Maria Dahvana Headley

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Maria Dahvana Headley is a New York Times-bestselling novelist, translator, poet, and dramatist whose work unearths hidden meanings, characters, and possibilities in stories we think we know. Her version of the literary world is one in which all the genres merge, all the storytellers are equally thrilling, and there are definitely dragons.


Maria Dahvana Headley is a novelist, poet, translator, and dramatist, with an interest in epics, canon-expansion, and the history of both written and oral storytelling. 

Headley's genre-bending work has won the Hugo and the World Fantasy Awards, as well as the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award administered by the Academy of American Poets, and been shortlisted for the Nebula, Shirley Jackson, Tiptree and Joyce Carol Oates Prizes. She's the New York Times-bestselling author of eight books, most recently Beowulf: A New Translation (FSG, 2020), which was named a Book of the Year by The Atlantic Monthly, Kirkus, NPR, The New Statesman, and The Irish Times, among others. In 2018, she published the novel The Mere Wife (FSG), which is a contemporary adaptation of the Beowulf poem, set in American suburbia, and dealing with questions of marginalization and monsterization in American society. She is also the author of two young adult fantastical novels, Magonia and Aerie (HarperCollins, 2015 & 2016), a fantastical reimagining of the Cleopatra story, Queen of Kings (Dutton, 2011), and the memoir The Year of Yes (Hyperion, 2006). She co-authored The End of the Sentence (Subterranean Press) with Kat Howard in 2014, and co-edited Unnatural Creatures (HarperCollins) with Neil Gaiman in 2013.  
Headley's ten-episode musical adaptation of The Aeneid will be released by Audible in 2023, and she has a new novel about creation myths, volcanos, and time travel coming from MCD Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, as well as a short story collection from the same publisher. At the moment, she's working on several projects: an original epic poem, the script for a spy thriller, and a non-fiction book about storytelling. She's a MacDowell Colony Fellow, and in the summer of 2023 will attend the Hawthornden Foundation's Casa Ecco in Lake Como, Italy as a writing fellow. She attended NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Dramatic Writing Program and teaches at Sarah Lawrence in the Creative Writing MFA program. Her work on Beowulf is taught at universities all over the world. She teaches workshops and writing classes for the public at the Shipman Agency Workroom. 
Headley grew up in the high desert of Idaho on a survivalist sled dog ranch, where she spent summers plucking the winter coat from her father’s wolf. For several years in her early 20s, she served as both contract-procurer and pirate negotiator for a fleet of ships and workboats, on missions ranging from searching for Amelia Earhart's plane in the South Pacific to hydrographic surveys off the West African coast, the Gulf of Mexico and in Alaska. She's also been a bartender in a tiny three-person bar in a closet in Brooklyn, and a corset-maker and occasional actor at a Shakespeare festival in Idaho. She was a visiting faculty member at Bennington for Spring 2023.