Elizabeth Poliner

Elizabeth Poliner

Her novel, As Close to Us as Breathing, captured the 2017 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. In May 2017, the book was named a finalist for the 2017 Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award. Last November, As Close to Us as Breathing was selected as one of Amazon’s Top 100 Editors’ Picks for 2016 and was an Amazon Spotlight Pick in Fiction for March of that year.

She is also the author of Mutual Life & Casualty, a novel in stories, and What You Know in Your Hands, a poetry collection. Her stories and poems have been published in literary journals nationwide, and her awards include numerous individual artist grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, fiction fellowships to the Wesleyan and Sewanee writer’s conferences, and artist residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.


Areas of Expertise

  • Creative Writing (Fiction, Poetry)
  • Contemporary Literature
  • Contemplative Practices in Creative Writing

Courses Taught

  • Graduate Tutorial in Fiction
  • Advanced Seminar in Creative Writing,
  • Advanced Seminar in Fiction Technique
  • Intermediate Creative Writing
  • Advanced Studies in Short Fiction
  • A Sense of Place in Literature
  • Mothers and Daughters in Literature and Film


  • M.F.A., American University
  • J.D., University of Virginia
  • A.B., Bowdoin College

Publications & Articles

  • As Close to Us as Breathing, novel (Lee Boudreaux Books / Little, Brown & Co, 2016)
  • What You Know in Your Hands, poems (David Robert Books, 2015).
  • Sudden Fog, poetry chapbook (Spire Press, 2011).
  • Mutual Life & Casualty, novel-in-stories (Permanent Press, 2005).
  • Stories published in Story, TriQuarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, Kenyon Review, Colorado Review, and The Southampton Review, among other journals.
  • Poems published in The Sun, Southern Review, The Hopkins Review, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Connecticut Poetry Review, among other journals.
  • Craft Article: “How Mapping Alice Munro’s Stories Helped Me as a Writer,” Literary Hub (lithub.com), April 2016.


Awards for As Close to Us as Breathing:

  • Winner, Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize in Fiction, 2017
  • Finalist, Harold U. Ribalow Prize for Jewish Fiction, 2017
  • Finalist, Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award in Fiction, 2017
  • Pennie’s Pick, Costco, February 2017
  • An Amazon Best Book of 2016
  • Long-listed, Center for Fiction’s Debut Novel Award, 2016
  • Amazon Spotlight Pick in Fiction, March 2016

Other Accomplishments:

  • Finalist, 2019 Nelson Algren Short Story Award for “Sabelle;” published in the Chicago Tribune, July 20, 2019.
  • Herta Freitag Faculty Legacy Award, Hollins University, 2017 (for excellence in scholarly/creative accomplishment).
  • What You Know in Your Hands, selected as a Beltway Poetry Quarterly Best Book of 2015.
  • Awarded residencies at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, The Wurlitzer Foundation, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
  • Awarded Fiction Fellowships at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference (2016) and the Wesleyan Writers’ Conference (2016).
  • Awarded Individual Artists Grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities in Fiction (2008, 2006, 2004, 2002, 1998, 1995) and in Poetry (2000).

Recent Presentations:

  • “The Wandering Stops Here: Place as Central in Jewish-American Fiction,” AWP Conference, Portland, OR, 2019.
  • “Character and Plot Development in Fiction,” Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., Associate Resident Program, 2019.
  • “A Tolerance for Uncertainty: Beginnings as an Act of Faith,” New Directions Writing Conference, The Washington Center for Psychoanalysis, Washington, D.C. 2017.