Jan Steckel

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Jan M. Steckel
Born (1962-08-22)August 22, 1962
California, US
Occupation Pediatrician (retired), poet, short-story writer
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard University (B.A., 1983)
Yale University (M.D., 1994)
Genre Poetry, Short stories
Notable works The Horizontal Poet (2011); The Underwater Hospital (2006)
Notable awards Lambda Literary Award: Bisexual Nonfiction (2011);
Spouse Hew Wolff

Jan Steckel, M.D. is an award winning[1] San Francisco Bay Area-based writer of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction, who is also known as an activist in the bisexual community and an advocate on behalf of the disabled and the underprivileged.

One of the most prolific writers/poets today, Steckel has published over a hundred of her short stories, poems and nonfiction pieces in print and in online publications such as Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Red Rock Review, So to Speak, Redwood Coast Review, and Bellevue Literary Review. Beyond the prodigious numbers of awards she has received, her work has been widely reprinted and anthologized. Steckel's writing has been nominated twice for Pushcart Prizes: once for her nonfiction, and once for her poetry.

A strong bilingual background (Steckel is fluent in Spanish as well as English), extensive medical training, and work in underserved communities allow Steckel to tackle subjects that other writers (particularly those from more conventional middle-class backgrounds) aren't always able to cover adequately, and her work in different media (poetry, short stories, creative nonfiction) facilitates a great deal of creative cross-pollination.

Her poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital is available from Zeitgeist Press. She is currently working on a book-length collection of interrelated short stories and on a collection of short humorous first-person essays. Most of the stories and essays have already appeared in print.

She is also a founding member of Woman-Stirred, a queer women's writing collective, along with Nicki Hastie, Julie R. Enszer, and Merry Gangemi.

Education and medical career[edit]

Steckel's undergraduate work was at Harvard-Radcliffe University, where she earned her B.A. summa cum laude in English literature with an emphasis on creative writing in 1983. Later she studied Golden Age Spanish Literature at Oxford University on a Henry Fellowship through 1984. In 1989 she either fell in with the wrong crowd or started listening to her parents (depending upon whose version of the story one listens to) and took a few premedical courses while conducting research in the neuroscience laboratory. One thing led to another, and Steckel attended Yale University School of Medicine, where she picked up her M.D. in May 1994. Steckel's speciality was in pediatrics, in which she completed her residency at Children's Hospital Boston in July 1997.

Board-Certified in Pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics in 1997, Steckel obtained her Physician and Surgeon License from the Medical Board of California in 1997; she became a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2000.

Steckel served for a time in the Peace Corps as a volunteer in the Dominican Republic; upon her return to the States, she cared for Spanish-speaking families in California at a county hospital and at a large HMO. After she left medicine permanently in 2001, her experiences as a pediatrician continued to inform her work.

Personal life[edit]

Steckel grew up in Santa Monica, where she attended Lincoln Junior High School (now Lincoln Middle School), studying journalism under Carol Jago. She went to Santa Monica High School, where she once confided that she enjoyed a "love/hate" relationship with the world of mathematics—a sentiment that might have been prescient of her later toggling between science/medicine and the world of letters.

In high school Steckel was known for her vocal range, and sang briefly with a band, Industrial Waist—which brought her on for live performances of Grace Slick's part in Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love". Her associates during her high school and college years included the Westsiders in Los Angeles who called themselves the "Olive Starlight Orchestra" (but had nothing to do with music; it was just a social circle, like the Bloomsbury Group).

Steckel associated at that time with such luminaries as computer graphics researcher Greg Turk; neurobiologist David Linden; Academy Award-winner and scanning/computer graphics expert David Coons; entrepreneur/pornographer Christophe Pettus, founder of the sex-toy company Blowfish, columnist, one-woman show creator, writer, and radio personality Sandra Tsing Loh; mathematician and co-founder of Rhythm and Hues Studios Keith Goldfarb, internet activist and law professor Susan P. Crawford; producer/computer-graphics innovator Eric Enderton, politician/attorney Sandra Levin, and conservative blogger Joy W. McCann.

Steckel, openly bisexual,[2] lives in Northern California with her husband Hew Wolff, who has collaborated on some of her poetry.



Other writing[edit]

  • "Girl Lessons" in the online publication biMagazine, May 2007;
  • "How to Have Great Sex When Your Back Hurts" in the Good Vibes Online Magazine (GV Weekly), February 7, 2007;
  • "Getting It Rote: a Poetry Performance Practicum" in the Bay Area Poets Seasonal Review, Summer 2005. Reprinted online in Woman-Stirred, September 24, 2005;
  • "Voyage to Planet California" in Bi Women, Vol. 15 No. 2, April/May 1997 (reprinted in the online journal Awakened Woman, February 5, 2004);
  • "Telegram from Another Planet" and "Family Medicine" in the anthology Becoming Doctors, edited by Parminder Bolina, Student Doctors Press, 1995;


  • "The Horizontal Poet", 2011
  • "The White Hospital" forthcoming in Bellevue Literary Review, Fall 2008;
  • Al-Salaam Boccaccio" in the Redwood Coast Review, Winter 2007/2008;
  • "Lake Bed" selected for the American Pain Foundation's Pain and Creativity Exhibit, October 2007;
  • "The Maiden Aunts" in The Pedestal Magazine online, Issue 30, October/November 2005 (also forthcoming in Awakened Woman in 2006, and in the anthology Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust, 2nd edition, edited by Charles Fishman, Time Being Books, 2007);
  • "Tiresias" in Diverticulum, Spring 1994 (reprinted in BiWomen, the newsletter of the Boston Bisexual Women's Network; awarded the Triplopia Magazine Best of the Best Award in 2006, and reprinted there along with an interview with Steckel by Tracy Koretsky, contributing editor to Triplopia and author of Ropeless. Reprinted in BiMagazine in December 2006).


  • "Truth in Free-Will Advertising" in The Eloquent Atheist, February 2008;
  • "Bi-Dyke Bonnie and the Sword of Snart" online in biMagazine, August 2007;
  • "The Sea That Sometimes Frightened Us" in the online journal Lodestar Quarterly, Summer 2004;
  • "A Dish Best Eaten Chilled in Aspic" in Collection 33, May 1995;
  • "Chemé" in Yale Medicine, Fall/Winter 1992–1993;
  • "California Dreamin'" in Scholastic Magazine, 1975.


  • 2011 Lambda Literary Award: Bisexual Nonfiction
  • The 2007 Jewel Prize by the Bay poetry competition, sponsored by the Frank Bette Center for the Arts;
  • Triplopia's 2006 Best-of-the-Best Competition (open only to winning poems from other contests) for "Tiresias";
  • Second Place for Poetry in The Pedestal Magazine's 2005 Pedestal Readers' Awards for "The Maiden Aunts";
  • Finalist in the Blue Light Poetry Prize and Chapbook Contest, 2004;
  • The Marguerite Rush Lerner Award for outstanding creative writing by a Yale medical student, 1992, for a collection of short stories.


  1. ^ "24th Annual Lambda Literary Awards Announced". Bi Magazine. June 5, 2012. Retrieved June 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Personal Story", BiMagazine, retrieved October 22, 2008 

External links[edit]