Melissa Bank Biography

Biography

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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Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Melissa Bank was born in 1961 and grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia. Her father was a neurologist, who died of leukemia in his late fifties. She studied art at Hobart College in upstate New York, but did not do well in that subject, changing her major and graduating in 1982 with a degree in American Studies. She moved to New York City, where she worked for two years as an editorial assistant in a publishing house. She then entered graduate school at Cornell University in 1985 and earned an M.F.A., after which she taught English at Cornell for three years.

Bank moved back to New York City in 1989, where she worked as a copywriter at McCann-Erickson advertising agency. During the nine years she worked in advertising, she took some creative writing classes at Columbia University and spent all her free time after work and on weekends writing stories. However, she had little luck in publishing them except in small-circulation journals; her first story, “Lucky You,” appeared in 1989 in The North American Review.

Bank’s big break came in 1997, when Francis Ford Coppola commissioned her to write a story in reaction to the popular book The Rules: Time Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right (1996), a how-to guide for getting a man, for his Zoetrope magazine. As a result, she sent the story and others to an agent who in turn sent them out to ten publishers, nine of whom wanted to publish them in a book. Viking Press won a bidding war for the manuscript, giving Bank an unusually large advance for a first book of short stories. She was later commissioned to write a screenplay based on the title story for a film for Coppola’s studio. Bank settled in New York City with her Labrador retriever, Maybelline.