Elizabeth Spencer (writer)

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For other people named Elizabeth Spencer, see Elizabeth Spencer (disambiguation).

Elizabeth Spencer (July 19, 1921) is an American writer. Spencer's first novel, Fire in the Morning, was published in 1948. She has written a total of nine novels, seven collections of short stories, a memoir (Landscapes of the Heart, 1998), and a play (For Lease or Sale, 1989). Her novella The Light in the Piazza (1960) was adapted for the screen in 1962 and transformed into a Broadway musical of the same name in 2005. She is a five-time recipient of the O. Henry Award for short fiction.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Carrollton, Mississippi, Spencer was valedictorian of her graduating class at J.Z. George High School. She earned her BA at Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi and a master's in literature at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee in 1943.

Spencer taught at the junior college level for two years before accepting a job with the Nashville Tennessean, but she soon returned to teaching, this time at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. In 1953 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and left Mississippi to live in Italy and pursue writing full-time.

Personal life[edit]

While in Italy, she met and married John Rusher of Cornwall, England. The couple moved to Montreal, Canada in 1961, where they remained until moving to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1986. She taught creative writing at Concordia University in Montreal, and at the University of North Carolina until her retirement. Rusher died in 1998, and Spencer continues to live in Chapel Hill.

Spencer's mother is the great aunt of John McCain.[1]

Awards and honors[edit]

Sidney Lanier Prize for Southern Literature, awarded by Mercer University, 2014

Lifetime Achievement Award of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, 2009

PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction • 2007

Governor's Award for Achievement in Literature from

the Mississippi Arts Commission • 2006

The William Faulkner Medal for Literary Excellence, awarded by The

Faulkner House Society, New Orleans • 2002

Inducted into the N.C. Hall of Fame • 2002

Thomas Wolfe Award for Literature given by UNC-Chapel Hill and

the Morgan Foundation • 2002

Cleanth Brooks Medal for achievement awarded by the Fellowship

of Southern Writers • 2001

Mississippi State Library Association Award for non-fiction • 1999

Fortner Award for Literature, St. Andrews Presbyterian College, Laurinburg, NC • 1998

Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award for fiction • 1997

J. William Corrington Award for fiction, Centenary College, Shreveport, LA • 1997

Charter Member Fellowship of Southern Writers • 1987; Vice-Chancellor, 1993-1997

North Carolina Governor's Award for Literature • 1994

John Dos Passos Award for Literature • 1992

Salem Award for Distinction in Letters, Salem College • 1992

National Endowment for the Arts Senior Fellowship in Literature Grant • 1988

Election to the American Institute (now American Academy) of Arts & Letters • 1985

Award of Merit Medal for the Short Story, American Academy • 1983

National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship • 1983

Bellaman Award • 1968

Donnelly Fellowship, Bryn Mawr College • 1962

McGraw-Hill Fiction Fellowship • 1960

First Rosenthal Award, American Academy • 1957

Kenyon Review Fiction Fellowship • 1956-57

Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship • 1953

Recognition Award, American Academy of Arts & Letters • 1952


  • Fire in the Morning (1948)
  • This Crooked Way (1952)
  • The Voice at the Back Door (1956)
  • The Light in the Piazza (1960)
  • Knights and Dragons (1965)
  • No Place for an Angel (1967)
  • The Snare (1972)
  • The Salt Line (1984)
  • The Night Travellers (1991)

Short story collections[edit]

  • Ship Island and Other Stories (1968)
  • The Stories of Elizabeth Spencer (1981)
  • Marilee (1981)
  • Jack of Diamonds and Other Stories (1988)
  • On the Gulf (1991)
  • The Light in the Piazza and Other Italian Tales (1996)
  • The Southern Woman (2001)
  • "Starting Over" (2014)


  1. ^ http://www.metronc.com/article/?id=1513

External links[edit]