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Roberta Silman

Born in Brooklyn, NY on December 29, 1934, Roberta Silman was brought up on Long Island and received her BA with Honors in English literature from Cornell University in 1956. Three days after graduation she married Robert Silman, a structural engineer, and they went on to have three children and several grandchildren.


She began writing as the assistant to the Science Editor at The Saturday Review Magazine in the late ’50s while her husband got his second degree in engineering. Ms. Silman could have made a career in science writing since she was one of the first women in the industry; however, she was always drawn to fiction. When her first child was born in 1961 she wrote her first short story, “Wedding Day.” She worked for ten years on her own while having two more children, then applied in 1972 to the graduate writing program at Sarah Lawrence. There she worked with Grace Paley and Jane Cooper, and received her MFA in 1975. Her first published story, “A Bad Baby,” appeared in The New Yorker in 1973 and won the National Magazine Award in 1974.


After more stories in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Redbook, McCall’s, Hadassah, and many other magazines and quarterlies and anthologies here and abroad, came Blood Relations, a story collection (Atlantic-Little, Brown), four novels, Boundaries (Atlantic-Little, Brown, Avon paperback, in England Sidgwick & Jackson), The Dream Dredger (Persea Books), Beginning the World Again, A Novel of Los Alamos (Viking), Secrets and Shadows (Campden Hill Books) and a children’s book, Somebody Else’s Child (Frederick Warne, Dell Yearling Paperback). Her first three novels have been released by Open Road as paperbacks, ebooks, books on demand, and audiobooks on Audible.com, and her story collection is also an ebook. Secrets and Shadows is also an ebook and was released as an audiobook by Alison Larkin Presents.


Secrets and Shadows was named as one of the Best Indie Books of 2018 by Kirkus. Another novel, Summer Lightning, has just been published as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook in October 2022 and has gotten wonderful reviews. And a second story collection, Mooning After Rembrandt, will be coming along soon. A section of Summer Lightning, also called  “Summer Lightning,” was a finalist in Narrative Magazine’s 2015 Fall Fiction Contest. Another story, “Mooning After Rembrandt” was a finalist in Narrative Magazine’s Spring 2019 contest. And the story “Alphabet of Joy” was published at the end of 2021 in the Digital American Scholar. 


A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEA Fellowship, she has won the National Magazine Award twice, two stories were winners in the PEN Syndicated Fiction project, two were read at Symphony Space and on NPR’s Selected Shorts, and several cited in Best American Short Stories. Later stories appeared in The Virginia Quarterly Review and The American Scholar. Her reviews and Op Ed pieces have appeared in The New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New York Observer, World Books PRI, and The Boston Globe and she is a senior contributor for the online magazine The ArtsFuse where her book reviews appear regularly.


Somebody Else’s Child won the Child Study Association Award, Blood Relations won honorable mention for both the PEN Hemingway Prize and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Boundaries won honorable mention for the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, The Dream Dredger and Beginning the World Again won Washington Irving Awards. Boundaries was optioned for a movie by Linda Lavin but was never made.


Ms. Silman has a BA with honors in English literature from Cornell University (Phi Beta Kappa) and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence where she worked with Grace Paley. She has served on fiction panels in New York and Massachusetts and has given workshops and readings at many universities and libraries. She's a member of The Authors Guild and PEN. Since the death of her husband, Robert Silman, the well-known structural engineer, Ms. Silman has made her home in Great Barrington, MA. She can be reached at rsilman@verizon.net and her website is robertasilman.com