Marie Lorena Moore was born in Glens Falls, New York, and nicknamed "Lorrie" by her parents. She attended St. Lawrence University. At 19, she won Seventeen magazine's fiction contest. After graduating from St. Lawrence, she moved to Manhattan and worked as a paralegal for two years.
In 1980, Moore enrolled in Cornell University's M.F.A. program, where she was taught by Alison Lurie. Upon graduation from Cornell, Moore was encouraged by a teacher to contact agent Melanie Jackson. Jackson sold her collection, Self-Help, composed almost entirely of stories from her master's thesis, to Knopf in 1983. Moore was 26 years old.
Her short story collections are Self-Help, Like Life, and the New York Times bestseller Birds of America. She has contributed to The Paris Review. Her first story to appear in The New Yorker, "You're Ugly, Too," was later included in The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. Another story, "People Like That Are the Only People Here," also published in The New Yorker, was reprinted in the 1998 edition of the annual collection The Best American Short Stories; the tale of a young child falling sick, the piece was loosely paterned on events in Moore's own life. The story was also included in the 2005 anthology Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, edited by David Sedaris.
Moore's Collected Stories was published by Faber in the UK in May 2008. It included selections from each of her previously published collections, excerpts from her novel Anagrams, and three previously uncollected stories first published in The New Yorker.
Moore's novels are Anagrams (1986), Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? (1994), and A Gate at the Stairs (2009). Who Will Run the Frog Hospital is about a woman and her friend who used to take care of the frogs that the boys in their neighborhood would injure. A Gate at the Stairs takes place just after the September 11 attack and is about a twenty-year-old Midwestern woman's coming of age.
Moore has written a children's book entitled The Forgotten Helper, about an elf whom Santa mistakenly leaves behind at the home of the worst child on his "good" list. The elf must help the child be good for the coming year so Santa will return next Christmas.
Moore won the 1998 O. Henry Award for her short story "People Like That Are the Only People Here," published in The New Yorker on January 27, 1997. In 1999, Moore was named as the winner of the The Irish Times International Fiction Prize for Birds of America. In 2004, she was selected as winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story, for outstanding achievement in that genre.
She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2006, and is a fellow of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. Her 2009 novel, A Gate at the Stairs, was a finalist for the 2010 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and for the Orange Prize.
Moore is the Delmore Schwartz Professor in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, where she teaches creative writing. She joined the faculty in 1984. She has also taught at Cornell University, as the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College, and at the Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at the University of Michigan.
Moore was profiled in the September 2009 Reader's Digest about her current readings (Friend of My Youth by Alice Munro), her Internet usage (Wikipedia), her listenings (Al Green, Joni Mitchell, and Tuck & Patti), and her television habits (Mark Shields, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart. Eugene Robinson, and Rachel Maddow).