Melissa Bank was born in a suburb of Philadelphia in 1961. Her father was a neurologist, and her mother taught writing to children. Bank was not a very good student in public school, she has said, for she felt learning was an extension of obedience to authority, adding that she has always had an authority problem. She studied art at Hobart College in upstate New York but did not do well in the subject, changing her major to American studies before graduating in 1982. She then moved to New York City and worked for two years as an editorial assistant in a publishing house. She entered graduate school at Cornell University in 1985 and earned her M.F.A. degree, after which she taught English at Cornell for three years.
After moving back to New York City in 1989, she worked as a copywriter at the McCann-Erickson advertising agency for nine years. During this period she took additional classes in creative writing at Columbia University, spending all her free time writing short stories, some of which were published in small-circulation journals. She published her first short story, “Lucky You,” in 1989 in The North American Review. She won the Nelson Algren award in 1993 for her story “My Old Man.”
Bank’s career received a tremendous boost when film director Francis Ford Coppola asked her to write a story for his Zoetrope: All Story magazine in response to Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider’s 1996 how-to guide for getting a man, The Rules: Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right. Afterward, Bank forwarded the story and several others she had written to an agent, who sent them out to ten publishers. Nine of the ten wanted to publish the collection, and a bidding war ensued, which was won by Viking Press. Bank received a $275,000 advance for the book, an unusually large amount for a first book and a collection of short stories at...
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