Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
William Patrick Kinsella was born on May 25, 1935, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the son of John Matthew, a contractor, and Olive Mary, a printer. Kinsella’s father was a semiprofessional baseball player who taught his son to love the game at an early age, establishing a fascination with the American pastime that would define the Canadian author’s reputation as a writer. Kinsella, an only child, grew up in almost total isolation on a farm in northern Alberta. He was home-schooled until the fifth grade and began writing stories about fictional characters that doubled as his friends.
Before embarking on a career as a writer, Kinsella worked as a government clerk, claims investigator, account executive, and restaurant owner. At the age of thirty-five, he began attending the University of Victoria, where he went on to receive his B.A. in creative writing. From 1974 to 1976, he worked as a taxicab driver in Victoria. In 1976, he was accepted to study at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, and he received his M.F.A. from the university in 1978. While enrolled in the Writers’ Workshop, Kinsella was an instructor at the University of Iowa. After finishing up there, he accepted a job as an assistant professor of English and creative writing at the University of Calgary, and he stayed there from 1978 to 1983.
Kinsella sold his first pieces of writing regularly to magazines. In 1977, a collection of stories, Dance Me Outside, was published by Oberon Press in Ottawa, Ontario. Scars was published in 1978, and Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa, a short-story collection, followed in 1980. Born Indian, the collection that includes “Fiona the First” (which won honorable mention in the annual series Best American Short Stories, 1980), appeared in 1981, and Shoeless Joe, a 1982 novel based on the title story from Shoeless Joe...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
William Patrick Kinsella was born May 25, 1935, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His father was a contractor; his mother, a printer. An only child, Kinsella spent his early years in a log cabin near Lac Ste.-Anne, sixty miles northwest of Edmonton. He rarely saw other children and completed grades one through four by correspondence. His parents, grandmother, and aunt read to one another and told stories, and Kinsella began writing fantasies when he was five or six. The family moved to Edmonton when he was ten, and his father, a former semiprofessional baseball player, began taking him to baseball games. In the eighth grade, Kinsella won a prize for “Diamond Doom,” a baseball mystery. At eighteen, he published his first story, a science-fiction tale about a totalitarian society, in The Alberta Civil Service Bulletin.
Kinsella worked as a government clerk, manager of a retail credit company, account executive for the City of Edmonton, owner of an Italian restaurant, and taxicab driver, the last two while attending the University of Victoria, where he received a B.A. in 1974. He then attended the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, earning a master of fine arts degree in 1978. He taught at the University of Calgary from 1978 to 1983, but he hated the academic life, quitting to write full time. Kinsella was married to Mildred Clay from 1965 to 1978. From 1978 to 1983, he taught creative writing at the University of Calgary. He then resigned from teaching to spend his time writing. He married the writer Ann Knight in 1978, and they settled in White Rock, British Columbia, and Iowa City, Iowa, when not traveling to attend major league baseball games. Kinsella has two daughters, Shannon and Erin. In 1997 Kinsella was hit by a car and suffered a concussion and the loss of taste and smell. His injuries, which also included difficulty concentrating, put his writing career on hold.
After various jobs as a young adult, W. P. Kinsella returned to college, earned a degree in and taught creative writing, and became a full-time writer. Born in Canada, Kinsella has lived in the United States and regularly travels across the country watching baseball games. His innumerable stories and occasional novels often involve either the Native American residents of the Ermineskin Reserve in Alberta, Canada, or the game of baseball.
Kinsella’s Ermineskin stories—in Dance Me Outside, Scars, Born Indian, The Moccasin Telegraph and Other Indian Tales, The Fencepost Chronicles, and elsewhere—artfully convey the wisdom and stoic humor of their Native American characters. The Indians frequently have to confront ignorant, arrogant, and sometimes oppressive white officials and visitors. Narrator Silas Ermineskin is a complex character known to friends as someone who writes and publishes stories; the series becomes a meditation on writing as a way to develop and express personal identity.
The Indian stories are noteworthy, but Kinsella’s baseball fiction made him famous. For Kinsella, baseball, with its fixed traditions, pastoral setting, and leisurely pace, embodies everything admirable in the American character, and baseball enables troubled people to achieve fulfillment. In Shoeless Joe, when a voice tells a farmer to build a baseball diamond, dead players return to play their favorite game, the farmer reconciles with his dead father, and a bitter recluse, writer J. D. Salinger, finds happiness when he departs with the players. Other baseball stories feature magically gifted players, divine intervention, or people transformed by a devotion to baseball.
Kinsella’s interests combine in The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, in which two men travel back in time to a 1906 baseball game, while a Native American spirit watches and hopes for an Iowa victory that will return his lost lover. In this work, Native Americans and baseball embody the essential American identity, which is fragile, since the game’s end breaks the spell and erases the event from history. Kinsella’s love for baseball is unalloyed, and the popularity of these stories proves that other Americans share his attitude.
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Born May 25, 1935, on a farm west of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, William (Bill) Patrick Kinsella was the son of a contractor, John Matthew, and a printer, Olive Mary (nee Elliot). The fact that Kinsella did not attend school until he was ten years old is characteristic of a lifelong delay in getting formal education. Kinsella did not start college until he was thirty-five years old. During his early years he worked at a variety of jobs and discovered that he had a gift for writing. At the age of seventeen, he published his first short story but had difficulty getting other stories published. Over the next twenty years, he wrote as many as fifty stories. Although they remained unpublished, the quantity of his output testifies to the ease with which he could write. In 1974 he completed a B.A. in creative writing at University of Victoria and immediately enrolled in the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. Two years later he not only earned an M.F.A. but also, during his first year, published Dance Me Outside, a collection of short stories about the Cree Nation in Canada. The tribe became one of two major subjects around which Kinsella’s fiction revolves. The other is baseball. In 1982, Kinsella published Shoeless Joe, his first novel and the first of many tales in which Kinsella indulged his love for baseball. The favorable critical response to both volumes launched Kinsella’s writing career. In 1983 he retired from his university job to pursue writing full time.
Kinsella has been married four times. At twenty-two, he married Myrna Salls on December 28, 1957. The marriage ended in divorce six years later. On September 10, 1965, he married Mildred Irene Clay. The marriage ended in 1978, when he met and married writer Ann Ilene Knight. Over nearly twenty years, the two collaborated on several writing projects, including two books of...
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William Patrick Kinsella was born on May 25, 1935, on a farm in Edmonton, in northern Alberta, Canada, the son of John Matthew and Olive Mary (Elliott) Kinsella. Kinsella did not attend school until fifth grade, but he caught up quickly and graduated from high school in 1953. After graduation, he worked at a variety of jobs in Edmonton. He was a government clerk, an insurance investigator, and then owner of a restaurant. He did not attend college until he was in his late thirties, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, in 1974. He then received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa in 1978 and taught English for five years at the University of Calgary, Alberta, from 1978 to 1983.
Kinsella always thought of himself as a writer and published his first story when he was seventeen. His first story collection was Dance Me Outside (1977), about the Native North Americans of the Ermineskin Reservation in Alberta, Canada. Born Indian (1981) and Mocassin Telegraph (1983) were similar collections. Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe (1982) was his first popular success, and it was made into the movie Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, in 1989.
Since 1983, Kinsella has been a full-time writer and has carved a niche for himself as a writer of baseball fiction. In addition to Shoeless Joe, he has written several more novels, including The Iowa Baseball Confederacy (1986), Box Socials (1991), and The Winter Helen Dropped By (1995). Story collections focusing on baseball include Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa (1980), the title story that formed the basis of the novel Shoeless Joe, and The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt (1988), which was reissued as Go the Distance (1995). Kinsella's most recent publications are Magic Time (1998), a novel about a college all-star who revives his baseball career by moving to Iowa, and Japanese Baseball (2000), a new collection of baseball stories.
Kinsella was awarded a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship in 1982; he has also received a fiction award from the Canadian Authors Association (1982), a Vancouver writing award (1987), and the Stephen Leacock medal (1987). He was decorated with the Order of Canada in 1994, and in 1987 he was named Author of the Year by the Canadian Library Association.
Kinsella married Mildred Irene Clay in 1965, and they had three children before divorcing in 1978. In 1978, Kinsella married Ann Ilene Knight. They were divorced in 1997. Kinsella married for the third time, in 1999, to Barbara L. Turner.