Riverdale, New York
Date of Birth
17 January 1958
Place of Birth
Manual High School (Denver, CO), 1976
Amherst College, 1981
Cambridge University, 1984-86
Why did you choose to come to Amherst?
My father (Jerry Conover '55) had something to do with it, though I would never have admitted it at the time.
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) class at Amherst:
Anthro 11 (Alan Babb), English 11 (Kim Townsend), PoliSci 11 (George Kateb), Autobiography (G. Armour Craig)
Favorite (most memorable or most influential) professor:
The ones who taught those classes. Plus Deborah Gewertz, Jan Dizard, and Andrea Rushing.
Awards and Prizes
Phi Beta Kappa, Marshall Scholar, National Book Critics' Circle Award for Nonfiction, Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
Bruce Chatwin, Jack London, George Orwell, John Steinbeck
Tips for aspiring writers?
Spend time away from the academy.
Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author.
I'd been working to combine creative writing and journalism since junior high school.
Anthropology classes at Amherst lent some rigor to my ways of thinking about the world-and depth to my journalism. A magazine internship the summer of my junior year made me think I might have a place in that profession. The interest of classmates in the personal side of my senior thesis--an ethnography of railroad hoboes, which I researched by riding the rails--led me to write an article for a short-lived student magazine, In Other Words. This was reprinted by Amherst, the alumni magazine, and led to a call from a wire service reporter in Springfield as I was feverishly trying to finish my thesis. My inclination was to put him off but it's good I did not: his story got national attention and helped me to convince a New York literary agent to take me on. My first book, Rolling Nowhere, is a first-person account of that undergraduate research. My experience with that has led to everything since.
Ted Conover is an author and journalist. His latest book, The Routes of Man, is about roads and their power to change people and places. His previous book, Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His other books are Whiteout, Coyotes, and Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America's Hoboes, which was based on his senior thesis research at Amherst. Ted is on the editorial board of the new Amherst College literary magazine The Common. He is a distinguished writer-in-residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University and lives with his wife and two children in New York City. For more information about Ted, visit his website at www.tedconover.com