Harriet Scott Chessman grew up in the Welsh Hills of Ohio in a house filled with books and music, children, hamsters, a banjo and a ukelele, a piano, a dog or two, a few tiny turtles, The New York Times, comic books, The New Yorker, and lots of conversation. Her father taught American History at Denison University, after having served in many of the major landings in World War II, and her mother was a lover of opera, folk, and country music, a social worker, and a great reader.
Chessman’s fiction has been described as “entrancing,” “heartbreaking,” and “powerful” – often “lyrical,” sometimes “passionate and chilling.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, she allows herself “to inhabit another’s world with grace and humility."
This capacity for empathy and compassion infuses her fiction and – together with her keen sense of voice – makes it memorable. Her novels, whether set in France, England, Ohio, or the shoreline of Connecticut, often center on the yearning for connectedness, the pain of loss, and the restorative power of art and love. A young painter longing to have a child, a woman in her seventies who is increasingly plagued with memories of war-torn France, a painter’s sister who desires more time to live – all of these characters and more populate these sharply realized worlds.
Harriet Chessman received her PhD in English from Yale University, and her B.A. from Wellesley College. She has taught literature and creative writing at Yale University and Bread Loaf School of English. In 2002, she moved from Madison, Connecticut to Palo Alto, California, with her husband Bryan J. Wolf and their three children, who have now miraculously grown up and started their own creative lives.
In addition to her writing of fiction, poetry, and stories for children, Harriet teaches at Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program. She is also a manuscript consultant and freelance editor, devoted to helping writers develop their own work.