Cheryl Olsen

The daughter of belated Dust Bowl refugees, Cheryl Olsen left Oklahoma for the West at an early age.

She grew up in northern California, not surrounded by books as so many of her peers, but rather a strong oral tradition. The many storytellers in her extended family engendered a love of language that led her—again belatedly—to become an avid reader as a young adult. Truth be told, she became a cheerleader (aka aerobics instructor) at 30. Beginning to see a pattern?

She graduated from UC Berkeley and started a graduate program in ed psych. But just as the maze-running rats were making her squirrely, she fell under the spell of Filipino writer NVM Gonzalez and former Iowa Writers’ Workshop acting director Robert Williams. Both proffered encouragement and she belatedly but happily closed the lab door and succumbed to the urge that had been flirting with her for years. She drove to Iowa City in a borrowed El Camino with bemused husband Eric in tow.

Cheryl wrapped up her MFA in 1975, and endured two more frigid Iowa winters and steamy Iowa summers while Eric belatedly finished his BA, then graduate degrees. She got a job writing student profiles and features on UI programs for The Iowa Scene. She was a pro. There was no turning back.

Resettled in California, Cheryl wrote scores of articles for publications including Cosmopolitan, Via, Runner Magazine, and others. She was an editor and writer at City Sports Magazine for many years, and a columnist for Women’s Sports and Fitness. Other clients include Time Inc. Health, Summit Medical Center, and Words Without Borders,  among others. She also taught college English for a number of years.

During their four-decade marriage, Cheryl and Eric have frequently written for the same publications and collaborated on literary projects, including their publishing company, BrightCityBooks. Knowing the scope of We Wanted to Be Writers, and anticipating her level of pre-publication involvement (crash course in indexing and web goddessing, anyone?), Cheryl opted not to be interviewed for the book. Underestimating what a great read it would turn out to be, she wishes she’d consented. Belatedly.


Best of Books by the Bed: What Writers Are Reading Before Lights Out, with Eric Olsen (BrightCity Books, 2013)

Best of Books by the Bed #2: What Writers Are Reading Before Lights Out, with Eric Olsen (BrightCity Books, 2014)