Biography

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 828

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.

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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 Jackson Comes to Iowa, was the first of Kinsella’s books published in the United States. Shoeless Joe was Kinsella’s breakthrough book, and its success allowed him to leave behind teaching and pursue writing full time. Now widely esteemed, he was invited to give readings at American universities and colleges, a practice which paid very well. He won the Houghton Mifflin literary fellowship, the Books in Canada award for first novels, and the Canadian Author’s Association prize, all for Shoeless Joe.

The Moccasin Telegraph (later republished as The Moccasin Telegraph, and Other Stories), a story collection for which Kinsella won the Writers Guild of Alberta O’Hagan novel medal, was issued in 1983. The Thrill of the Grass (1984) and The Alligator Report (1985), two more story collections, followed. The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, Kinsella’s second baseball book, was published in 1986. In 1987, he received the Alberta Achievement Award for Excellence in Literature and the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humor for The Fencepost Chronicles (1986). He also won the 1987 Author of the Year Award from the Canadian Booksellers Association.

Red Wolf, Red Wolf (1987) and The Further Adventures of Slugger McBatt (1988), two more story collections that won Kinsella critical acclaim, were followed by the 1989 film adaptation of Shoeless Joe, which was released by Universal Pictures as Field of Dreams. The film was nominated for best picture, best score, and best adapted screenplay awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Also in 1989, Kinsella and his third wife, Ann Knight, published a book of poems called Rainbow Warehouse (1989). The Miss Hobbema Pageant, another collection of stories about the Cree Indian Reserve in Hobbema, Alberta, was released in 1989.

Kinsella took a short hiatus after the success of the film but appeared back on the scene in 1991 with a novel, Box Socials, and yet another story collection, The Dixon Cornbelt League, and Other Baseball Stories (1993) soon followed. Brother Frank’s Gospel Hour, and Other Stories appeared in 1994, and Dance Me Outside was produced as a motion picture by Norman Jewison in 1995. Kinsella continued his prolific output as the twentieth century ended and the twenty-first century began, publishing several more novels and story collections, including The Winter Helen Dropped By (1995), If Wishes Were Horses (1996), Magic Time (1998), The Secret of the Northern Lights (1998), Japanese Baseball, and Other Stories (2000), and Baseball Fantastic: Stories (2000), for which he was editor, contributor, and author of the introduction.

Kinsella has been married four times. He married Myrna Salls in 1957, and they were divorced in 1963. In 1965, he married Mildred Irene Clay, and they were divorced in 1978. That same year he married Ann Ilene Knight, a writer, and they remained married until 1997. Finally, he married Barbara L. Turner in 1997. Kinsella has three children, all from his first marriage, to Salls: Shannon, Lyndsey, and Erin. He received a D.Litt from Laurentian University, Ontario, in 1990, and a D.Litt from the University of Victoria in 1991. In 1994, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. His stories have appeared in several anthologies, including Best Canadian Short Stories, Pushcart Prize V, and The Penguin Book of Modern Canadian Short Stories. He splits his time between White Rock, British Columbia, and Palm Springs, California.

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