For those who think Arkansas falls behind the rest of the U.S. in important figures, think again. Here are four highly successful authors who were born in or live in Arkansas and have put the Natural State on the map.


1. John Grisham is probably the best-known current author from Arkansas. According to, he is the “best-selling author of the 1990s.” He has 23 bestsellers, such as “The Pelican Brief” and “A Time to Kill.” He was born in Jonesboro, and pursued law before becoming a full-time writer. He has sold 235-plus million copies worldwide, and Forbes estimated his 2007 earnings to be approximately $9 million. Fun fact:  his first book, “A Time to Kill,” was turned down by 28 publishers before someone finally accepted it.


2. Maya Angelou is the author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” a controversial autobiography that has even been banned in some schools, but is a powerful story about Angelou’s experiences with racism growing up as an African American in the 1930s. The book has spent three years on The New York Times best-seller list. Another of her accomplishments includes her invitation to present an inaugural poem at President Clinton’s 1993 inauguration. She also received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for her poem, “Just Give Me a Drink of Water Fore I Diiie.”


3. Kevin Brockmeier, from Little Rock, is the author of novels such as “The Brief History of the Dead,” as well as short stories like “These Hands.” He has been nationally recognized with three O. Henry prizes for the best short stories of the year.  His short stories have appeared in prestigious publications such as The New Yorker and McSweeney’s.


4. Fayetteville’s own Ellen Gilchrist has worked on creative writing at the UofA for some of her postgraduate education and is now a faculty worker here. She has been a contributing editor for Vieux Carre Courier out of New Orleans, but is also noteworthy for her collections of short stories, like “The Land of Dreamy Dreams” and “Victory Over Japan,” which won the 1984 National Book Award for Fiction.

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You could also add Charles Portis, author of True Grit to the list.

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