Merilee D. Karr


Once upon a time, Merilee Karr was an English major, specializing in Medieval Studies. Her English B.A. led, somehow, to a career programming large computers in Boston, then to medical school in Seattle. For her medical research thesis she surprised everyone with a play called "The Moment of Death—A Comedy."

She loved practicing Family Medicine, but couldn’t live with the way managed care made her do it. So she went back to school (at Portland State University) for an MFA in Nonfiction Writing and a new career in journalism — leaving one troubled profession for another.

Dr. Karr recently retired from a career in Family Medicine, but she misses it deeply — taking care of people can be magical. She’s working on a book about the Puritan roots of American medical culture, called Make an Error, Go to Hell.

Her best critics are her husband Dave Goldman, the cats Dash and Apostrophe, and a grove of temperamental, chronically ill backyard fruit trees.

Prize anthology mentions

Best American Essays 2009*

Pushcart (CNF) 2009*

* indicates notable/special mention

Send questions, comments and corrections to

Disclaimer: No endorsement of these ratings should be implied by the writers and writing programs listed on this site, or by the editors and publishers of Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Poetry, The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Pushcart Prize Anthology.