Son of a truck driver (father) and homemaker (mother). Education: Graduated from University of Nebraska at Lincoln; University of Arizona, M.F.A.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Unbridled Books, 2000 Wadsworth Blvd., Unit 195, Lakewood, CO 80214. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and editor. Omaha Lit Fest, Omaha, NE, founder and director; former editor of the Readerand the Omaha Pulp, both in Omaha.
Shortlisted, O. Henry Prize; Nebraska Book Award for fiction, 2003, for The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters;Henfield/Transatlantic Review Award; Mary Roberts Rinehart Award; two awards, Nebraska Arts Council.
The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters (novel), BlueHen Books (New York, NY), 2002.
The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God (novel), Unbridled Books (Denver, CO), 2005.
Author of career guides and contributor to the nonfiction anthology Brothers and Beasts: An Anthology of Men on Fairy Tales. Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Greensboro Review, Natural Bridge, Prairie Schooner, and Press.
Timothy Schaffert, the former editor of two alternative periodicals, grew up on a farm in Nebraska, and his first novel, The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters, is set in rural Nebraska. The Rollow sisters, Lily, age eighteen, and Mabel, age twenty-one, live in a junk shop given to them by their grandmother who has since moved to Florida. Because their father abandoned them when they were young and their mother later committed suicide, the girls now have only each other. As they struggle to maintain the semblance of a normal life, Lily travels to the Southwest with her eccentric boyfriend in order to confront her mother, and Mabel begins dating a boy she meets at the home of a brain-dead girl who is rumored to be clairvoyant. Given these quirky plot lines, critics predominantly praised the book's cast of eccentrics. Library Journal critic Joanna M. Burkhardt called the characters "funny, bizarre, … yet touching" beings with "depth and breadth." A Publishers Weekly reviewer also remarked upon the book's "gothic touches and gentle humor." Indeed, Jody Ewing, writing in the Sioux City, Iowa, Weekender Online,quoted Schaffert as stating, "My favorite kind of book … can make you laugh and still deal with serious issues."
Schaffert's second novel, The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God, stays true to this form and is again set in Nebraska. The novel follows Hud and Tuesday, a divorcing couple whose teenaged son has run away with a Christian musical group. Hud writes notes for his country-song lyrics on his jeans, drives a school bus, and may be an alcoholic. Tuesday is a member of the community theater, does face-painting in the town square, and may have anger-management issues. LikeThe Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters, the characters in The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God are eccentric, but their issues are not. Unlike the response to Schaffert's first novel, some critics felt the characters in his second novel were not as successful. Entertainment Weekly contributor Jennifer Reese felt Schaffert "plays up his characters' screwball quirks at the expense of their inner lives." On the other hand, Marta Salij, writing in the Detroit Free Press, countered that "the artificiality and archness of the characters is supposed to highlight their disconnection." However, Library Journal reviewer Jyna Scheeren called the story "whimsical" and concluded that "the only reason to put the book down is to make it last."
Schaffert told CA: "I've felt greatly inspired by the Southern writers of renown—William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Tennessee Williams, and Eudora Welty, in particular. I admire their attention to language, to poetry within the prose, as well as the swift humor they bring to the grim circumstances portrayed.
"The story spends a great deal of time in my head before I finally put down a word; I like to turn it around, hold it up to the light, get a clear sense of how it works. Though once I begin to put it all into words, the story has been known to go off in a new direction.
"My favorite book is always the one I'm currently working on; once a book is long done, it begins to feel a bit foreign to me. But I do find myself appreciating them all for different reasons. I find The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters to be more esoteric, impressionistic, than my other work, and I like how it probably has a rarefied audience. And I think The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God likely has more depth than my first novel, and the characters are more complex, and the lives they lead are satisfyingly gritty and mysteriously unmanageable."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2002, Kristine Huntley, review ofThe Phantom Limbs of The Rollow Sisters,p. 1510.
Detroit Free Press, October 19, 2005, Marta Salij, review of The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God.
Entertainment Weekly, November 25, 2005, Jennifer Reese, review of The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God, p. 106.
Library Journal, June 1, 2002, Joanna M. Burkhardt, review of The Phantom Limbs of The Rollow Sisters, p. 197; October 15, 2005, Jyna Scheeren, review of The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God, p. 48.
New York Times, May 27, 2002, Janet Maslin, "The Lingering Pain of Abandonment," review of The Phantom Limbs of The Rollow Sisters; November 8, 2005, Janet Maslin, "A Town Where Characters Live Out Country Songs," review of The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God.
Publishers Weekly, April 1, 2002, review of The Phantom Limbs of The Rollow Sisters, p. 49; August 8, 2005, review of The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God, p. 208.
Emerging Writers Forum,http://www.breaktech.net/EmergingWritersForum/ (March 2, 2002), Dan Wickett, "Interview with Timothy Schaffert."
Timothy Schaffert Home Page,http://www.timothyschaffert.com(February 21, 2006).
Weekender Online,http://www.siouxland.net/ (February 28, 2006), Jody Ewing, "Nebraskan's Debut Is Tale of Love, Redemption."