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Robert Olmstead (born January 3, 1954) is an American novelist and scholar.
Early life and education
Olmstead was born in 1954 in Westmoreland, New Hampshire. He grew up on a farm. After high school, he enrolled at Davidson College with a football scholarship, but he left school after three semesters, in which he had a poor academic record. He later attended Syracuse University, where he studied with Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff and received both bachelor's and master's degrees in 1977 and 1983, respectively.
He served as the former Head of Creative Writing at Ohio Wesleyan University and now serves as an emeritus faculty member at the university. He has also served as the Senior Writer in Residence at Dickinson College and as the head of creative writing at Boise State University. At Converse College, Olmstead teaches in the Low-Residency MFA program in creative writing.
America by Land, A Trail of Heart's Blood Wherever We Go, Soft Water, Far Bright Star, and Coal Black Horse are the authors of the books America by Land. He is also the author of a memoir Stay Here With Me, a collection of short stories, and the Teaching Craft's Handbook Elements. He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989 and a NEA Literature Fellowship in 1993.
His book Coal Black Horse (2007) has received national recognition, including the 2007 Chicago Tribune Heartland Award for Fiction and the 2008 Ohioana Book Award for Fiction; it was also selected for the "On the Same Page Cincinnati" reading series and the Choose to Read Ohio's 2011 booklist.
Far Bright Star (2009) (the second book in the Coal Black Horse trilogy) is one of the Top ten Westerns of the Decade, according to the book's writer; the book also received the 2010 Western Writers of America Spur Award. One reviewer lauded Olmstead's ability to "translate nature's glorious splendor into words," while Henry David Thoreau characterized Coal Black Horse as "the indescribable innocence and mercy of Nature" in Walden; by contrast, the Mexican desert of Far Bright Star is "the place of the sun shriveled and dried up." The Chicago Tribune reviewed Olmstead's writing while still comparing his writing to that of Ernest Hemingway, who also compared his writing to that of Ernest Hemingway. It explored the complexities of recent events, such as the guerilla war during the US occupation of Fallujah during the Iraq War.