Jayne Anne Phillips was born in Buckhannon, West Virginia, a pleasant middle-class town, on July 19, 1952, the middle child, between brothers, of Russell R. Phillips, a contractor, and Martha Jane Thornhill, a teacher. Phillips attended West Virginia University, where she earned a B.A. degree, and graduated in 1974 magna cum laude. Four years later, she earned a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa’s renowned writer’s program. Phillips taught briefly at Humboldt State University and then held the Fanny Howe Chair of Letters at Brandeis University and the post of adjunct associate professor of English at Boston University. In 1985, she married Mark Brian Stockman, a physician.
Phillips began writing poetry in high school. Her childhood ended abruptly in the early 1970’s, when her parents were divorced and she moved away from her hometown to begin college nearby. Her poetry was published while she still attended the University of West Virginia as an undergraduate. Only after graduation did she begin writing fiction, creating highly compressed stories in which her poetic discipline shone through. Phillips has continued in this vein, using carefully chosen words and images to their potential. She has tended to write not from an outline, as novelists often do, but line by line, as do poets.
In 1978, Phillips made the most of an opportunity when she gave Delacorte editor Seymour Lawrence a copy of Sweethearts...
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A poet become short-story writer become novelist, Phillips has combined the disciplines of all three fields to create compact prose filled with imagery and with sometimes familiar, sometimes strange, yet always distinctive voices. Her stories of family life smell of Americana, while her tales of the deprived and depraved reek of the America that is ignored.
Phillips offers the reader an honest look at how contemporary issues have negatively affected the core of American society, the family. Her stories, while not cheerful, explore sensitive issues in an age of mechanization.
Jayne Anne Phillips was born July 19, 1952, in Buckhannon, West Virginia. Her parents were Russell R. Phillips, a contractor, and Martha Jane Phillips (née Thornhill), a teacher. On May 26, 1985, Phillips married Mark Brian Stockman, a physician.
Phillips received a B.A. (magna cum laude) from West Virginia University, in 1974, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa, in 1978. In 1982, she began working as adjunct associate professor of English at Boston University, and she also held the Fanny Howe Chair of Letters at Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, from 1986 to 1987. Despite her evidently academic career, however, Phillips has said that teaching does not really interest her and that she prefers to write.
Born July 19, 1952, in Buckhannon, West Virginia, Jayne Anne Phillips was the middle child of Russell B. Phillips and Martha Jane Thornhill Phillips. Like many of the women in Phillips’s novels, her mother was a teacher; she introduced Phillips to reading and storytelling. After graduating magna cum laude from West Virginia University in 1974, Phillips moved to the West Coast to become a writer chronicling her generation, the 1970’s generation, which she believed retained the rebelliousness but lacked the passion of the 1960’s. Like several of her contemporaries, she chose to work as a food server rather than as a teacher until her writing gained recognition.
During this period, Phillips’s focus shifted from poetry to fiction—initially the short story—and she enrolled in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, earning her master of fine arts degree in 1978. Sweethearts, her first volume of stories, was published in a limited edition in 1976. Three other limited-edition story collections followed: Counting in 1978, How Mickey Made It in 1981, and The Secret Country in 1982. Phillips quickly gained recognition for her work. Sweethearts won the Pushcart Prize and the Fels Award from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines. Counting received the St. Lawrence Award for Fiction. Phillips’s first volume of short stories to be published in a trade edition, Black Tickets, earned the Sue Kaufman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
In 1985, Phillips married Mark Brian Stockman; the couple have three sons. Although Phillips prefers writing to teaching, she has taught creative writing at a number of universities and work centers, including Humboldt State University in California, Williams College, Harvard University, the Bunting Institute, Boston University, and Brandeis University. She lives with her husband and children in Waltham, Massachusetts, and holds the positions of professor of English and director of the Master of Fine Arts Program at Rutgers University-Newark.
Jayne Anne Phillips is recognized as one of the most gifted writers of her generation. She was born in Buckhannon, West Virginia, on July 19, 1952, the daughter of Russell R. Phillips, a contractor, and Martha Jane Thornhill, a teacher. She received a B.A. degree from West Virginia University in 1974, graduating magna cum laude. She then entered the famed writing program at the University of Iowa and by 1978 had earned an M.F.A. degree. Her first two books were chapbooks rather than full-length books and were issued by small presses: Sweethearts by Truck Press and Counting by Vehicle Editions. Her stories did not go unnoticed; in 1977 Sweethearts won for Phillips the Pushcart Prize awarded by Pushcart Press, the first of many literary honors. She won the prize again in 1979 for the short stories “Home” and “Lechery” and for the third time in 1983, for her story “How Mickey Made It.” Sweethearts also won for Phillips the 1978 Fels Award in fiction from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, and Counting won the St. Lawrence Award for fiction in 1979. Phillips received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1978 and received a second in 1985.
Black Tickets, Phillips’s first full-length book, which gathered stories from the chapbooks along with some new material, was published by Delacorte in 1979. The next year, the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters gave Phillips its Sue Kaufman Award for first fiction. Also in 1980 her short story “Snow” won the O. Henry Award. In 1981 Radcliffe College awarded her a Bunting Institute Fellowship for the body of her work. She continued to accumulate honors in 1984 when Machine Dreams received a National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, an American Library Association Notable Book citation, and a New York Times Best Books of 1984 citation. In 1987 she published an expanded version of Fast Lanes. This collection contains seven stories, two of which are spin-offs from Machine...
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