Eric Olsen

Photo by Dennis Mathis

Eric Olsen was born and raised in Oakland—go A’s!—California and started college as a pre-med student at UC Berkeley, like all ambitious young freshmen at the time. His interest in medicine lasted about half-way through his first quiz in “orgo.” He finished college many years and false starts later with a BA in Comparative Literature (Classical Greek, a long story and we won’t get into that here). He got his MFA in fiction in 1977. With Glenn Schaeffer, he co-founded in 2000 and then directed the International Institute of Modern Letters, a literary think tank that helped writers who were victims of censorship and persecution. Eric also helped establish the first American City of Asylum, in Las Vegas, an Institute program. The Institute also ran programs to support emerging writers in this country and abroad. Before that, Eric was executive editor of custom publishing at Time Inc Health, a TimeWarner company. He left TimeWarner after that company’s disastrous merger with AOL—in other words, too late. And before that, he was a freelance journalist. He has published hundreds of magazine articles, a few short stories, and seven nonfiction books, including this one. He was a Teaching/Writing Fellow at Iowa (1976/77), and after leaving the Workshop, he received a James A. Michener Fellowship for fiction. Most recently, his writing has delved into art and design. He continues, despite common sense of family and friends, to work on a novel and screenplay. Eric does sometimes wish he’d toughed it out in orgo.


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

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

We Wanted to Be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, with Glenn Schaeffer (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011)

Concrete at Home: Innovative Forms and Finishes: Countertops, Floors, Walls, and Fireplaces, with Fu-Tung Cheng (Taunton Press, 2005)

Concrete Countertops: Design, Forms, and Finishes for the New Kitchen and Bath, with Fu-Tung Cheng (Taunton Press, 2002)

LifeFit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life, with Ralph Paffenbarger, MD, PhD (Human Kinetics Publications, 1996)

Forming a Moral Community (Bioethics Consultation Group, Berkeley, California,1995)

On the Right Track (Bobbs Merrill, New York, 1984)


More than he cares to remember.


“In Turlock,” five short chapters from a novel in progress (and never finished), in Quarry West, 1977, reprinted in Valley Light, edited by Jane Watts (Poet & Printer Press, 1978)

“My Father’s Son,” short story in Carolina Quarterly, Winter 1977