ZZ Packer gives a reading as the Fiction Visiting Writer-in-Residence at Northwestern University's 5th Annual Spring Writers' Festival.
ZZ Packer grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and Louisville, Kentucky. Her given name is Zuwena (Swahili for "good"), but "After a while of teachers mispronouncing my name and everyone else in the world, I began introducing myself as ZZ, and it just kind of stuck." Recognized as a talented writer at an early age, her first significant publication was in Seventeen magazine at the age of 19.
Packer attended Yale University, where she received a B.A in 1994. Her graduate work included an M.A. at Johns Hopkins University in 1995 and an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1999. She was named a Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford University.
Shortly thereafter, she entered the national literary scene with a high-profile appearance in the debut fiction issue of The New Yorker (2000). Her short story in the issue became the title story in her collection Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (Riverhead Books, 2003), which was published to considerable acclaim.
In 2005, she was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction. She is on the faculty of California College of the Arts, where she serves as Senior Visiting Professor of Creative Writing. She is a member of the San Francisco Writers' Grotto, a workspace co-operative.
She lives in Pacifica, California, a coastal town near San Francisco and is currently at work on a novel set in the aftermath of the Civil War.
In June 2010 she was named one of The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" list of fiction writers worth watching.