Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

A Prize-Winning "Start"

Elizabeth Spencer’s new story collection, Starting Over has won the Rea Award

We won’t condescend to Elizabeth Spencer by counting her age (which is ninety-two) as the most extraordinary element of her recent productivity. Any working writer of any age would live for years like the one Spencer is having, which includes a prestigious award and a critically acclaimed new collection of stories, slyly titled Starting Over.

The prize is the Rea Award, an annual recognition that comes with a $30,000 stipend to acknowledge contributions to the short-story form. The award is given by the Dungannon Foundation, and its past recipients include the likes of Eudora Welty, Grace Paley, Lorrie Moore, and Alice Munro.

Spencer continues to show why she deserves such recognition in Starting Over. Words like “master” and “distinguished” are universally connected with her name, and praise for the collection demonstrates why. Writing in The New York Times, Malcolm Jones calls “On the Hill,” “one of the best stories I have ever read.” And in Slate, Wilton Barnhardt says the same of a different story from the collection, “Blackie.”

In 2010, Chapter 16‘s Maria Browning asked Spencer whether she ever considers retiring. Her response gives hope to readers: “Well, it’s an old habit. It’s sort of like biting your nails. How do you quit? But no, I feel that I’m not quite all there unless I’m working on something.”