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Elizabeth Spencer (born 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. She currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


Early life and careerEdit

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 at Northwest Mississippi in Senatobia 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 lifeEdit

While in Italy, she met and married John Rusher of Cornwall, England. The couple moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1956, 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 honorsEdit

  • 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 North Carolina Hall of Fame • 2002
  • Thomas Wolfe Award for Literature given by the University of North Carolina at 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, North Carolina • 1998
  • Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award for fiction • 1997
  • J. William Corrington Award for fiction, Centenary College, Shreveport, Louisiana • 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 and 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 and 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 collectionsEdit

  • 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)


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External linksEdit