Having for years worked as a carpenter, Gilb came late to the writerly life—some features of which he eschews, though he has been, for the last few years, teaching at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University-San Marcos) and a (more or less) frequent contributor to smart magazines like The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Best American Essays and The Threepenny Review.
Meeting Raymond Carver in the late ’70s, Gilb turned down an offer to attend the University of Iowa Creative Writing Program, oblivious to, “What [Carver] was telling me, what I came to learn over the next decade, was the way the system works. You go to Iowa, you turn your story into a professor, who’s a famous writer. And that famous professor-writer gets you to an editor. Whereas I was under the misconception that you put things in the mail, and some editor reads it and (something) happens, if it was good. I don’t know where my life would have been if I’d known what [Carver] was talking about. On the one hand, I suffered for not getting published. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have the material I have now.”