Joe Wilkins was born and raised north of the Bull Mountains, out on the Big Dry of eastern Montana. His debut novel, Fall Back Down When I Die, speaks to the community, struggle, violence, and care Joe knew growing up in the rural West, and his memoir, The Mountain and the Fathers, captures the lives of boys and men in that desolate country, a place that shapes the people who live there and rarely lets them go.
Wilkins is also the author of three poetry collections, most recently When We Were Birds, winner of the 2017 Oregon Book Award in Poetry. His work has appeared in a host of the nation’s leading magazines and literary journals, including The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Orion, TriQuarterly, Ecotone, The Sun, and High Country News. As the winner of the Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency from PEN Northwest, he and his family spent the summer and fall of 2015 living in a remote cabin in the Klamath Mountains along the Rogue River in southwest Oregon.
The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing up on the Big Dry won a 2014 GLCA New Writers Award—an honor that has previously recognized early work by luminaries such as Alice Munro, Richard Ford, and Louise Erdrich—and Wilkins’s work has been anthologized in The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Best American Magazine Writing, New Poets of the American West, and Best New Poets. Of Wilkins’s work, the Indiana Review writes, “The most striking component of it is its awareness of ‘the whole world.’ What is ordinary becomes transcendent. In places derelict and seemingly unexceptional, Wilkins compels us to recognize what is worth salvage, worth praise.”
After graduating from Gonzaga University with a degree in computer engineering, Wilkins spent two years teaching ninth grade pre-algebra in the Mississippi Delta with Teach For America. He then went on to earn his MFA in creative writing from the University of Idaho, where he worked with the poet Robert Wrigley and the memoirist Kim Barnes. Wilkins now lives with his family in the foothills of the Coast Range of western Oregon, where he directs the creative program at Linfield College.