Mikhail Iossel, born and raised in St. Petersburg, then Leningrad, during Soviet times, began his career as an engineer working on submarines and as a roller-coaster security guard, and was a member of a group of samizdat writers, Club-81. At the age of thirty, in 1986, he settled in the United States, and he began writing in English two years later and earned his citizenship in 1996. Iossel went on to publish a book of short stories in English, edit a book of contemporary Russian essays, earn a graduate degree in writing, and, eventually, to resettle in Montreal, where he is today an associate professor of English at Concordia University. He is the founder of the prestigious Summer Literary Seminars, which has annually brought together thousands from the literary world not only in Montreal but also Russia, Lithuania, Georgia, and Kenya. His essays have appeared online in leading magazines including the New Yorker, Foreign Policy, and Guernica.
Phillip Lopate is a central figure in the resurgence of the American essay, both through his best-selling anthology The Art of the Personal Essay and his collections Bachelorhood, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, Portrait Inside My Head, and To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction. He is also the author of two poetry collections, a memoir of his teaching experiences, a collection of his movie criticism, an urbanist meditation, and a biographical monograph. His most recent book is A Mother’s Tale. He is Professor of Writing in the nonfiction MFA program at Columbia University.