Malena Watrous grew up in the Sunset district of San Francisco, before her family moved to Eugene, Oregon. Eager to get out of the rain and back to a big city, she attended Barnard College, where she majored in English and spent her free time interning for a food writer. After graduation, Malena worked as a coat check, kindergarten teacher’s assistant, and restaurant critic for Time Out New York, all of which prepared her to teach English in Japan. She was placed by the Jet Program in Shika-Machi, the nuclear power plant town in which she set her debut novel, If You Follow Me.
After two years in the rice paddies of rural Japan, Malena moved straight to the cornfields of Iowa, where she attended the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop on a Truman Capote Fellowship. In 2002, she was the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, followed by a Jones Lectureship. She now works for Stanford as a head instructor in the Online Writer’s Workshop.
Malena’s stories and essays have appeared in The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Believer, GlimmerTrain, The Massachussetts Review, Salon.com, StoryQuarterly, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. She contributes regular book reviews to the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times. Harper Perennial will publish her first novel, If You Follow Me, in March 2010. The manuscript won the Michener-Copernicus Award, and the first section of the novel was runner-up in the Pirate’s Alley/Faulkner contest. Having come full circle, Malena once again lives in San Francisco, with her husband, Matt Schumaker, their son Max, and two cranky cats. She is currently at work on a new novel.