Brian Elwood Reid grew up in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. His father Thomas Reid was a teacher and coach in Willoughby, Ohio, where his mother, Charlotte Reid, née Ellwood, worked as a principal’s secretary. The oldest of three children, Reid earned a full four-year athletic scholarship to play football at the University of Michigan after he graduated from high school in the mid-1980’s.
After two years as an offensive lineman on the team, during which he never played in a varsity game, Reid ruptured several discs in his spine, ending his athletic career. For the next ten years, Reid, who dropped his first name Brian in favor of his middle name Elwood, to signal a shift in character, stayed generally around the campus at Ann Arbor, Michigan. Continuing his education while working a variety of odd jobs, including stints as a bouncer, a carpenter, and a writing instructor, Reid earned a bachelor of arts degree in general studies and then a master of fine arts from the University of Michigan.
In 1996, he submitted a first version of his short story “What Salmon Know” to the annual fiction contest of Gentleman’s Quarterly magazine. He did not win but placed among the final five, and Gentleman’s Quarterly published his story in its February, 1997, issue. Contacts with an agent led Reid to write and publish his first, semi-autobiographical novel If I Don’t Six. After marriage to fellow writer Nina Reid and the birth of their daughter Sophia, Reid moved to Obernburg, New York, in 1997.