Meet Rob

Novelist, passe-temps poet, teacher, cat fancier, baker of toothsome sourdough breads.

Robert McKean grew up in a company town in Western Pennsylvania complete with a company store and a steelworks that stretched nine miles along the Ohio River. When you walked down the town’s single main commercial avenue you might hear a dozen languages. At night the skies burned from the Bessemers, gas jets flamed up, and black sugar speckled the porches so thickly that they had to be swept every morning. Paydays the markets overflowed with shoppers and, if you needed shoes, that’s when you got them, payday shoes.

McKean, recipient of a Massachusetts Arts Council grant, writes fiction set in and around these hardscrabble Western PA towns. Beneath the ethnic, racial, and generational stew of lives and passions depicted in his stories and novels lies the story of Ganaego itself, its rise and fall as a protagonist in our heartland’s existential drama, the making of America’s Rust Belt.

McKean’s work has been featured in numerous publications, including:

  • The Kenyon Review
  • Armchair/Shotgun
  • The Chicago Review
  • The Dublin Quarterly

  • Kestrel
  • Crack the Spine
  • The 34th Parallel
His work has been nominated for a Best of the Net Award and three times for Pushcart Prizes.
Rob McKean


Novels & Collections

Awards & Recognition

Loaves of Bread

Novels & Collections
  • Mending What is Broken, Livingston Press (The University of West Alabama, 2023).
  • I’ll Be Here for You: Diary of a Town, Livingston Press (The University of West Alabama, 2020).  Winner: Tartt First Fiction Award. 
  • The Catalog of Crooked Thoughts, Longleaf Press Prize Winner (Methodist University Press, Winter 2017). Finalist:  2018 Eric Hoffer Awards.
  • Mr. Lost & Found in September: Linked Stories (in-progress)
  • Someone to Watch Over Me (novel, in-progress)
  • A Wilderness of Monkeys (novel, in-progress)
  • Shutdown (novel, in progress)
  • “Mrs. Kattlove’s Clerk,” Finalist, Adelaide Literary Award Anthology, December 2018
  • “Placido Lombardi’s Funeral,” Kestrel, Issue 40, Winter 2018
  • “Cradle Hymn,” The Rumble Fish Quarterly, Summer 2018
  • “Invisible Weaving,” BoomerLit Magazine, Winter 2018
  • “No Talent for Sleep,” Adelaide Literary Award Anthology, Finalist, Summer 2017
  • “Red Box, Red Box,” Kindred, Issue 12, Summer 2017
  • “A Wilderness of Monkeys,” Adelaide Magazine, Year II, Number 7, Volume I, June 2017
  • Interview with Rob:
  • “However Innocently, However Unwittingly,” The Flexible Persona, Spring 2017, Vol. 02, No. 01
  • “The House on Pienza Road,” Border Crossing (Volume 6)
  • “Semitone Summer,” 34th Parallel, Issue 35
  • “That’s All That Matters,” Armchair/Shotgun, Issue 5
  • “Mr. Mason’s Camera,” Crack the Spine, Issue 132 (also published in the journal’s annual print anthology)
  • “Tody Was a Seven,” 34th Parallel, Issue 27
  • “Spare Parts & Bloody Bones” Front Range Review, Spring 2014
  • “Rags,” The Bacon Review, April 2014
  • “Velia Creaming Her Legs,” The MacGuffin, Vol. 29, No. 3
  • “Landscape Painting” Ruminate, Issue 25
  • “Calabash,” the Dublin Quarterly, No. 15
  • “Ralphie’s Clarinet,” The Kenyon Review, Vol. 26, No. 1
  • “My American Gasoline Dreams, first letter,” Chicago Review, Vol. 25, No. 1
  • “The Bicycle Shop,” King James Review, Vol. 1, No. 2
  • “You, Stanley, and Your Stockcar in a Dying Town,” Chicago Review, Vol. 23, No. 4 and Vol. 24, No. 1
Awards & Recognition
  • I’ll Be Here for You: Diary of Town, Livingston Press, Tartt First Fiction Award
  • “Cradle Hymn,” The Rumble Fish Quarterly, 2019 Pushcart Prize Nomination
  • The Catalog of Crooked Thoughts, Methodist University Press, Finalist for 2018 Eric Hoffer Award
  • “However Innocently, However Unwittingly,” The Flexible Persona, 2017 Pushcart Prize Nomination
  • “The House on Pienza Road,” Border Crossing, 2017 Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Nominations
  • “No Talent for Sleep,” Adelaide Literary Award Anthology, Finalist, Summer 2017; and “Mrs. Kattlove’s Clerk,” Finalist, September 2018
  • A Wilderness of Monkeys, Finalist, Dana Awards, 2016
  • Story collection (under different titles): Finalist, Tartt First Fiction Award (Livingston Press), 2018; Finalist, Serena McDonald Kennedy Award (Snake-Nation Press), 2015; Honorable Mention, Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest, 2011; Finalist, Flannery O’Connor Short Story Award, 2010; Finalist, Mary McCarthy Prize for Short Fiction (administered by Sarabande Press), 2004 and Semi-Finalist, 2005
  • That Which We Ought Not to Have Done (now entitled: Shutdown), First Honorable Mention, Dana Awards, 2006; semi-finalist, the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel, 2005; ; semi-finalist, Three Oaks Prize in fiction at Story Line Press, 2000; Finalist, Heekin Group Foundation James Fellowship for the Novel in Progress, 1999
  • The Catalog of Crooked Thoughts, Finalist, Dana Awards, 2010
  • “Out of Harm’s Way” nominated by Margot Livesey to be her workshop’s contribution to be considered for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference submission to the Best New American Voices competition, July 2001
  • Massachusetts Arts Council Grant for Fiction, 2000
  • “Calabash, Calabash!” second place, White Eagle Coffee Store Press Long Fiction contest, April 1999
Conference Attendance
  • Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, studied with Richard Bausch and Jay Parini
  • Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, studied with Andrea Barrett
  • Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, studied with Charles Baxter
  • Sewanee Writers’ Conference, studied with Margot Livesey and Barry Hannah
  • University of Chicago, M.A., English Language and Literature
  • Pennsylvania State University, B.A., English Language and Literature