Elizabeth Strout was born in Portland, Maine, and grew up in small towns in Maine and New Hampshire. From a young age she was drawn to writing things down, keeping notebooks that recorded the quotidian details of her days. She was also drawn to books, and spent hours of her youth in the local library lingering among the stacks of fiction. During the summer months of her childhood she played outdoors, either with her brother, or, more often, alone, and this is where she developed her deep and abiding love of the physical world: the seaweed covered rocks along the coast of Maine, and the woods of New Hampshire with its hidden wildflowers.
During her adolescent years, Strout continued writing avidly, having conceived of herself as a writer from early on. She read biographies of writers, and was already studying --- on her own --- the way American writers, in particular, told their stories. Poetry was something she read and memorized; by the age of 16 was sending out stories to magazines. Her first story was published when she was 26.
Strout attended Bates College, graduating with a degree in English in 1977. Two years later, she went to Syracuse University College of Law, where she received a law degree along with a Certificate in Gerontology. She worked briefly for Legal Services, before moving to New York City, where she became an adjunct in the English Department of Borough of Manhattan Community College. By this time she was publishing more stories in literary magazines and Redbook and Seventeen. Juggling the needs that came with raising a family and her teaching schedule, she found a few hours each day to work on her writing.
In 1998, AMY AND ISABELLE was published to much critical acclaim. The novel had taken almost seven years to write, and only her family and close friends knew she was working on it. Six years later she published ABIDE WITH ME, and three years after that, OLIVE KITTERIDGE. While her life as a writer has increasingly become a more public one, she remains as devoted to the crafting of honest fiction as she was when she was 16 years old, sending out her first stories.
Having lived in New York for almost half her life, she continues to thrill at the crowded sidewalks and the subways and the small corner delis. “It’s simple,” she has said. “For me --- there is nothing more interesting than life.”