The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Picture of Matt Bell

Matt Bell

Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference, 2018

Matt Bell is the author most recently of the novel Scrapper, a Michigan Notable Book for 2016. His previous novel, In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, was a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award and an Indies Choice Adult Debut Book of the Year Honor Recipient, as well as the winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award. He is also the author of two collections of fiction and a non-fiction book about the classic video game Baldurs Gate II. His most recent story collection, A Tree or a Person or a Wall, was published in Fall 2016.

His stories have been published in magazines such as Tin House, American Short Fiction, Conjunctions, Gulf Coast, The American Reader, Ninth Letter, Unstuck, Fairy Tale Review, Guernica, and Hobart, as well as anthologies including Best American Mystery Stories and Best American Fantasy. His poems have appeared in Salt Hill, Spork, Barn Owl Review, Waxwing, Tupelo Quarterly, and Big Lucks, among other venues.

Bell has written book criticism and coverage for The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, The Believer, PEN America, Rain Taxi, American Book Review, The Quarterly Conversation, and The Brooklyn Rail. He is the former senior editor of Dzanc Books and the founding editor of The Collagist, an online literary journal.

Bell earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Bowling Green State University. He has taught writing at Northern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Fiction in Arizona State University's creative writing program.

Selected Media

"Matt Bell Reading from Scrapper". Matt Bell, Department of English, Arizona State University (Dec 8, 2015). See also another excerpt of Scrapper from Unsaid.

"The only thing you have to know to listen to this is the protagonist Kelly is a man originally from Michigan, he's just retutrned to Detroit after 10 years or so of living in the South. He's fleeing the fallout of his family there and he's unable to find work, and he ends ups scavenging for metal in the abandoned buildings in Detroit in an area that he calls The Zone."


"To Denis Johnson, from One of the Weirdos." Matt Bell, Electric Literature (May 30, 2017).

"Last week, while traveling in Hong Kong, I was taken by surprise to hear that Denis Johnson had passed away, a surreal bit of news made stranger by the way that so little at home ever feels fully real while I’m abroad. I stood up from the table in the middle of lunch with four of my graduate students, all of us on a global fellowship program during which we’d arranged for them to meet and study with local writers in Hong Kong and Singapore, and when I came back I brought with me the awful news that Johnson had passed. I kept the news to myself, because I didn’t want to interrupt the good cheer my students were sharing, even if I could no longer quite join in. As soon as lunch was over, I excused myself from the group and went back to my hotel room to download Jesus’ Son to my phone, the fastest way I could think of to get to Johnson’s fiction."


"A Dark Tower Opening." Matt Bell, Guernica (Mar 1, 2013).

"On the day of our wedding, on some now-distant beach, my wife had sworn herself to me with ease and in faith, and I did likewise for her: Together we made the longest promises, vowed them tight, and it was so easy to do this then, to speak the provided words, when we did not know what other harder choices would necessarily follow as we made our first life together in a new city, and then again after we left that country and journeyed to the dirt, this plot stationed so far from the other side of the lake, from the mountains beyond the lake, on whose distant slopes we had once dwelled in the land of our parents, where perhaps there still perches that platform where we stood to speak our vows."


"Self-Portrait of an Obsessive Mind." Matt E. Lewis, Los Angeles Review of Books (Nov 7, 2016).

"A specific kind of focused pain forms the language of Bell’s tales. It feels like an inherited grief, something old and aching passed down through generations, a testament of the hurt that humanity has created and continues to perpetuate [ . . . ] By delving into obsession, Bell points out the ultimate failure of control. He wants us to embrace the truth of what we’ve known all along — that humans become fixated on harnessing the impossible, and that these obsessions become the stories of our lives."


"Even Our Bones Had Memories: An Interview with Matt Bell." Andrew Ervin, Tin House (Apr 8, 2013).

"I think that there was also some want on my part to prove wrong a truism I’d heard too often in grad school and in other places: When I was in school, it seemed to be a given that an intense focus on language and acoustics couldn’t be carried over an entire novel, that this kind of voice was the province of the story, the poem, that it was too difficult for the writer, too exhausting for the reader. From the first time I heard someone say that, I didn’t believe it—there are plenty of books out there that prove otherwise—and I think I wanted to find out for myself what I could do at this length, with the kind of voices I’m drawn to."