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Justin Heckert was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. His mother has been an English lit teacher for more than thirty years, and his dad a jack-of-all-trades—working as a superintendant in the Scott City, Missouri, school district, as a copy-machine salesman, at a casino in California, and now at the Atlanta airport. Heckert has always known he wanted to be a writer, and went to college to get degrees in art and creative writing, but changed his major to journalism. His first article, about a high school softball game, was published in the Columbia Missourian in 1999, and two years later he ended up winning the James D. Atwater Memorial Writing Prize for the best writing at the University of Missouri J-school, along with every other writing award the school offered. From 2003 to 2005, Heckert was a staff writer at Atlanta. In 2005, he was named Writer of the Year by the City and Regional Magazine Association. He has also written for ESPN The Magazine, Esquire, Men's Journal, The Oxford American, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Crime Reporting and has been noted in The Best American Essays, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and The Best American Sports Writing. Heckert lives with his wife, Amanda, and their dog, Cooper, in Decatur.