Bissell, Tom

Tom Bissell
EHS Class of 1992
An Escanaba native, Tom Bissell graduated in 1992 and went on to receive a Bachelor’s in English in 1996 from Michigan State University. Joining the Peace Corps, he found himself teaching in the country of Uzbekistan for a year. The next few years were a learning experience for Tom, first working as an intern at Harper’s Magazine, then as an assistant editor at W.W Norton, and finally as an editor at Henry Holt. His experiences at editing lead him to a teaching job at Bennington College from 2003 to 2009, and to Portland State University as an Assistant Professor of English from 2009-2011.

It was with his deep love of writing however, where Tom has made his mark in the world. His first book, Chasing the Sea came out in 2003 and described his feelings upon returning to visit the country of Uzbekistan. This was followed by a collection of short stories, God Lives in St. Petersburg in 2005. After an extended visit to the country of Vietnam with his father, Tom penned The Father of All Things, a touching account of son trying to better understand his father and his experiences during the Vietnam War. The book received much acclaim both for its historical accuracy and emotional connection between Tom and his father John Bissell of Escanaba.

In addition to his novels, Tom has written many articles for magazines, such as: Harper’s, GQ, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker. His short stories have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Science Writing, Best American Mystery Writing, and Best American Travel. His short story “Expensive Trips Nowhere” was also the basis for the 2011 film “The Loneliest Planet”.

In 2010, Tom wrote Extra Lives, an in-depth study of the most popular video games of the day and why this was an important entertainment venue. This ground breaking book was featured in Time Magazine and The New York Times called him “probably the most influential video game critic in the world”. This lead to a new avenue of writing for Tom, when he and his writing partner were asked to write the script for the 2013 “Gears of War:Judgment” video game. This billion dollar franchise is the fifth largest intellectual property in video games in the world.

Over the past ten years Tom has also received many writing awards, including the Rome Prize in 2006 which allowed him to live and write in Rome for a year, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2010. He has lived in five countries and his work has been translated into seven languages.

From his educational start right here in Escanaba, Tom has gone on to become a world class writer. His sixth book, The Disaster Artist was recently published. Tom and his girlfriend Trisha Miller, an actress and Escanaba native as well, currently live in Los Angeles, California.

Submitted by Lynn Soderburg