Jill Robinson was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of two artists. Her father was Oscar and Tony winner Dore Schary, head of MGM during the ‘40s and ‘50s (the only writer to ever run a film studio). Her mother, the painter M. Svet, studied at the Art Students League in New York.
As a copywriter for Footcone & Belding, Robinson trained with the legendary Helen Gurley Brown. By the ‘60s, Robinson wrote on controversial women’s issues for Cosmopolitan and covered political trials for the Soho Weekly News. Her first memoir, With a Cast of Thousands, was a runaway hit. She also interviewed political and film personalities on KPFK and KLAC.
In 1974, Robinson’s memoir Bed/Time/Story won a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and was an international success. The novel Perdido, published in 1978, established Robinson as a serious American novelist. She reviewed books and wrote articles for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and American and French Vogue.
After marrying the English writer Stuart Shaw in 1980, Robinson wrote a series of columns on being an American in Britain for London’s Daily Telegraph. Her Vanity Fair story on Roman Polanski was included in George Plimpton’s book The Best American Movie Writing for 1998. In 1999, Vanity Fair described Robinson’s Past Forgetting as “the astounding chronicle of her journey to recover her memory.” Robinson and her husband also toured the world, reading their play Falling in Love When You Thought You Were Through (adapted from their memoir, published in 2002).
Robinson was given a lifetime grant in 2005 to develop the non-profit Wimpole Street Writers program, which continues both in London and as Wimpole Street West in Los Angeles, where she now lives.