Zachary Watterson was born in New York City. His short stories appear or are forthcoming in Chicago Quarterly Review, River Styx, Commentary Magazine’s Summer Fiction, and The Salt River Review. His essays appear in The Massachusetts Review, The Paris Review Daily, Post Road Magazine, The Stranger, and the W.W. Norton anthology named Inheriting the War: Poetry and Prose By Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and Refugees. His work has received a nomination for New Stories from the Midwest, as well as a Pushcart Prize nomination, and a Notable Essay listed in Best American Essays. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Jentel Arts Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He earned an MFA from the University of Washington, where he received the Richard Blessing Award and the Eugene Van Buren Prize for Fiction. Watterson taught writing and theater in prisons and jails in Michigan and Washington for ten years. To support his writing life, and his family, he earns a living in stone masonry.
"I'm amazed—sometimes even stunned—by how well Zach Watterson writes about black American characters in his stories. His writing is politically engaged in our time, our racial and cultural troubles. Knowing his characters, and the history and politics behind their lives, he avoids easy ideological portraits and conclusions. For me, there is something special about Blacktop Ocean. It captures what life is like for someone who is poor and on the "wrong" side of the tracks yet who retains his dignity and a sense of honor. That great sympathy, that humanity, is what always brings a memorable integrity to these characters, especially when they affirm love as triumphant over race and circumstance at the story's end."
-Charles Johnson, MacArthur Genius Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, and winner of the National Book Award
- An excerpt from the novel, Blacktop Ocean, appears as a stand-alone story called "Orleans Parish" in the June 2020 issue of Chicago Quarterly Review. Click here to purchase a copy of the issue of Chicago Quarterly Review.
- Publisher's Weekly calls Inheriting the War a "penetrating and powerful collection [that] brings together some of the most talented, haunted voices of those affected by the Vietnam War." Read the review here.
- The essay "Finding Home After the Vietnam War" appears as "A Soundtrack of the War" in the W.W. Norton anthology, Inheriting the War: Poetry and Prose by Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and Refugees.
- The essay "Finding Home After the Vietnam War"appears in The Paris Review Daily ahead of its publication in the W.W. Norton anthology.
- The essay "Open Late Hours" from Post Road Magazine has been selected by Robert Atwan as a Notable Essay listed in Best American Essays, an anthology published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
- The essay “Unfamiliar Country” appears online in a magazine in the UK.
- The short story "At Your Last Gasp" appears in Commentary Magazine's Summer Fiction Issue.
- Zachary has been awarded a 2011 grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation and a 2011 scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.
- The essay "Insulatus" appears in the Spring 2010 issue of Massachusetts Review.
- Zachary has been awarded a scholarship to the 2009 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.
- The excerpt titled "One Hot Summer on the East Side of Detroit, 1992, with Mr. Big Words" from the novel, Blacktop Ocean, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and New Stories from the Midwest.
- An excerpt from the novel, Blacktop Ocean, appears as a stand-alone story called "One Hot Summer on the East Side of Detroit, 1992, with Mr. Big Words" in the Fall 2009 issue of River Styx Magazine.
- Zachary has been named a work-study scholar (i.e., waiter) for the 2008 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Read about the waitership here.
Publications and Awards
Fellowships, scholarships and awards:
- Notable Essay in Best American Essays - "Open Late Hours" from Post Road
- Elizabeth George Foundation – Fellowship
- Bread Loaf Writers' Conference – Work-study and Administrative staff Scholarships
- Jentel Arts Foundation – Residency
- Pushcart Prize Nomination – River Styx
- New Stories from the Midwest Nomination – River Styx
- Richard Blessing Award – Scholarship
- University of Washington – Eugene Van Buren Prize for MFA Fiction
- Helen Riaboff Whiteley Center – Visiting Scholar