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My writing life in 500 words:


I wrote for fun, even as a child.  Early activities included multiple attempts at getting published in Readers Digest's "Life in These United States,"  writing comedy radio show scripts which I produced on a cassette player in my bedroom, and writing papers in the style of writers I liked to see if teachers would catch on.


I may or may not have turned in assignments written in the styles of Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, James Herriot, John Irving and Douglas Adams. Note: I know they are all dudes. It was a phase. Please know that I love women writers. I also spent hours memorizing comic record albums by Bill Cosby, Steve Martin,  Lily  Tomlin,  The Smothers Brothers, Monty Python, Woody Allen, and Eddie Murphy. 

I spent childhood summers propped up on a bar stool at the Ukavets Club in Scranton, Pennsylvania, watching my grandparents enjoy nickel glasses of beer, smoking  two packs a day via second-hand smoke, and listening to old men not talk about the war. I loved every minute of it.

In eleventh grade I briefly  joined my high school creative writing club, but was asked to leave after writing a horror poem in the style of Poe's "The Raven." What can I say? I had been reading Stephen King, had recently seen Psycho, and was working out my newfound fear of being stabbed to death while in the shower. I meant nothing by it.


After I dropped out of college at 19, I waited tables and wrote for fun. I also painted and drew pictures which I sold. Then I got married, had children, replaced writing for fun with sleeping for survival, got divorced and went back to college and earned my BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts.


Some years later, after I remarried,  I began writing for work (web content, online high school and college course content, scientific textbook ad copy, and editing for others' writing projects).

Then I earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Florida International University. While there, I won the FIU Provost's Award for Best Creative Project, the FIU Creative Writing Award in Nonfiction, the Kentucky Women Writers' Betty Gabehart Prize for Creative Nonfiction, and the Arts & Letters Susan Atefat Prize in Creative Nonfiction. 

I was also the fiction editor of Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, and the graduate coordinator for the FIU Writers on the Bay Reading Series. My memoir, Mothers of Sparta, won both the Florida Book Award and the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award.

I have garnered close to fifty publications in national literary journals, including McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Narrative, The Missouri Review, Ninth Letter, Fourth Genre, Arts & Letters, as well as other journals and anthologies. 


Now I write and teach writing. Special interests include medical narrative, unreliable narrator, function of the implied narrator in fiction, point of view, writing about family, developing persona in creative nonfiction, satire, parody, lyric essay, humor writing, the development of the essay from mid-twentieth century to present.


For health and relaxation, I like functional fitness, lifting weights and growing plants. My favorite hobbies are people watching, poodles, biohacking, and talking about fasting with the same crazy eyes you see when vegans talk about veganism or CrossFitters talk about CrossFit.  I dream of one day owning an empire of laundromats.




                       Marlena Bittner

                       Director of Publicity

                       Flatiron Books

                       175 5th Avenue

                       New York, New York 10010


                       Twitter: @lenabitts


                     Ellen Levine

                         Trident Media Group 

                         41 Madison Avenue 

                         New York, New York 10010