Born in Midland, Ontario, Wright graduated from Midland high school in 1956, and graduated from Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in Radio and Television arts in 1959. He worked briefly within local newspapers and radio stations as a copywriter before becoming an assistant editor for Macmillan Canada in 1960. During Wright's time at Macmillan, he published his first book, a children's book entitled Andrew Tolliver
(later retitled One John A. Too Many
Wright's first full-length novel, The Weekend Man
, was written in eighteen months while staying at his wife's family cottage in Quebec. The novel became a critical success, winning praise for Wright's versatility and ability to create believable female characters. In 1970, Wright returned to postsecondary education at Trent University, graduating in 1972 with a BA in English. In 1976, Wright obtained a position at Ridley, teaching English until his retirement.
Although nominated for several literary awards, it wasn't until 2001 that Wright gained recognition for his award-winning novel, Clara Callan
, which led to the re-publication of many of his earlier works. This novel went on to win three of Canada's major literary awards: The Giller Prize, the Trillium Book Award, and the Governor General's Award. Wright's published works are known to deal with the lives of ordinary people, with a profound balance of depth and sensitivity. His novels have been, and continue to be, published all around the world.
Wright received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Brock University in 2000 and from Trent University in 2006, and in 2007 he became a member of the Order of Canada. He died on February 7, 2017 in St. Catharines.