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Jayne Anne Phillips (born July 19, 1952)[1] is an American novelist and short story writer who was born in the small town of Buckhannon, West Virginia.

Jayne Anne Phillips
BornJuly 19, 1952
Buckhannon, West Virginia
OccupationWriter, Professor
GenreShort Story, Fiction, Essay
Notable worksBlack Tickets, Machine Dreams, Lark & Termite, Quiet Dell
Notable awards1980 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction
2009 Heartland Prize
Years active1976–present

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Phillips graduated from West Virginia University, earning a B.A. in 1974, and later graduated from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.


Phillips has held teaching positions at several colleges and universities, including Harvard University, Williams College, Brandeis University, and Boston University. She is currently Professor of English and Founder/Director of the Rutgers University–Newark Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program.[2] During its inaugural year, The Atlantic magazine named Phillips' MFA program at Rutgers–Newark to its list of "Five Up-and-Coming" creative writing programs in the United States.

Writing careerEdit

Short storiesEdit

  • Sweethearts (1976)[1]
  • Counting (1978)[1]
  • Black Tickets (1979)[1]
  • How Mickey Made It (1981)[1]
  • The Secret Country (1982)[1]
  • Fast Lanes (1984)[1]

During the mid-1970s, she left West Virginia for California, embarking on a cross-country trip that would lead to numerous jobs, experiences, and encounters that would greatly affect her fiction, with its focus on lonely, lost souls and struggling survivors.

In 1976, Truck Press published her first short story collection Sweethearts, for which Phillips earned a Pushcart Prize and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines Fels Award.

Sweethearts was followed in 1978 by a second small-press collection, Counting, issued by Vehicle Editions. Counting earned Phillips greater recognition and the St. Lawrence Award.

Her next collection, Black Tickets, published by Delacorte/Seymour Lawrence in 1979 when she was 26, was her first commercial success and brought her national attention as a talented and important writer. Black Tickets contained three types of stories: one page fictions, inner soliloquies, and family dramas. These stories focused on her characters' loneliness, alienation, and unsuccessful searches for happiness. Black Tickets is mentioned in the 2006 lectures for the Modern Scholar series installment From Here to Infinity, by Professor Michael D. C. Drout, who refers to her style—which he asserts was a direct influence on William Gibson's 1984 cyberpunk novel Neuromancer—as a "headlong rush of story and description".[3] Called “the unmistakable work of early genius” by Tillie Olsen, Black Tickets was praised by Raymond Carver: “These stories of America’s disenfranchised - men and women light-years away from the American Dream - are quite unlike any in our literature ... this book is a crooked beauty.” Black Tickets was awarded the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.[citation needed]

Phillips followed her first novel, Machine Dreams, with Fast Lanes, a 1988 collection of ten stories, all first-person narratives. Shortly after this, the president of ABC Daytime offered her the head writing position on the ratings challenged soap opera Loving. After serious consideration, Phillips declined the offer.


  • Machine Dreams (1984)[1]
  • Shelter (1994)[1]
  • MotherKind (2000)[1]
  • Lark & Termite (2008)[4]
  • Quiet Dell (2013)[5]

Five years after Black Tickets, Phillips published her first novel, Machine Dreams, a chronicle of the Hampson family from World War II to the Vietnam War. Machine Dreams, a National Book Critic’s Circle Finalist in Fiction, was one of 12 Best Books of the Year cited by the New York Times. It made several Bestseller lists and was optioned as a film by actor Jessica Lange, who wrote the screenplay. Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer said of Machine Dreams: “Reaches one’s deepest emotions. No number of books read or films seen can deaden one to the intimate act of art by which this wonderful young writer has penetrated the definitive experience of her generation.”

In 1994, Phillips published her second novel, Shelter, a portrait of the loss of innocence at a West Virginia girls' camp in the summer of 1963. Called “a rich,vivid novel of moral and psychological complexity destined to stand alongside works by Faulkner and other Southern masters” (Vanity Fair) and “a defiant, frighteningly beautiful novel as disturbing as its setting, Shelter feels like Phillips’ bid for immortality” (Harpers Bazaar), Shelter was awarded an Academy Award in Literature by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

Phillips' next novel was MotherKind (2000), winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, a story of intergenerational love and struggles within a family facing many changes.

Lark and Termite, her fourth novel, was published by Knopf in 2009 to extremely positive reviews and was selected as one of five finalists for the National Book Award in fiction.[6] Lark and Termite was also a Finalist for the National Book Critic’s Circle in Fiction; Lark et Termite (French translation by Marc Amfreville) was a Finalist for the Prix de Medici Etrangers (Paris).

Quiet Dell, Phillips’ fifth novel, based on the true story of the 1931 murders of Chicago widow Asta Eicher and her three children in the hamlet of Quiet Dell, WV, is a fictional portrayal of one of the nation’s first sensationalized serial murders. Quiet Dell takes as its protagonist nine-year-old Annabel Eicher (victim, with her family, of con man Harry Powers, who found his victims through Depression-era matrimonial agencies) and Emily Thornhill, a Chicago Tribune journalist who commits herself to finding justice for the Eichers. A Kirkus Review Fiction Pick of the Year and Wall Street Journal Best Book of the Year, Quiet Dell was called “a story both splendid and irreparably sad” by the Chicago Tribune: “As Phillips has proved throughout her decades of fiction writing, there is evil in the world but there are some who will stand in its way.” Quiet Dell was praised by the Philadelphia Review of Books: “It is the texture of the telling that elevates this recounting from true crime to the realm of literary eminence.”

Phillips' works have been translated and published in twelve foreign languages. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Bunting Fellowship from the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, a Rockefellor Foundation Bellagio Fellowship, and numerous other awards.


Phillips and her husband, Dr. Mark Stockman, have two sons. He has two sons from his first marriage. One of their sons, Theo Stockman, was an original member of the revival of Hair on Broadway and was a featured ensemble member in American Idiot and “American Psycho.” (


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j
  2. ^
  3. ^ Drout, Michael D. C. (2006). From Here to Infinity: An Exploration of Science Fiction Literature. The Modern Scholar. Recorded Books. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-4193-8877-4. Archived from the original on 11 May 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Rutgers University, Newark, Professor Jayne Anne Phillips Named National Book Award Finalist". rutgers. Retrieved 2010-02-25.

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