Jim Grimsley was born on September 21, 1955 in rural eastern North Carolina and was educated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying writing with Doris Betts and Max Steele. He has published nineteen short stories and essays in various quarterlies, including DoubleTake, New Orleans Review, Carolina Quarterly and the New Virginia Review. His short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize on three occasions and the body of his work published in the Carolina Quarterly was nominated for a GE Outstanding Young Writer Award in 1983. Jim’s story “City and Park” was listed as one of the outstanding short stories of 1982 in the Houghton Mifflin anthology Best American Short Stories of 1982.
Jim’s first play, The Existentialists, was produced at ACME Theatre in May-June 1983. His second play, The Earthlings, was produced at 7Stages in January-February 1984. In 1986, Jim became Playwright-in-Residence at 7Stages and continues in that capacity to the present. His third full length play, Mr. Universe, was produced in the newly-renovated theatre in July-September 1987. The play went on to productions in New Orleans, Los Angeles and New York, where the New Federal Theatre’s Off-Broadway production of the play drew praise from the New York Times.
The play won the George Oppenheimer/Newsday Playwriting Award for 1988, a $5000 prize which is given to the best new playwright being produced in the New York-Long Island area. Past winners include Harvey Fierstein, Beth Henley, Marsha Norman, James Lapine and George C. Wolfe. Judges included James Lapine and Edward Albee. Mr. Universe also won the Southeastern Playwriting Contest sponsored in 1986 by Southern Exposure, and an excerpt from the play was published in the summer 1986 edition. Another excerpt from the play was recently included in the actor’s anthology Best Scenes of the 80s.
Jim was awarded the Bryan Family Prize for Drama by the Fellowship of Southern writers in 1993 for his distinguished body of work as a playwright. Judges for the Fellowship award were Romulus Linney and Horton Foote. Jim’s full-length play, besides those mentioned, include Math and Aftermath (1988), White People (1989), The Lizard of Tarsus (1990) and Belle Ives (1991) all premiering at 7Stages in Atlanta. Jim’s adaptation of The Fall of the House of Usher was presented at the Theatrical Outfit as part of the Atlanta theatre’s Edgar Allen Poe Festival in February 1991 and his play Man With a Gun was produced by SAME in 1989.
In 1997, Jim’s plays The Decline and Fall of the Rest and The Borderland were produced at 7Stages. A book of plays entitled Mr. Universe and Other Plays was published by Algonquin Books in 1998. Jim’s play In Berlin was produced by 7Stages in 2000 and his newest play, Fascination, will open at Chicago’s About Face Theatre in May 2003.
Jim’s first novel Winter Birds, was published in the United States by Algonquin Books in the fall of 1994. The novel was first published in German translation in Germany in the spring of 1992, and was translated into French and published by Editions Métailié in 1994. Winter Birds won the Sue Kaufman Prize for best first novel from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. In France, Winter Birds was awarded the Priz Charles Brisset.
Jim has subsequently published eight novels in the United States, 1995’s Dream Boy, winner of the American Library Association’s Gay/Lesbian Literary Award and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award; My Drowning, released in January of 1997, for which he was named Georgia Author of the Year; Comfort & Joy, another Lambda finalist, published in fall 1999; Kirith Kirin, a fantasy novel published by Meisha Merlin Books in 2000, winner of the Lambda in the science fiction/fantasy category; and Boulevard, released in April, 2002, again a Lambda finalist in the men’s literature category. His sicence fiction novels, The Ordinary and The Last Green Tree, are published by Tor Books. He has published a novel with the University of Texas at Austin Press, entitled Forgiveness, a part of the James Michener Fiction Series. A collection of short stories, Jesus Is Sending You This Message, was published by Allyson Books. His most recent book is a memoir about the years of school desegregation in North Carolina, How I Shed My Skin, marking his return to Algonquin Books in 2015. His books are available in Hebrew, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Italian, and Portuguese.
Jim is a 1997 winner of the Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Writers Award, a three year writing fellowship in the amount of $105,000. Fellow winners included Ishmael Reed and Grace Paley. He was awarded the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2005, and has won or been short-listed for numberous other prizes.
Jim is represented by Melanie Jackson. He has received support for his work from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rockefeller/NEA Interdisciplinary Grant Program, the Georgia Council for the Arts, the Fulton County Arts Council and the City of Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs. Jim teaches writing at Emory University in Atlanta and has been a featured reader at book events throughout the southeast. He is a member of PEN America.