|Hansen grew up in Omaha, where he was raised a Catholic. He has gone to daily Mass all his life, and his religion, he believes, is what led him to be a writer--inspired by the stories he grew up with. Hansen studied with John Irving at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he received an M.F.A. His fiction has won many prizes, including an award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters for NEBRASKA, a collection of short fiction. A teacher as well as a writer, Hansen said in a Publishers Weekly interview, "For me, the process of writing is the joy of writing. It's the putting down individual sentences, making them fit together, making the story interesting."