Schmidt, Heidi Jon
SCHMIDT, Heidi Jon
ADDRESSES: Home—Provincetown, MA. Office—Fine Arts Work Center, 24 Pearl St., Provincetown, MA 02657.
CAREER: Writer and educator. Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, MA, teacher.
AWARDS, HONORS: Atlantic Monthly "First" Award, 1981, for "In the Zoot Car"; James Michener Award, 1982, and Ingram Merrill Award, 1983, both for The Rose Thieves; O. Henry Award, 2002, for "Blood Poison."
The Rose Thieves (short stories) Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (San Diego, CA), 1990.
Darling? (short stories), Picador USA (New York, NY), 2001.
The Bride of Catastrophe (novel), Picador USA (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to books, including Twenty under Thirty, A Grand Street Reader, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards 2002, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2002. Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, Agni Review, Grand Street, Boston Review, Boston Globe Magazine, Yankee, and Epoch.
ADAPTATIONS: Author's stories have also been read aloud for Chicago Public Radio's Stories on Stage.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist and short-story writer Heidi Jon Schmidt teaches writing at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The Rose Thieves, Schmidt's first published book, is a collection of loosely connected short stories that explores the family dynamics and frequent dysfunctions of a couple and their four children. Emotionally volatile Ma and sentimental stockbroker Pop endure their share of conflicts as their children grow to adulthood. Eldest daughter Kate becomes fully aware of the emotionally charged, reckless family she inhabits, recognizing that crisis-driven emotion has more influence for them than daily tedium and stability. Sybil Steinberg, writing in Publishers Weekly, called the book "an entertaining coming-of-age chronicle that captures the rueful humor in family ambiguities." In addition, New York Times Book Review critic Jenny Polshek stated that the book is "a graceful journey into the individual life of a young woman and the collective life of a family—and a fine debut."
Darling? presents a collection of ten stories in which Schmidt "wittily plays out slightly wacky scenarios that often morph into full-blown farce," commented Booklist reviewer Joanne Wilkinson. In one story, when Liane is told by a Mormon genealogist that she is one-sixty-fourth Jewish, she quickly drops her traditional Christian beliefs. She becomes an annoyance to the members of her newfound religion as she seeks her own definition of Judaism. The female character of the collection's title story obsessively tries, over the course of years, to seduce her happily married therapist Dr. Karp. A woman on jury duty in "Out of Purmort" is forced by the jury to reconsider whether she has really escaped the bleak and destructive atmosphere of her small hometown after all. The story "brilliantly blends comic scenes with moving reminiscences" of the main character, observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Library Journal critic Barbara Hoffert called the works "engaging, exceptionally well-written stories." The Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that Schmidt's "collection has so many shining moments—of humor, of heartbreak, of grace—that readers might find themselves asking: why aren't more stories this good?"
In Schmidt's novel The Bride of Catastrophe Beatrice, the eldest of four children, is smothering under the "extreme neediness and conflicting expectations of her parents while simultaneously attempting to please and reassure them," observed Rebecca Stuhr in Library Journal. Finally escaping her rural surroundings, Rebecca heads to the liberal and intellectual promised land of Sweetriver College. There, she realizes that she is bisexual, and tells her life story to professor Philippa Sayres, a feminist who helps Beatrice see her upbringing in more grandiose terms. A brief romantic fling with Philippa fails to bring insight to Beatrice, who continues to endure sexual conflict and unsatisfying relationships. As Beatrice searches for more and more experiences in the world, her parents are on the verge of divorce and her three siblings are self-destructing in sometimes spectacular ways. Finally, Beatrice thinks she has met her perfect man and soul-mate in the form of a tattooed former heroin addict named Stetson Tortola. "There are a lot more sad, dotty, touching stories here, making for a long-winded, noisy narrative that simulates the mid-'70s Zeitgeist," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Beatrice's imperfections are "handled with a combination of sarcasm and tenderness by Schmidt," who exhibits a "keen eye for detail and a sharp sense of humor," stated a reviewer in Publishers Weekly.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 2001, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Darling?, p. 1983; September 15, 2003, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Bride of Catastrophe, p. 212.
Boston Globe, November 18, 2000, Margaret Bergman, "Rose Thieves Steals Hearts," p. F2; October 6, 2003, Renee Graham, review of The Bride of Catastrophe.
Boston Herald, October 21, 2003, J.L. Johnson, "Ambitious 'Bride' Is Divorced from Reality," review of The Bride of Catastrophe.
Chicago Tribune, October 7, 1990, Pinckney Benedict, review of The Rose Thieves.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2003, review of The Bride of Catastrophe, p. 934.
Library Journal, September 15, 2001, Barbara Hoffert, review of Darling?, p. 115; August, 2003, Rebecca Stuhr, review of The Bride of Catastrophe, p. 136.
New York Times Book Review, December 23, 1990, Jenny Polshek, review of The Rose Thieves, p. 12; September 23, 2001, Emily Hall, review of Darling?; December 14, 2003, Sarah Ferguson, review of The Bride of Catastrophe.
Publishers Weekly, July 27, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Rose Thieves, p. 223; September 18, 2000, John F. Baker, "Six Figures for Comeback Author," p. 18; September 3, 2001, review of Darling?, p. 61; September 8, 2003, review of The Bride of Catastrophe, p. 53.
Fine Arts Work Center Web site, http://www.fawc.org/ (June 14, 2005), "Heidi Jon Schmidt."