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Maria Semple image

Bestselling Novelist


Bittersweet, hilarious, wholly original, whip smart, witty, dazzling, razor-sharp, loopy, wacky and eccentric, darkly comic, achingly funny and deeply touching are some of the many superlatives used to describe the fiction of Maria Semple. She is our poet laureate of discomfort, a writer whose genius springs from the bad choices and outrageous circumstances that motivate her characters.

Semple's novels are This One is Mine (2008), the bestselling Where'd You Go, Bernadette (2012), and Today Will Be Different (2016).

Today Will Be Different takes place over the course of a single day and tells a hilarious and life-affirming story about a woman who wakes up determined to be her best self… until life intervenes. The book chronicles the journey of a frazzled Seattle illustrator and animator named Eleanor Flood, and is anchored by a mini graphic novel that’s attributed to Eleanor, but in real life was illustrated by Eric Chase Anderson, the brother of director Wes Anderson. Today Will Be Different has been praised by the Washington Post ("darkly funny and brave") and New York Times ("brainy dream of a novel").

National Book Award winner Lauren Groff wrote, “I had the uncanny feeling, while reading Today Will Be Different, that Maria Semple had somehow snuck into my house when I was asleep, took an x-ray image of my heart, then painted it by hand in neon colors. This book is searingly honest and hilarious and dark and neurotic. It is dizzying. Best of all, it is delicious.”

Semple’s earlier breakout bestseller, Where'd You Go, Bernadette has been translated into eighteen languages, spent a year on the New York Times bestseller list, won the American Library Association's Alex Award, was shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction, and was made into a major motion picture by director Richard Linklater, and starring Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, and Judy Greer (Annapurna Pictures, August 2019). Jonathan Franzen said of the book, "The characters in Where'd You Go, Bernadette may be in real emotional pain, but Semple has the wit and perspective and imagination to make their story hilarious. I tore through this book with heedless pleasure.”

Semple’s debut novel, This One is Mine, is a compassionate and wickedly funny satire about our need for “more”—and the often disastrous decisions we make in the pursuit of happiness. The book was a finalist for the 2010 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award.

Semple’s short form work has appeared in The New Yorker and The Los Angeles Times.

Before “escaping Los Angeles” and devoting herself to fiction, Semple wrote for television including the shows Ellen and Beverly Hills, 90210. In 1997, she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for her work on Mad About You. And in 2006 and 2007, she was nominated for a Writer's Guild of America award for her work on Arrested Development. Other TV credits include Suddenly Susan and Saturday Night Live. Semple appeared in the 2004 David O. Russell film I Heart Huckabees.

Semple was born in Santa Monica, California. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington, where she is active in the city’s literary community. Semple is a founding member of Seattle 7 Writers, and has taught fiction writing at Richard Hugo House.

Literature, movies, and the screwball gene run in Semple’s family. Her great uncle is the dramatist Philip Barry, best known for his plays Holiday and The Philadelphia Story. Her father, Lorenzo Semple, Jr., wrote the pilot for the Batman television series. He also penned the screenplays for many successful films, including Papillon and Three Days of the Condor.

Semple is in a relationship with George Meyer (The Simpsons), and they have one daughter, Poppy. In 2007, a newly discovered species of moss frogs from Sri Lanka was named Philautus poppiae after their child, a tribute to the couple’s dedication to the Global Amphibian Assessment.

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