Wells Tower

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Wells Tower
Born (1973-04-14) April 14, 1973 (age 49)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
EducationWesleyan University (BA),
Columbia University (MFA)
Notable worksEverything Ravaged, Everything Burned
Notable awardsThe Paris Review Plimpton (Discovery) Prize, two Pushcart Prizes

Wells Tower (born April 14, 1973) is an American writer of short stories, non-fiction, feature films and television. In 2009 he published his first short story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) to much critical acclaim. His short fiction has also been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, McSweeney's, Vice, Harper's Magazine, A Public Space, Fence and other periodicals. In 2022, he wrote the screenplay for the feature film "Pain Hustlers", starring Emily Blunt and directed by David Yates, which was bought by Netflix for $50 million.

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Tower was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, but grew up in North Carolina.[1][2] He played guitar in the punk band Hellbender for six years beginning his senior year of high school.[3]

He received a B.A. in anthropology and sociology from Wesleyan University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Columbia University's School of the Arts.[4] After graduating from Wesleyan, he traveled around the United States doing odd jobs.[5] He began his professional career when he convinced an editor at The Washington Post Magazine to publish an article about a carnival worker.[5]

Tower is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the 2002 Plimpton (Discovery) Prize from The Paris Review,[6] and a Henfield Foundation Award.

Writing career[edit]

Farrar, Straus and Giroux published Tower's first short story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned in 2009.[7] The book was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review by Edmund White and in the New York Times by Michiko Kakutani.[5] Kakutani picked it as one of her ten best books of 2009.[8] It was also a finalist for The Story Prize. The short story from which the collection's title is taken is about a community of Vikings growing older, told in a modern-day vernacular, in a similar vein as the film Severed Ways.

In June 2010, Tower was named as one of The New Yorker magazine's "20 under 40" luminary fiction writers.[9][10] On June 10, 2010, he was presented with the Tenth Annual New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award, a $10,000 prize for an American writer under 40.[11]

His work was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2010.[12][13] Since 2010, his nonfiction reporting has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing three times, for "Own Goal" (2011), originally published in Harper's Magazine and a finalist for a National Magazine Award for Profile Writing; "Welcome to the Far East Conference" (2012), originally published in GQ; and "Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?" (2015), also originally published in GQ.

In 2014, Tower was a finalist for two National Magazine Awards in Essays and Criticism for "The Old Man at Burning Man" and in Fiction for "The Dance Contest."[14]

In a segment from the July 19, 2018 episode of the Still Processing podcast, host Jenna Wortham discussed an incident involving Tower at a public reading held as part of the 2018 Tin House Summer Writer's Workshop in Portland, Oregon. The piece Tower selected to read from ("Own Goal," published in Harper's Magazine in 2010) featured direct quotes from homeless individuals, some of which were allegedly misogynistic. According to Wortham, several members of the audience walked out in protest.[15] Tower issued a public apology at an assembly the following day.[16]

On May 22, 2022, Netflix paid $50 million for global rights to the conspiracy film "Pain Hustlers", written by Tower, directed by David Yates, and starring Emily Blunt. Tower's original screenplay was inspired by Evan Hughes’ nonfiction book "The Hard Sell", which was published January 2022.[17]

Tower’s unproduced screenwriting credits include "The True American" for director Kathryn Bigelow and Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures, and "Framed" for George Clooney's Smokehouse Productions and Netflix. His unproduced television writing credits include the dramatic series "Paper" for Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment and HBO, and the series "Mayor" for Alec Baldwin and HBO.[18]

Personal life[edit]

As of 2009, Tower divides his time between Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Brooklyn, New York.[19]

His Facebook page has been inactive since August 2013.[20]



  1. ^ "Author Wells Tower Shares His Hatred of the Internet, His Love of Action Plots, and an Old Norse Recipe". Huffpost New York. June 10, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  2. ^ Varno, David (April 2009). "An Interview with Wells Tower". Bookslut. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  3. ^ Neyfakh, Leon (March 2009). "Wells Tower, Fiction Writer, Is Looking for Joy". New York Observer. Retrieved March 23, 2009.
  4. ^ Neyfakh, Leon (2009). "Wells Tower, Fiction Writer, Is Looking For Joy". The New York Observer. Retrieved on March 28, 2009
  5. ^ a b c Konigsberg, Eric (April 11, 2009). "Witness to Luckless Lives on the Periphery". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-11.
  6. ^ "Paris Review - Writers, Quotes, Biography, Interviews, Artists".
  7. ^ White, Edmund (2009). "Review of Everything Ravaged Everything Burned". The New York Times. Retrieved on March 28, 2009.
  8. ^ "Michiko Kakutani's Top 10 Books of 2009". The New York Times. Retrieved April 25, 2010.
  9. ^ Bosman, Julie (June 2, 2010). "20 Young Writers Earn the Envy of Many Others". The New York Times.
  10. ^ ""The Landlord" : The New Yorker". www.newyorker.com. Archived from the original on 2010-09-07.
  11. ^ http://media-newswire.com/release_1120605.html
  12. ^ Peschel, Joseph (October 15, 2010). "Year's best stories have staying power". The Boston Globe.
  13. ^ "Jacket Copy". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ American Society of Magazine Editors. March 27, 2014. http://www.magazine.org/about-asme/pressroom/asme-press-releases/asme/national-magazine-awards-2014-finalists-announced.
  15. ^ Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham (July 19, 2018). "We Can't Burn It All Down (Even Though Sometimes We Want To)". Still Processing (Podcast). New York Times. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  16. ^ Baer, April (July 24, 2018). "Tin House Gathering Erupts Over Wells Tower Reading". Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  17. ^ Lang, Brent (May 22, 2022). ""Netflix Swoops In With $50 Million Purchase of Emily Blunt, David Yates Film 'Pain Hustlers'"". Variety.
  18. ^ Grobar, Matt (May 12, 2022). "Emily Blunt to Star in "Pain Hustlers" for director David Yates". Deadline Hollywood.
  19. ^ Baron, Zach (2009). "Spring Guide: Wells Tower Offers a Strange Way to Squeeze a Day". The Village Voice. Retrieved March 28, 2009.
  20. ^ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WellsTower/. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]