Phyllis Barber was born in Nevada and grew up in Boulder City and Las Vegas. She can trace her family's Nevada roots to the 1860s. Trained as a classical pianist, she has served on the Board of Directors for the Utah Symphony. She has also worked as a features writer and teacher. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Vermont College. Her memoir, How I Got Cultured, won the 1991 Association of Writers & Writing Programs Prize for Creative Nonfiction and the 1993 Award for Best Autobiography from the Association of Mormon Letters. She teaches in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Writing Program and lives in Denver. She was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame in 2005.