultimate Good Luck (1981)’.
While he was getting his books published, he taught at Williams College and Princeton for a brief period of time. His books did not do well commercially, which is why he stopped writing fiction and started working for ‘Inside Sports’.
The magazine went out of business and left Ford jobless. He turned to fiction writing again and released ‘The Sportswriter’ in 1986—a novel about an author who turned to sports writing while going through a personal crisis.
The book was named as one of the Time magazine’s five best books of 1986 and it was selected as a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. In the following year, Ford released another book titled ‘Rock Springs’.
‘Rock Springs’ is a collection of different stories, all set in Montana. He was now known as one of the pioneering writers of ‘dirty realism’--his stories were on the lives of the expelled and the downtrodden.
In 1990, ‘Wildlife’ was released—it is a story about a Montana based golf champion who turns into a firefighter. He also edited some works like: ‘Best American Short Stories’, ‘Granta Book of the American Short Story’, etc.
It was Ford’s ‘Independence Day’ in 1995 that finally earned him both PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He was also the winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story, for outstanding achievement in that genre.
In the ‘2000s, Ford worked as a teaching appointment at Bowdoin College (2005), an Adjunct Professor at the Trinity College, Dublin (2008) and assumed the post of senior fiction professor at the University of Mississippi (2011).
He continued writing and published books like: ‘A Multitude of Sins (2002)’, ‘The Lay of the Land (2006)’—part of ‘Frank Boscombe’ series and ‘Canada (2012)’. He started teaching at the Columbia University School of the Arts (2012).
The most memorable work of Ford’s writing career is considered to be his ‘Frank Bascombe’ series which includes novels like ‘The Sportswriter’, ‘Independence Day’—for which he won Pen/Faulkner Award and ‘The Lay of the Land’.
Awards & Achievements
In his writing career, Ford has received accolades like: Pulitzer Prize (‘Independence Day’), PEN/Faulkner Award (‘Independence Day’), PEN/Malamud Award, Rea Award for the Short Story, Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence and Prix Femina Etranger (‘Canada’).
Personal Life & Legacy
Ford met his wife Kristina Hensley while he was doing Bachelor’s degree from the Michigan State University and they got married in 1968. They live in Louisiana, where Hensley was the executive director of the city planning commission.
There have been literary comparisons between Ford's work and the works of writers like: John Updike, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and Walker Percy.
Ford claims that his mild dyslexia is probably the reason why he excelled at literature because it gave him the opportunity to absorb everything very carefully and slowly.
Oakley Hall and E. L. Doctorow were Ford’s teachers at University of California.