Elizabeth Spencer was born in Carrollton, MS. She received an M.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1943. Her first novel was published in 1948; eight other novels followed. Spencer has published stories in The New Yorker, Atlantic, and other magazines. 


She went to Italy in 1953 on a Guggenheim, and met her future husband, John Rusher. In 1986 they moved to Chapel Hill, where Spencer taught writing at UNC until 1992. Her most recent book is Starting Over: Stories. Her other titles include The Southern Woman: Selected Fiction, The Voice at the Back Door, The Salt Line, The Night Travellers, and The Light in the Piazza, made into a movie in 1963 and was premiered as a musical production on Broadway in spring 2005. It received very good reviews, and won six Tony Awards in June 2006.


She is a member of the American Academy of Årts and Letters, and a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Spencer’s writing has received numerous awards, including the Award of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2007 she received the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction. Her latest award is the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters, the 2013 Rea Award for Short Fiction. A documentary film has now been produced on her life and work. It is titled Landscapes of the Heart: the Elizabeth Spencer Story, and is now available for showing.