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.
Novelist and short story writer Susan Straight graduated from Amherst College in 1984. She teaches Creative Writing at the University of California in Riverside. Aquaboogie, her first collection of short stories, won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize and was one of Publishers Weekly's best paperbacks (1990). I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots was named one of 1992's best novels by both Publishers Weekly and USA Today. It was also a New York Times Notable Book.