ZZ Packer was born in Chicago, and grew up in Atlanta and Louisville. She first published in Seventeen when she was 19 years old. Packer attended Yale University and went on to study at Johns Hopkins University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop of the University of Iowa. She was then named a Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford University. Her short story collection, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, was published in 2003. The book was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, a New York Times Notable Book, and selected by John Updike for the Today Show Book Club.
Packer won a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was named one of American's Best Young Novelists by Granta, as well as one of Smithsonian Magazine′s Young Innovators in October 2007.