Chris Offutt was born in 1958 in Rowan County, Kentucky, near the tiny town of Haldeman, an area he once described as “a zip code with a creek,” to his mother, Mary “Jody” Jo McCabe, a teacher, and his father, Andrew Jefferson Offutt, a teacher-turned-science-fiction-writer. Before earning a B.A. in theater arts from Morehead State University (also in Rowan County), Offutt hitchhiked around the country, working at odd jobs. Among his more colorful jobs was a stint in Alabama with a circus, where he tended the elephants and got a role in one of the animal acts dressed as a walrus. While in Boston he met Rita Lily, who later became his wife. After their plans to move back to Rowan County fell through, Offutt was accepted into the writing program at the University of Iowa, where he earned an M.F.A. in 1990. He and Rita lived in a small rented house on the Iowa River until they migrated to Albuquerque then to Montana before they completed the circle by returning to Rowan County, Kentucky, where Offutt took a job teaching creative writing at Morehead State University.