In 1966, as a conscientious objector faced with possible charges of draft evasion during the Vietnam War, Allan Gurganus found himself on a four-year tour as a message decoder on an aircraft carrier. While at sea, Gurganus, who had studied to be a painter, developed the idea for his first successful novel, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1989) after reading an article that described how Confederate veterans were granted pensions in the 1880s, making them prime marital candidates for much younger women. The novel features Lucy Marsden, a feisty ninety-nine-year-old North Carolina widow, and spans the 1850s to the 1980s. Gurganus's subsequent books include Blessed Assurance: A Moral Tale (1989), The Practical Heart (1993), and Plays Well With Others (1997). He has written a number of short stories that have appeared in periodicals such as Granta, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Harper's, and Paris Review, and in books such as The Faber Book of Short Gay Fiction (1991). Eleven of his short stories are collected in The White People (1991). Gurganus was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, in 1947 and graduated from Sarah Lawrence College (B.A., 1972) and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop (M.F.A., 1974). He has taught fiction writing at University of Iowa, Stanford University, Duke University, Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has had his paintings displayed in many private and public collections.