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Jesse Lee Kercheval was born in Fontainbleau, France, and was raised in Florida. In 1983, she received a B.A. in History from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, where she studied writing with Janet Burroway, David Kirby, and Jerome Stern among others.

In 1986, she received her MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she was a teaching-writing fellow. After teaching a year as an assistant professor at DePauw University, in 1987, she joined the writing faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she is currently the Zona Gale Professor of English. She was director of the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing from 1994 to 2010 and was also the founding director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing. She is also an affiliate faculty member of the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Program at Wisconsin.

Kercheval is the author of twelve books of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.
Her latest book is the novel My Life as a Silent Movie, (Indiana University Press, 2013). Her novella Brazil (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010) won the Ruthanne Wiley Memorial Novella Contest. Her poetry collection Cinema Muto (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009) was selected by David Wojahn for a Crab Orchard Open Selection Award. Her story collection The Alice Stories (University of Nebraska Press, 2007) won the Prairie Schooner Fiction Book Prize. Her first story collection The Dogeater (University of Missouri Press, 1987) won the Associated Writing Programs Award in Short Fiction. Space (Alonquin Books, 1998), her memoir about growing up near Cape Kennedy during the moon race, won the Alex Award from the American Library Association. Her novel The Museum of Happiness, set in Paris in 1929, has been reissued with a new afterword by the author by the University of Wisconsin Press as part of the Library of American Fiction. Her popular writing text Building Fiction has also been reissued in trade paperback by the UW Press. Her other poetry collections are Dog Angel (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004) and World as Dictionary (Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1999).  She is also the author of two poetry chapbooks, Chartreuse (Hollyridge Press, 2005) and Film History as Train Wreck (Center for Book Arts, 2006) which won the 2006 Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize.  Her individual stories and poems appear regularly in magazines in the U.S, the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Germany, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

She has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Research and Study Center at Harvard, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Corporation of Yaddo, and James A. Michener and the Copernicus Society. She spent 2010-2011 on sabbatical in Montevideo, Uruguay and returns to Uruguay regularly.

Her current projects include a collection of poems Extranjera/ Stranger in Spanish about Uruguay; América Invertida: an anthology of younger Uruguayan poets. She is also translating the poetry of the Uruguayan poet Circe Maia. Those translations are forthcoming in the New Yorker, Agni, the American Poetry Review, Blackbird,  Jubilat, Pleiades, Subtropics, The Cincinnati Review, The Colorado Review, The Gettysburg Review, West Branch and other literary magazines. She is also translating the Urguayan poet Tatiana Oroño. Those translations are forthcoming in the U.S. in Ploughshares and in the U.K.  in Stand.