Peter Chilson


Peter Chilson (MFA Pennsylvania State University, 1994) teaches writing and literature. He is the author of the travelogue Riding the Demon: On the Road in West Africa (University of Georgia Press, 1999), which won the Associated Writing Programs Award in nonfiction, and the short fiction collection Disturbance-Loving Species: A Novella and Stories (Mariner Books, 2007), winner of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Fiction Prize and the Maria Thomas Fiction Prize. Chilson went to West Africa in 1985 as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, near the border with Nigeria. A longtime visitor to Mali as a travel writer and journalist, he went back in 2012 for the Foreign Policy-Pulitzer Center Borderlands project. He was one of first western journalists to see firsthand the effects of civil war and the new breakaway jihadist state. Chilson’s e-book, We Never Knew Exactly Where: Dispatches From the Lost Country of Mali (Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting/Foreign Policy), came out in January 2013.

Creative Interests:

Chilson’s published work has primarily focused on literary journalism, the essay, memoir, travel writing, and in short fiction with an emphasis on Africa and the American West. He is also interested in African literature, immigration literature, and borderlands studies.

Teaching Interests:

Chilson teaches writing and literature, including professional writing and editing, environmental writing and literature, literature of the American West, travel writing, literary journalism, African literature, and the literature of immigration. His graduate teaching experience includes the workshop in topics of creative nonfiction, African literature, borderlands studies, and the pedagogy of teaching creative writing nonfiction and fiction.

Professional Recognition:

Lewis E and Stella G. Buchanan Distinguished Professor of English; Peace Corps World Wide 2018 Best Travel Book Award for Writing Abroad: A Guide for Travelers, co-written with Joanne Mulcahy (University of Chicago Press, 2017); Finalist for the New Letters Essay Prize 2017; Finalist for the Kurt Schork Memorial Award in International Journalism 2013; Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting Grantee 2012; Best American Sports Writing Notable Essay citation 2011; Maria Thomas Fiction Prize (2008), Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Fellow in Fiction Writing (2007), Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize in Short Fiction (2006), Washington State University Buchanan Scholar (2004); Five Pushcart Prize Nominations, Washington State University College of Liberal Arts Fellow (2003); Idaho Commission on the Arts Fellow (2004), Gulf Coast Fiction Prize (2003); two essays in Best American Travel Writing (2003, 2008), Best American Travel Writing Notable Essay citation (2001), Fishtrap Writer in Residence (2000); AWP Book Prize in Nonfiction (1997); Fulbright Scholar in Niger, West Africa (1991-92); Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Scholar in Nonfiction Writing (1991).

Books in Progress:

Current book project in research stage focuses on the history of immigration in a single American town, Ontario, Oregon.

Books Published:

– Writing Abroad: A Guide for Writers, co-written with Joanne Mulcahy of Lewis and Clark College. University of Chicago Press, Chicago: 2017

–We Never Knew Exactly Where: Dispatches from the Lost Country of Mali. E-book, Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting/Foreign Policy Magazine. Washington, DC: January 2013

– Disturbance-Loving Species: A Novella and Stories. Mariner Books. New York: March 2007

– Riding the Demon: On the Road in West Africa. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia: March 1999


Short Fiction, Essays, Journalism, Reviews in:
The American Scholar, Audubon, Ascent, Best American Travel Writing, Clackamas Review, Consequence: An International Magazine Focusing on the Culture of War, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Foreign Policy, High Country News, The London Daily Telegraph, Poetry International, West Africa, New England Review, New Letters, The North American Review, North Dakota Quarterly,, Gulf Coast, The Long Story, Rain City Review, San Francisco Chronicle, Exquisite Corpse, Fugue, Grand Tour.

Essays in Anthologies:

Because You Asked: A Book of Answers on the Art and Craft of the Writing Life (Lost Horse Press 2015)

– Near Death in the Desert: True Stories of Disaster and Survival (Vintage 2009)

– Best American Travel Writing (Houghton Mifflin 2003, 2008)

– Writing the Journey: Essays, Stories, and Poems on Travel (Pearson Longman 2005)

– Forged in Fire: Essays by Idaho Writers (University of Oklahoma Press 2005)

– Speed: Stories of Survival from Behind the Wheel (Thunder’s Mouth Press 2002)

– Creative Nonfiction: How to Live It and Write It (Chicago Review Press 1996)


For more information:

See Peter Chilson’s