Discipline: Literature – fiction

Sheila Heti

Discipline: Literature – fiction
Region: Toronto, CANADA
MacDowell Fellowships: 2019

Sheila Heti is the author of eleven books, including the novels Pure Colour, Motherhood and How Should a Person Be? She was named one of "The New Vanguard" by The New York Times; a list of fifteen writers from around the world who are "shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century." Her books have been translated into twenty-four languages. She is the current Alice Munro Chair of Creativity at Western University in London, Ontario. In 2022, she was the Franke Visiting Fellow at Yale, and an Associate Research Scholar and Lecturer in Religious Studies, teaching Fate and Chance in Art and Experience with Noreen Khawaja.

Her new book, Alphabetical Diaries, appeared in several versions, including as a short piece in n+1 in 2013, and in early 2023 was excerpted over 10 weeks in the New York Times. It was culled from 500,000 words of diary entries spanning ten years. The audiobook is narrated by the comic, Kate Berlant. It is being published Fitzcarraldo Editions in the UK, Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the United States, and Knopf Canada.

In 2022, she published the novel Pure Colour, a New York Times Notable Book, the recipient of the 2022 Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction in Canada, and recipient of the Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature in the Fiction category. It was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize, and was longlisted for the Giller Prize. That same year, she published A Garden of Creatures, a book for children about death, with illustrations by Esmé Shapiro. Motherhood was chosen by the New York Times as one of the top books of 2018, and New York magazine chose it as the Best Book of the year. It was shortlisted for the Giller Prize. How Should a Person Be? was named one of the 12 “New Classics of the 21st century” by Vulture. It was a New York Times Notable Book, chosen as a best book of the year in The New Yorker and many other places, and was cited by Time as "one of the most talked-about books of the year.” It was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Women in Clothes, a collaboration with Leanne Shapton, Heidi Julavits, and 639 women from around the world, became a New York Times bestseller. It is being reissued in 2024. She is also the author of We Need a Horse, a children’s book which was published by McSweeney’s, with art by Clare Rojas.

She published her first book, the story collection The Middle Stories in 2001, when she was twenty-four. A few years later, she published her first novel, Ticknor. Her play, All Our Happy Days are Stupid, had sold-out runs at The Kitchen in New York, and at Videofag and Harbourfront in Toronto. She served as Interviews Editor at The Believer magazine from 2010 - 2014, and has conducted many long-form print interviews with writers and artists for them and other magazines, including conversations with Joan Didion, Elena Ferrante, Agnes Varda, Sophie Calle, Alanis Obomsawin, Dave Hickey, Daveed Diggs, and John Currin. Her fiction and criticism have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The London Review of Books, Bookforum, n+1, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Granta, and elsewhere.

She appeared in Margaux Williamson’s 2012 film Teenager Hamlet, and was photographed as Lenore Doolan in Leanne Shapton’s book, Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, and Jewelry.

After arriving at MacDowell with an unwieldy document representing hundreds of pages of notes and writing, Heti was able to read through and cut most of it, shaping and forming the remaining passages into something new.



Sheila Heti worked in the Schelling studio.

Marian MacDowell funded construction of this studio the year that the organization was established and the first artists arrived for residency. It was called Bark Studio until 1933, when it was renamed in honor of Ernest Schelling, a composer, pianist, and orchestral leader who served as president of what was then called the Edward MacDowell…

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