Penn Stewart teaches writing at Western Illinois University. He has published personal essays, book reviews, articles, poetry, and numerous short stories in journals and magazines. His most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Two Hawks Quarterly, Ellipsis, Word Riot, 4’33” (UK), Midwest Literary Magazine, Fresh Yarn, The Meadowland Review, and elsewhere. Penn was born in Connecticut, raised in Texas, and moved to southeast Louisiana as a young man. After a stint at the University of Louisiana, Penn worked in various service industry jobs, and after he got married returned to school to complete his bachelor’s degree at the University of New Orleans. It was there he met John Verlenden and Joe Letter, two professors who had a profound influence on the direction of his life. Following his graduation from UNO, he began his writing career in earnest. He moved from the New Orleans area to attend the University of Memphis MFA program six weeks before Hurricane Katrina devastated the Crescent City. And two years later, he moved his family to the heartland and completed his PhD in English at the University of Nebraska. His first novel, Fertile Ground, is a revised version of his creative dissertation required to complete his doctorate. The risk he took to follow his heart has opened countless doors and allowed him meet and work with such writers as Tim O’Brien, ZZ Packer, Richard Bausch, and Jonis Agee. He’s also presented papers on literature and the craft of writing at conferences across the country, and has given readings of his work in nearly a dozen states. He now lives in a small western Illinois town with his wife, two daughters, and a chocolate lab named Yoda, and is currently working on his second novel.