Abbott, Lee K.

Born: October 17, 1947

Ohio connection: Resident


Lee Kittredge Abbott, writer and educator, has been a professor of English for more than three decades, teaching at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio for twelve years before transferring to Ohio State University in 1989 where he taught until his retirement in 2012.  Abbott was born in the Panama Canal Zone, on October 17, 1947, and reared in New Mexico, where most of his short stories are set. Abbott has described the American Southwest as “what I know…it’s a place where the firsts happened: first drunk, first sex, first death. It’s where I came to adulthood.” Writing about what he knows has earned the “linguistic hellion” praise from premier book review sources such as Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly for his “invigorating prose,” “antic, smart-alecky style” and his “lush style of speech.” These highly praised short stories typically revolve around three themes: boy-girl, father-son, and buddies, and include college professors, rock-n-roll bands, and bank robbers as some of his primary characters. His stories have been collected in the following volumes: The Heart Never Fits Its Wanting (1980), Love is a Crooked Thing (1986), Strangers in Paradise (1987), Dreams of Distant Lives (1989), Living After Midnight (1991) and Wet Places at Noon (1997). He also co-wrote, along with eight other authors, The Putt at the End of the World (2000), a farcical thriller of a novel that mixes a celebrity golf tournament in Scotland with spooks and eco-terrorists. Abbott’s work has appeared in The Best American Short Stories (1984 and 1987) and he has contributed to magazines, including Atlantic, Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares and Story Quarterly. In 2006 All Things, All at Once: New & Selected Stories was published by W.W. Norton.

Abbott was the recipient of the 2004 Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award, and in 2007 OSU promoted him to Humanities Distinguished Professor.  He also taught as a writer in residence or visiting faculty at Wichita State University, Southwest Texas State University, Yale University, Antioch College, Miami University, and the University of Michigan. Known as a dynamic and engaging teacher, students gave him good reviews consistently.  After retiring to his native New Mexico, Abbott was named Distinguished Visiting Professor within the English Department of his alma mater, New Mexico University.
Fellow, National Endowment for the Arts, 1979 and 1985; St. Lawrence Award for Fiction, Fiction International, 1981, for The Heart Never Fits Its Wanting; O. Henry Prize, Doubleday & Co., 1984, for “Living Alone in Iota,” and 1997; Prize for Fiction, Story Quarterly, 1985, for “Youth on Mars”; National Magazine Award from Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and Editors’ Choice Award from Wampeter-Doubleday, both 1986, both for “Time and Fear and Somehow Love”; Pushcart Prize, Pushcart Press, 1986, for “X,” 1987, and 1989, for “The Era of Great Numbers”; Major Artist Fellowship, Ohio Arts Council, 1991-92; Governor’s Award for the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, 1993; Syndicated Fiction Award, 1995.