David Vann was born in 1966 on a US military base on Adak Island in Alaska and grew up in Ketchikan. He attended Stanford University for a B.A. in 1990 and Cornell University for a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing in 1994. His studies continued with a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.
His autobiographical debut, »A Mile Down, the True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea« (2005) documented his adventures in pursuit of his dream of teaching creative writing classes on sailboats. The determination with which he pursued this project was marked by setbacks which are reflected in his account of the story. International recognition awaited him with the short story collection, »Legend of a Suicide« (2008) which has currently been translated into twenty languages. The book’s centrepiece, »Sukkwan Island« (2011) deals with the suicide of his father. Together with Vann’s subsequent works, »Caribou Island« (2011), »Dirt« (2012) and »Goat Mountain« (2013) it forms a loose tetralogy. In vividly evoked landscapes, including the arctic climes of his youth, Vann portrays several generations of families torn apart by violence. Greek tragedies resonate in Vann’s work, as well as the epic poem »Beowulf«, which he recently translated from Old English. Vann’s versatility and enormous productivity can be seen in his report, »Last Day On Earth. A Portrait of the NIU School Shooter« (2011) his collection of short stories, »The Higher Blue«, the investigative book, »Crocodile. Memoirs from a Mexican Drug-Running Port«, the novel, »Bright Air Black« as well as the Seattle set novella, »Aquarium« (all 2015).
Vann’s short stories, reports and essays have been published in numerous newspapers and magazines, including »McSweeney’s«, »Esquire«, »The Atlantic Monthly«, »The New York Times Book Review«, »The Huffington Post« and »The Guardian«. He also taught creative writing at the University of San Francisco. His 15 awards include the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction (2007), the California Book Award (2008), the Prix Medicis Étranger (2010), the Premi Llibreter (2011) as well as the St. Francis College Literary Prize (2013). Vann is currently a professor at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England and an Honorary Professor at the University of Franche-Comté in France.