Philip Gerard was born in 1955 and grew up in Newark, Delaware. He attended St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware. At the University of Delaware, he earned a B.A. in English and Anthropology, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. After college he lived in Burlington, Vermont, tending bar and writing freelance articles, before returning to newspaper work in Delaware and then going west to study fiction writing at the Arizona writers workshop with Robert Houston, Vance Bourjaily, Richard Shelton, and others. He earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing in 1981 and almost immediately joined the faculty at Arizona State University as a Visiting Assistant Professor and later as Writer in Residence. He remained at ASU until 1986, then taught for a brief time at Lake Forest College in Illinois before migrating to coastal North Carolina, where he had spent many happy summers during his teenage years roaming the Outer Banks of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.
Along the way, Gerard worked as a busboy, dishwasher, roofer, bartender, bouncer, musician, house painter, recreation leader, special education teacher's aide, security monitor, supermarket clerk, meat cutter, public relations man, long-haul moving man, sportswriter, editor, and freelance journalist, among other jobs.
As a young man, he read avidly from the works of Jack London, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, and Ernest Hemingway. Later, as a scholar and fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, he benefited from the tutelage of Ron Hansen, Tim O'Brien, and John Gardner.
Gerard has published fiction and nonfiction in numerous magazines, including New England Review/Bread Loaf Quarterly, Creative Nonfiction, Hawai'i Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, and The World & I. He is the author of three novels: Hatteras Light (Scribners 1986; Blair/ Salem paper 1997, nominated for the Ernest Hemingway Prize), Cape Fear Rising (Blair 1994), Desert Kill (William Morrow 1994; Piatkus in U.K. 1994); and two books of nonfiction, Brilliant Passage. . . a schooning memoir (Mystic 1989) and Creative Nonfiction-- Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life (Story Press 1996), which was a selection of the Book-of-the-Month and Quality Paperback Book Clubs.
He has written nine half-hour shows for Globe Watch, an international affairs program, for PBS-affiliate WUNC-TV, Chapel Hill, N.C., and international broadcast, and scripted two hour-long environmental documentaries, one of which, "RiverRun- down the Cape Fear to the Sea," won a Silver Reel of Merit from the International Television Association in 1994. Two of his weekly radio essays have been broadcast on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."
Gerard's Writing a Book that Makes a Difference (Story Press, 2000), combines his dual passions of writing and teaching. His latest book of nonfiction Secret Soldiers (Dutton 2002; Plume softcover 2004) tells the story of an unlikely band of heroes in World War II: artists who fought the Nazis by creating elaborate scenarios of deception, conjuring phantom armored divisions out of sound effects, radio scripts, pyrotechnics, and inflatable tanks.
He teaches in the BFA and MFA Programs of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, which he chairs. He has won the the Faculty Scholarship Award, the College of Arts & Science Teaching Award, the Chancellor's Medal for Excellence in Teaching, the Graduate Mentor Award, the Board of Trustees Teaching Award, and a Distinguished Teaching Professorship. The Philip Gerard Fellowship, endowed by benefactor Charles F. Green III to honor Gerard's work in establishing and directing the MFA program, is awarded annually to an MFA student on the basis of literary merit. Gerard has also been writer in residence at Bradford (MA) College and Old Dominion University (VA), has taught at the Sand Hills and Bread Loaf Writers Conferences, and conducted workshops at the Wildacres Summer Writers Retreat and Chautauqua Institution in New York. He is co-editor with his wife, Jill Gerard, of Chautauqua, the literary journal of the Chautauqua Writers' Center, and is visiting faculty at Goucher College's summer residency MFA program in Creative Nonfiction.
In keeping with his conviction that writers should give something back to their profession, he has served on the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers Network and from 1995 until 1998 on the Board of Directors of the Associated Writing Programs, for two of those years as President. He has been appointed by Governor Mike Easley to a second three-year term on the North Carolina Arts Council.
Gerard, an avid musician, incorporates bluegrass, folk, country, and original compositions into his readings, playing six and twelve-string guitar, dobro, banjo, and pedal steel guitar. He lives on Whiskey Creek near the Intracoastal Waterway and sails his sloop Suspense on the Atlantic Ocean.