Mark Twain was born Samuel L. Clemens in Florida, Missouri on November 30, 1835. He worked as a printer for a time, and then became a steamboat pilot. He traveled in the West, writing humorous sketches for newspapers. In 1865, he wrote the short story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which was very well received. He then began a career as a humorous travel writer and lecturer, publishing The Innocents Abroad in 1869, Roughing It in 1872, and, co-authored with Charles Dudley Warner, Gilded Age in 1873. His best-known works are The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Mississippi Writing: Life on the Mississippi (1883), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884). He died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910.
Jane Smiley was born in Los Angeles, California on September 26, 1949. She received a B. A. at Vassar College in 1971 and an M. F. A. and a Ph.D from the University of Iowa. From 1981 to 1996, she taught undergrad and graduate creative writing workshops at Iowa State University. Her first critically acclaimed novel, The Greenlanders (1988), was preceded by three other novels and a highly regarded short story collection, The Age of Grief (1987). In 1985, she won an O. Henry Award for her short story Lily, which was published in The Atlantic Monthly. Her novel A Thousand Acres (1991) received both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Her other works include Moo; Horse Heaven; and Ordinary Love and Good Will. In 2014 her title, Some Luck, made The New York Times Best Seller List.