Jaimee Wriston Colbert

Fiction Writer

English Department Binghamton University
Binghamton, NY 13902
(607) 754-1253

Author's Bio

Jaimee Wriston Colbert is the author of seven books: a new novel, HOW NOT TO DROWN, (2021 Alcove Press/Crooked Lane Books); VANISHING ACTS (2018 Fomite), Finalist for the American Fiction Prize and Foreword Book of the Year Award; the linked story collection, WILD THINGS (2016 BkMk), winner of the 2018 International Book Award: Short Stories, 2017 CNY Book Award in Fiction, Finalist for AmericanBookFest Best Books of 2017 and longlisted for the Chautauqua Prize; the novel SHARK GIRLS (2009 Livingston), finalist for the USABookNews Best Book of 2010 Award, the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year, and a starred review in Booklist; DREAM LIVES OF BUTTERFLIES (2007 BkMk), winner of the gold medal (first place) in the 2008 Independent Publisher Awards (IPPY); a novel, CLIMBING THE GOD TREE (1998 Helicon Nine), winner of the Willa Cather Fiction Prize; and the story collection SEX, SALVATION, AND THE AUTOMOBILE (1994 Zephyr), winner of the Zephyr Publishing Prize. Her stories have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including: Gettysburg Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Tampa Review, Connecticut Review, New Letters, Solstice, Tahoma Literary Review, Green Mountains Review, and broadcast on NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” Stories from Wild Things have won the 2012 Ian MacMillan Fiction Prize; the 2009 Isotope Editors’ Fiction Prize, and 2008 Jane’s Stories Short Story Award. She has had stories anthologized in Ohio Short Fiction, and Peculiar Pilgrims – Stories From the Left Hand of God, and a story presented at the 2007 Boston Fiction Festival, and performed throughout Maine by PCA Great Performances. Originally from Hawai'i, she is Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at SUNY Binghamton University. Praise for HOW NOT TO DROWN, 2021: “Wriston is utterly entrancing in her fourth novel, imaginatively exploring regrets, grief, obsessions, and love with fluent empathy and mordant humor. Improvising on her haunting signature themes—family conflicts, resilient young women, brokenness, the sea, and mystical beings—Wriston offers a complexly evocative, bittersweet, and richly involving tale.”  —Donna Seaman, Booklist; “[This] lush new novel, drenched in folklore, is a glorious web of family connections and missed connections. This brilliant book will revive you!” —Bonnie Jo Campbell, National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage; “A mesmerizing, heart-stopping story of a family mired in grief and a deep history of loss, How Not to Drown is a radiant lesson in the double necessities of mourning and survival.” 
—Minrose Gwin, award-winning author of The Accidentals; “An unforgettable balancing act, at once visceral and thoughtful, raw yet sensitive, sometimes painfully humorous, complex but basic, though never simple.”—James Anderson, award-winning author The Never-Open Desert Diner and Lullaby Road. “A fierce—and fiercely funny—family epic, one of those rare books that is both smart and entertaining. If you liked Olive Kitteridge, you’ll love Amelia MacQueen.”—Alexi Zentner, author of Copperhead; VANISHING ACTS, 2018: Vanishing Acts dramatizes what doesn’t disappear: a mother’s love for her son and for her own mother, the wages of loyalty, the terror of abandonment, and the possibility of transformation. Jaimee Wriston Colbert’s fierce intelligence is at work in every sentence of this deeply felt novel about generational trauma. Once I started, I couldn’t stop reading and found myself gasping at the choices these fully realized characters make. In this daring, beautifully executed novel Colbert shows us that whatever we imagined to be an illusion might be entirely real.—Lee Upton, author of The Tao of Humiliation and Visitations: Stories. "If serious writing attempts, as William Matthews says, "...to speak what it feels like to be human," than lucky the reader who discovers Jaimee Wriston Colbert's Vanishing Acts, her characters as compassionately rendered as any I have encountered in a long time. As one of them muses, "...he should become an artist and try at least [to] paint this thing, color its painful truth so others could know it too." And now I do, having read this hauntingly beautiful novel, the prose, sentence by sentence, resonant and as deeply considered as the generational story it tells. I not only applaud its heart, and craft, and courage, I do so loudly, gratefully. – Jack Driscoll, The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot; The World of a Few Minutes Ago. Praise for WILD THINGS, BkMk Press 2016: "Colbert's divining sense of brokenness and our longing for wholeness makes for extraordinarily incisive, stirring, funny, and haunting all-American stories." -Donna Seaman, Booklist "These characters sing their hunger and dance their hard-won wisdom. These brilliant, surprising stories defy gravity and take flight." -Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage. "By turns luminous and razor-sharp, in landscapes as diverse as a shimmering beach in Oahu and a crumbling mill town in upstate New York, these characters find comfort not only in the "peace of wild things" but also in their scrap and bite, their tenacious urge toward survival in an absurdly hostile world." -Pam Houston, Contents May Have Shifted. "A tremendous new collection from a writer with extraordinary powers of observation and an empathetic understanding of the thorny, heartbreaking human condition. ... A stunning book." -Christine Sneed, The Virginity of Famous Men. "A book more apropos to our country and our times, in light of the results of the November election, would be hard to find. ...If you want to get a feel for the hopelessness that drives the choices some of us shake our collective heads at, read these stories." -Joe Ponepinto, Tahoma Literary Review - TLR Recommends. "Colbert’s sensibilities hit the page through heartbreakingly rendered characters struggling to make sense of a damaged world. Her gaze is wide, raw and unflinching...." -Christine Maul Rice, The Sunday Rumpus Interview. Praise For SHARK GIRLS, Livingston Press 2009: "Colbert has created an edgy and lush gothic tale laced with outlaw eroticism and barbed absurdities, and propelled by a powerful undertow racing beneath every alarming scene, bitterly funny moment, and strange twist of fate. From women battered and haunted to "throwaway kids," rock-and-roll burnouts, and quixotic guests, Colbert summons a world as volatile as Hawaii itself, with its cycles of volcanic destruction and slow repair." -Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review). “Colbert’s Shark Girls is a mesmerizing novel, vibrant with eroticism, myth, and mystery.” -Madison Smartt Bell, All Souls’ Rising. “This novel is so original and strange that it's hard to put a label on it, yet it has the lively detail and bold characterization and compelling plot that always make a good novel. I was captivated by the bold twists and turns, as well as the sharp and inventive language, and I was drawn in by the fascinating lore and setting of Hawaii.” -Bobbie Ann Mason, In Country. “Jaimee Wriston Colbert’s Shark Girls is as inventive as any novel I have read in a long time, the prose boisterous and perfectly mastered to tell this story about home and leave-taking, and about the quirky and unrelenting desire of the heart to find itself. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignantly, even disturbingly sad, it is, finally, and in every word, tender and original and as compassionate a look at character and place as you’re apt to find anywhere. Shark Girls dazzles. A remarkable achievement." -Jack Driscoll, How Like an Angel. Praise For DREAM LIVES OF BUTTERFLIES, BkMk Press, October, 2007: "Evocative images of specimen butterflies, their broken bodies permanently suspended in time and pinned in place, suffuse Colbert's inventively interconnected stories of fragile yet defiant people whose lives immutably sway in a limbo between uncertainty and endurance…Colbert's incandescent protagonists manage to find a sliver of salvation, a glimmer of grace, through the timeless act of simply reaching out to another human being." -Carol Haggas, Booklist. "Colbert's words are like magic...it is her brilliant exploration of that no-man's land between what we desire and what we must live without that defines Colbert's deep empathy for her characters." - Kim Barnes, A Country Called Home. “Dream Lives of Butterflies is full of startling wisdom and high-flown humor. Jaimee Wriston Colbert’s characters are complete originals; full of sass and attitude, they struggle with the cultural tension between worlds and lives. Readers will love following these people on their full-hearted, rambunctious adventures.” -Diana Abu-Jaber, Origins. Praise For CLIMBING THE GOD TREE, Helicon Nine, 1998: "…Colbert has a knack for creating vivid characters and handles well the novel's recurring themes of loss and retribution." -Publisher’s Weekly. "A debut novel set in a haunted Maine town. Eerie, understated, and deft. Colbert uses atmosphere the way David Lean uses scenery." -Kirkus Reviews. "The scope of Jaimee Wriston Colbert's storytelling is impressive, with no fewer than 16 central characters delineated in intricately overlapping narratives…The stories stand on their own as sensitive and unsentimental evocations of unrelieved loss." -The New York Times Book Review. "Jaimee Wriston Colbert looks deeply into the ragged places in our psyches—into the parts of us torn open by loss and by failed love—and reveals our humanity in all its beauty and imperfection. Here is a writer who, in powerfully linked stories, movingly evokes both our craving for the sacred and our tenacious embrace of the profane." –Dawn Raffel, Judge, Willa Cather Fiction Prize. “Climbing the God Tree is an intricate cat’s cradle of obsession, desire, compassion, and hope. Jaimee Wriston Colbert holds back nothing—in each of these finely interwoven lives, I recognize something of my own. An extraordinary novel.” -A Manette Ansay, River Angel.


Literary agent: 
Eleanor Jackson: Dunnow, Carlson & Lerner Agency

Publications & Prizes

Jane's Stories (Jane's Stories Press, 2012)
Peculiar Pilgrims: Stories From the Left Hand of God (Hourglass Books, 2006)
Twentieth Anniversary (Long Shot, 2002)
Ohio Short Fiction (Northmont, 1995)
Vanishing Acts (Fomite, 2018)
Wild Things (BkMk Press-UMKC, 2016)
Shark Girls (Livingston Press, 2009)
Dream Lives of Butterflies (BkMk Press-UMKC, 2007)
Climbing the God Tree (Helicon Nine Editions, 1998)
Sex, Salvation and the Automobile (Zephyr Press, 1994)
Chaminade Literary Review
Connecticut Review
Drunken Boat
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Isotope: Journal of Nature and Science Writing
Louisiana Literature
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Pacific Coast Journal
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Potato Eyes
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Snake Nation Review
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Prizes won: 

2021 Promoted to Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing, SUNY Binghamton University; 2018-2019 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship & Creative Activites; 2018 International Book Award in Fiction-Short Stories for WILD THINGS; 2017: CNY Book Award in Fiction for WILD THINGS; 2012: Ian MacMillan Fiction Prize. 2009: Editors' Fiction Prize; Isotope, Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing. 2008: Jane's Stories National Short Story Award. 2008: Independent Publisher Awards (IPPY) Gold Medal, Short Stories-Fiction for DREAM LIVES OF BUTTERFLIES. 1997: Willa Cather Fiction Prize, for CLIMBING THE GOD TREE. 1994: Zephyr Publishing Prize, for SEX, SALVATION, AND THE AUTOMOBILE.

More Information

Gives readings: 
Travels for readings: 
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Raised in: 
Honolulu, HI
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Last update: May 15, 2021